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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 9, 2008

GCSD stays with Girven & Ferlazzo

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school district continues to be satisfied with its legal counsel, the Albany law firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo, said school board President Richard Weisz on Tuesday.

On Monday, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had announced settlements with two lawyers, M. Cornelia Cahill and John R. Sise, who had been at Girvin & Ferlazzo during the time in which the firm’s leadership placed their lawyers on the BOCES payroll as a perk of partnership, whether or not those lawyers actually worked for BOCES. The settlement was part of a statewide probe into what Cuomo has called “a payroll padding scheme,” from which the state has so far recovered $1.2 million.

Cahill, a former partner at Girvin & Ferlazzo, will pay the state $270,000 and Sise, Cahill’s brother-in-law, formerly “of counsel” at Girvin & Ferlazzo, will pay the state $35,000,

Weisz stressed that Cahill and Sise are no longer with the firm.

He said the Guilderland School District primarily uses Jeff Honeywell.

Honeywell and two other lawyers at Girvin & Ferlazzo had their membership in the state retirement system revoked by the state comptroller in April because, Thomas DiNapoli said at the time, the lawyers were incorrectly reported as employees by the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Employees can collect pensions, while independent contractors do not receive that benefit.

Honeywell told The Enterprise in April, “The situation that is being reviewed has nothing to do with Guilderland. Our relationship with them is purely as an independent contractor.”

The school board voted this spring to put out a request for  proposals since its three-year contract with Girvin & Ferlazzo expired on June 30.

Weisz said this week that a half-dozen firms responded and three or four were interviewed.  The board voted to re-appoint Girvin & Ferlazzo in July at its reorganizational meeting, hiring the firm on a three-year contract that can be terminated at the end of the year, said Weisz.

The contract specifies a $35,000 retainer for each of the next three years; hourly rates are $140 for general matters and $160 for litigation, according to Linda Livingston, the clerk for the school board.

Girvin & Ferlazzo was selected over the other firms, Weisz said, because “of the value we were receiving — the level of service and the price of service.”

He said some of the proposals were for more money and added that, with some of the bids, the district “would not have been able to rely on one firm.”

Weisz concluded of Girvin & Ferlazzo, “After they settled out, we considered them able to accept the engagement.”

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