Assessing the cost

Chester. Attorney fees rise as Town of Chester defends itself against the Greens of Chester lawsuit and related cases.

| 15 Jul 2020 | 12:07

    The law firm defending the Town of Chester in the Greens of Chester lawsuit, the attorney general’s suit and the Summit Risk Services Insurance Company’s refusal to pay in this multi-million dollar lawsuit has charged the town a total of $183,138.07.

    Prior to July 8, 2020, the town of Chester paid $145,538.07 in attorney fees defending itself against the Greens of Chester; the New York State Attorney General, which piggybacked on the Greens’ suit; and in pursuit of the insurance company that has denied coverage to the town.

    The latest bills amount to $37,600. Once the town pays those recent bills dated July 8, the total the town will have paid $183,138.07 to the law firm, Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney, PLLC, to defend itself against The Greens of Chester

    The town is also responsible for covering individual lawsuits of former supervisor Alex Jamieson and current supervisor Robert Valentine, as well as those on the board when the Greens suit was filed last year. When the New York State Attorney General married up with the Greens suit, the town became responsible for defending supervisors, former and present, and board members again named in the attorney general’s suit.

    The bills include the town’s payment of $23,250 to Feerick, Nugent, MacCartney for legal actions against the Summit Risk Services Insurance Company. The insurance company denied coverage to the town of Chester in the Greens suit and also in the suit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, saying the town is not in compliance for coverage because a previous suit adjudicated the issue. The town’s attorneys are fighting the insurance company’s denial of responsibility.

    The litigation is currently in mediation via court order and has been for months. There appears to be no resolution in sight, although The Chronicle learned through sources close to the case who wish to remain anonymous that a teleconference with the lawyers (with board members and members of the Greens team - listening only) was to be held Thursday, July 16. The attorney general’s office will be represented in the teleconference meeting, per The Chronicle’s sources.

    The Greens of Chester filed an amended lawsuit on Dec. 6 that adds examples of alleged discriminatory conduct by town and county officials, including an early meeting the plaintiffs characterize as “ominous.”
    The developers filed the amended complaint the day after New York State Attorney General Letitia James announced she was intervening in the lawsuit first brought by the Greens against the town of Chester and Orange County in July 2019. James said the lawsuit illustrates a “campaign to deny housing to members of the Jewish community” that is “not only a clear violation of our laws, but is antithetical to our basic values and blatantly anti-Semitic.”
    The amended complaint describes a meeting held on Nov. 17, 2017, a few weeks after the developers acquired the 117-acre Greens property in Chester. Local officials - including then-Supervisor Alex Jamieson, town board member (now supervisor) Robert Valentine and Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus - sought to learn more from the developers about their plans.
    According to the amended complaint, Valentine wanted to know “what is the target audience” for the Greens. He asked if the developers planned to advertise in a Jewish newspaper and to let him know before taking out such advertisements. Valentine urged the developers to “create a non-Hasidic community,” according to the document.
    One of the partners told Valentine they were businessmen who “had built thousands of residential units in New York for the general public, had never once engaged in any form of discrimination and were not about to start doing so,” the amended lawsuit says.
    It also quotes Valentine as saying, “This isn’t Brooklyn. People here have big guns.”
    - Frances Ruth Harris