Poughkeepsie Common Council wins right to hire own attorney

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Mayor Rob Rolison                          Council Chair Sarah Salem

POUGHKEEPSIE – The Poughkeepsie Common Council has been granted the right to hire their own attorneys to represent them, the decision coming from State Supreme Court Justice Hal Greenwald.

The April 26 decision was announced by Council Chair Sarah Salem at the beginning of Monday’s council meeting.

In 2020, the council had voted to hire their own “consultant”; the law firm of Lamb and Barnosky of Long Island, to provide advice to the council.  Mayor Rob Rolison vetoed the action, causing the council to sue the mayor and the mayor to file a countersuit against the council.

Rolison’s case against the council argued that there was no need for the lawmakers to hire their own representation because they have access to the city’s in-house law firm, the office of Corporation Counsel.

Judge Greenwald’s nine-page decision said in part, “The Common Council may appoint legal counsel, including but not limited to Lamb & Barnosky LLP, to provide legal services, otherwise provided by the City’s Corporation Counsel in matters where the Common Council determines a conflict exists between the legislative branch and other branches of the city’s government, to assist the Common Council in performing its duties under applicable rules, statutes, codes, or policy.”

In announcing the decision Monday, Salem said the court “has rejected mayor’s attempt to prevent the common council from hiring its own lawyers in situations in which the city’s corporation counsel has a conflict of interest.”

She said Justice Greenwald’s decision dismissing the lawsuit “also retroactively vacates the injunction issued in early January prohibiting the common council’s lawyers from providing advice to and representing it in litigation, including in the lawsuit brought by the mayor against the council.”

Rolison and his lawyers received the decision today (Tuesday).  “We have received the Judge’s decision today and we are reviewing it with our counsel. We believe this may have implications for municipalities throughout the state and are considering our options as it relates to an appeal,” the mayor said.

Salem also said on Monday night, “This is a positive step forward for us as a legislative body and one that lays down a good path toward our request for a third party opinion in the matter,” adding “I hope that with this decision we are all able to refocus on the business of best serving the City of Poughkeepsie community.”