Former Gloversville clerk’s case costly for city

The costs of defending against the wrongful dismissal case filed by former City Clerk Gary Margiotta

The costs of defending against the wrongful dismissal case filed by former City Clerk Gary Margiotta were almost as much as the $125,000 the city paid him to settle it.

City records show the city’s insurance company, the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, paid $87,121 in legal fees. NYMIR was initially represented by the Albany firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo and then by Lemire Johnson of Malta.

Also, the city paid $31,422 to its special labor counsel, Bryan J. Goldberger, who represented the city directly.

The Common Council voted last September to approve the $125,000 settlement in the case, which began soon after the 16-year veteran was suddenly fired days before he was scheduled for reappointment. Just before City Hall was to close Friday, Dec. 29, 2006, then-Mayor Tim Hughes and then-Councilman-at-Large James Handy directed a police officer to escort Margiotta from City Hall.

Of the $125,000 settlement, the city paid $5,000, which is the deductible in its insurance policy.

Margiotta’s lawyer, Elmer Robert Keach III of Amsterdam, said the costly litigation could have been avoided if city officials had accepted a proposal a couple of months after Margiotta’s firing to reinstate him as clerk.

Keach contends the offer was never conveyed to the Common Council.

“If I were a taxpayer in Gloversville I would be livid right now,” Keach said, calling the case “a giant, colossal waste of time and resources.”

Current Councilman-at-Large James Robinson, a member of the council minority bloc at the time of the firing and the only council member from that period still in office, said Monday he does not recall any settlement offer involving reinstatement being presented to the council.

If there was such an offer, Robinson said, it must have been presented to Hughes and Handy.

Goldberger could not be reached for comment late Monday afternoon.

At the time of the settlement announcement in September, Goldberger said, “It is always better when you can settle litigation on terms mutually acceptable to both sides.”

The members of the council majority bloc that made the decision to fire Margiotta are no longer in office.

That council majority reached its decision on Margiotta privately via telephone and has never publicly explained its reasoning, either with the former three-member council minority bloc or with city residents.

It was revealed in depositions released early in the case that at least one council member blamed Margiotta for “leaks” to the news media, and another blamed him for the way his brother was treated when he sought a marriage license.

In his suit, Keach argued that the council majority held Margiotta responsible for providing former Councilwoman Shirley Savage, R-4th Ward, with information she sought through Freedom of Information Law requests. Margiotta was the city records officer. Savage often used such information to criticize colleagues or department heads, and in fact did so just before Margiotta’s firing.

Categories: Schenectady County

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