EVIDENCE OF QUID-PRO-QUO LEAVES COUNCILMEMBERS DEMANDING REPLACEMENT OF TOWN’S LEGAL REPRESENTATION
YORKTOWN, NY – The New York State Attorney Grievance Committee of the 1st Judicial District found unethical conduct by Yorktown’s legal team, the Oxman Group, resulting in an ethically compromised hiring process overseen by Supervisor Ilan Gilbert. On August 14, 2019 Yorktown Councilmembers Diana and Lachterman were notified by the Committee that a Letter of Admonishment was issued against Town Attorney Mark Oxman for violating the New York State Rule 1.9(a) of Professional Conduct.
The New York State Bar Grievance Committee found that Mr. Oxman improperly partook in dual representation: he represented a client while consulting with that client’s adversary. At the time Supervisor Ilan Gilbert was offering Mr. Oxman the town’s legal work, and secretly conferring with Mr. Oxman, Mr. Oxman was representing Mr. Edward Ciffone who was suing the Town, Councilmembers Diana and Lachterman, among others.
“Supervisor Gilbert led the charge to approve the hiring of the Oxman Group to take over the Town’s entire legal services,” explained Yorktown Councilman Ed Lachterman. “It has now been confirmed that due to Mr. Oxman’s conduct, suing the Town, that hiring process was in fact ethically compromised despite my repeated objections.”
In October of 2017 Mr. Oxman sued the Town of Yorktown, including Councilmembers Diana and Lachterman, on behalf of Mr. Edward Ciffone. This work was done for free as part of a purely politically motivated challenge to a Town Board resolution that authorized a payment of $2,500 to Marvin Ray Raskin Esq., for legal representation of former Supervisor Michael Grace relating to a grievance that had been filed against him by Susan Siegel. Mr. Oxman commenced the lawsuit in October of 2017 when Mr. Gilbert was challenging Mr. Grace for Yorktown Supervisor.
Ultimately, the grievance filed by Ms. Siegel against Mr. Grace was found by the grievance committee to be without merit and dismissed.
“This is called a quid-pro-quo,” charged Yorktown Councilman Tom Diana. “Not only was there a complete lack of transparency regarding the negotiations between Supervisor Gilbert and Mr. Oxman but the Supervisor, who has been an attorney for over 35 years and a former town judge, should have known that any negotiations with the Oxman Group while they were suing the Town was completely improper.”
In addition, the Town’s original RFP stipulated that any violation by the Oxman Group needed to be reported to the Town Board. Mark Oxman appeared before the Town Board last month but did not report the Grievance Committee’s findings.
The Oxman Group was awarded a contract for more than $211,000 by a 3-2 vote. Councilman Vishnu Patel, who was recently found guilty of ethics violations by the Yorktown Ethics Board, stated there was no need for any discussion pertaining to the Oxman Group because they [the Democrats] “had the votes.” New York State Board of Elections records show a $1,200 donation from the Oxman Group to the Yorktown Democratic Party a week before they were officially hired in 2018.
Councilmembers Diana and Lachterman plan to propose two resolutions for Town Board to vote on at the next public meeting. The first will issue a new RFP for legal services for the Town of Yorktown. The second resolution seeks separate counsel for Diana and Lachterman citing no confidence in the Oxman Group’s representation.
Both Diana and Lachterman said they felt the need to publicize the Committee’s findings after a recent ethics ruling was stifled by Supervisor Gilbert’s office for six months following an 18-month investigation by the town’s ethics board of Yorktown Councilman Vishnu Patel.