Former clerk’s lawyer seeks sanctions against city

The lawyer representing fired city clerk Gary Margiotta is seeking sanctions against the city in fed
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The lawyer representing fired city clerk Gary Margiotta is seeking sanctions against the city in federal court, arguing that top city officials have not turned over e-mails and that Mayor Tim Hughes has reported his laptop computer stolen.

Amsterdam attorney Elmer Robert Keach III filed a letter in U.S. District Court in Syracuse Thursday asking Judge George H. Lowe to either order the e-mail be produced or impose “appropriate sanctions” against the city.

Keach informed Lowe that former councilman Lance Gundersen, R-2nd Ward, has already admitted on the record that he destroyed e-mails since Margiotta filed his wrongful termination suit in early 2007.

Keach said he has not received e-mail from either Gundersen or Hughes. Keach noted that Hughes reported his laptop stolen several weeks ago but has refused to turn over all his e-mail addresses. Keach claims he is entitled to the material as part of the discovery process and he asked Lowe to extend the discovery deadline by 30 days.

Hughes and the city’s attorney, Scott Quesnel of the Albany firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo, did not return telephone calls. Gundersen could not be located for comment.

In his letter, Keach said, “both Gundersen and Hughes have engaged in the willful spoilation of evidence in this case.”

Keach, who said Friday he knows some of the e-mail existed because some was recovered from correspondents of the officials, told Lowe: “Gundersen admits to deleting electronic mail messages that are highly relevant to this action, several of which have likely been lost forever.

“Hughes has failed to produce any electronic mail and claims that his city of Gloversville laptop was ‘stolen’ from his car two weeks ago when he was at City Hall,” Keach wrote.

Keach told Lowe the theft was reported “just two weeks after these issues were raised with [the city’s lawyer],” and just after the lawyer representing Hughes’ estranged wife also sought the computer.

Keach said he would not elaborate about Hughes’ missing computer but he said Gundersen’s actions constitute “an effort to cover his tracks.”

Keach said sanctions could range from a judgment against the city to a “missing document instruction” to the jury.

Margiotta filed suit after Gundersen and three of his Common Council allies reached a consensus in telephone conversations and Margiotta was escorted from his office by a police officer on Dec. 29, 2006. Hughes and Councilman-at-Large James Handy accompanied the police officer.

No explanation for the firing has been provided either to the public or to the three other council members.

Categories: Schenectady County

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