Saratoga County

Authority hires attorney for agency work

After six months without an attorney, the Clifton Park Water Authority has hired the current vice

PHOTOGRAPHER:

After six months without an attorney, the Clifton Park Water Authority has hired the current vice chairman of the town’s Republican Committee, Neil Weiner, as its part-time legal counsel, effective today.

The five-member board voted unanimously for Weiner, who was one of about eight applicants for the job that has been open since Jan. 20, when former water authority attorney and now Town Republican Committee Chairman Bob Wilcox resigned.

Weiner said he plans to quit his position on the Republican Committee. “The water authority board didn’t ask me to do this; it’s not required, but I offered,” Weiner said.

Water Authority Chairman Helmut Gerstenberger said daily business has been held up in the interim, and it was a high priority to name an attorney before more time passed.

“We have a number of easements and contracts to review, and it was time to move and hire someone,” Gerstenberger said. “I’m surprised we didn’t have more applicants, but we advertised for months and sent out word of mouth we were looking.”

Gerstenberger said only two applicants came to a water authority meeting for a public interview. Besides Weiner, Kevin Dailey also gave an oral review of his qualifications.

Gerstenberger said the others applying were from out of town and did not meet the board’s basic requirements of being familiar with the town.

“It was important for the board to have someone in the job that has a connection to Clifton Park, whether they work here or practice law here,” Gerstenberger said.

A founding member of the law firm of Pelagalli, Weiner and Rench, Weiner concentrates his practice on matrimonial, family law and personal injury litigation. He has practiced throughout New York state and in federal courts in the Capital Region. Weiner has been legal counsel for the Jonesville Fire District for about 20 years, and for the Ballston Lake Emergency Squad for two years.

During his first weeks on the job, which does not have any regularly set hours, Weiner said he will work to get up to speed on pending issues.

“I’m so new at this, I don’t really know how much counsel they’ll need,” Weiner said. “I don’t know how much work it will entail until I get in there.”

Wilcox resigned as water authority attorney at the board’s request, after Wilcox stated his intention was to run for chairman of the town’s Republican Committee. According to the minutes of water authority’s Jan. 16 meeting, the board voted to draft a resolution with “language to limit the involvement of appointed Clifton Park Water Authority employees and board members from holding any office affiliated with any political entity.”

In his memo of resignation, Wilcox wrote, “I am dismayed that this resolution was passed before any election was held … it became clear to me that I had no choice but to resign from my position at the water authority in order to continue my effort to be elected chairman of the Clifton Park GOP.”

But it was not clear Monday whether the measure had ever been adopted. Water authority administrator Don Austin did not return calls for comment Monday.

As the second candidate interviewed, Dailey said although he has considerable experience with the Clifton Park’s water system, he supports Weiner in his new job.

“I know the history of each of the town’s water sources and was involved in setting up the water authority,” Dailey said. “I look forward to being involved in other ways in the town, and think Neil is very qualified as counsel.”

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