Rejected offer off the record

A federal judge, responding to a complaint from the city’s attorney, on Tuesday struck from the cour

A federal judge, responding to a complaint from the city’s attorney, on Tuesday struck from the court record a copy of the $42,000 settlement proposal offered to fired city clerk Gary Margiotta by the city.

U.S. District Court Judge George H. Lowe posted a ruling Tuesday on the court’s public, electronic file, striking a copy of the settlement offer and notifying both sides he will conduct a hearing (July 11) in Albany on this and other issues pending in Margiotta’s wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

It is apparent from the court’s online file that Gregg T. Johnson of the Albany firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo complained to Judge Lowe Monday after Margiotta’s attorney, Elmer Robert Keach III, made the city’s recent settlement offer public by posting it in the file.

Johnson’s complaint letter is not posted, but Keach’s response to the court, posted Monday, informed Judge Lowe that Margiotta “opposes removing his rejection [of the offer] from the public docket. Contrary to Mr. Johnson’s allegations, Mr. Margiotta’s rejection was filed on the court’s [online] system to definitively establish the dates on which the Rule 68 offer was made and rejected to protect the record,” Keach wrote.

Keach, who declined to elaborate Tuesday on his latest letter to Lowe, told the judge he felt compelled to place the settlement offer on the record because in a prior case between the two lawyers Johnson had formally challenged Keach on whether an offer was properly rejected.

Johnson has been trying to keep the pretrial litigation out of the media. Toward that end, he obtained a temporary order from Lowe to stop Keach from releasing deposition testimony and other discovery material to the media.

Johnson said Tuesday he expects Lowe will decide July 11 what material should be in the public domain. “All of us will have some clarity,” he said.

In a prior letter to Lowe, Johnson asked that Keach be sanctioned for allegedly violating that temporary “protective order.” He objected to Keach making public his complaint that city officials had allegedly destroyed e-mails. Johnson also objected to what he said was Keach’s implication that Mayor Tim Hughes’ laptop computer was not actually stolen as Hughes reported.

Keach responded June 23 to the call for sanctions, saying “these claims are nonsense and further demonstrate the desperation of the defendants, and their counsel, to hide proceedings before this court from public scrutiny.

Keach said the temporary protective order governed discovery material being exchanged and argued that such material was not released to the media from his office.

Margiotta, a 16-year employee, was suddenly fired Dec. 29, 2006, by a majority of the Common Council. No public explanation has been provided, not even to the three members of the council who did not participate in the decision.

Categories: Schenectady County

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