Mayor Phil Amicone learned a very expensive lesson in Constitutional law when he lost a lawsuit for wrongfully seizing news racks and copies of The Westchester Guardian. At Mayor Amicone’s behest and charge, The Yonkers Police Department was employed to issue summonses against The Westchester Guardian employees attempting to hand out the paper about Yonkers City Hall. DPW Commissioner John Liszewski testified he was specifically demanded to take away two such news racks and dutifully complied. Mayor Amicone went up against the U.S. Consitution and lost in the Federal courtroom of the Hon. Cathy Seibel. He is now personally saddled by an $8 million jury awarded judgment owed to 16 people employed by publisher Sam Zherka. Initially jubilant over the win, Yonkersites are now worried they will have to pay the $8 million judgment.
The case has set a precedent which delights many throughout the nation; “Yes!,” the case has become viral – it now leaves Yonkersites perplexed and ill at ease. Fair minded Yonkersites are comforted by witnessing the Bill of Rights, within which the First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution is found. . The amendment prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.
A non-aggression pact seems to have been formulated in the backrooms of Westchester County and Yonkers. A deal has been designed and defined by a few men in a room. Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick has donned the Judas suit, not in preparation for Halloween, but in preparation to indemnify Mayor Amicone his personal $8 million liability. Yet when questioned, Mr Lesnick said, “I am not trying to build a consensus to indemnify the Mayor. I am looking at all options to minimize the impact to the taxpayers of Yonkers.”
Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Pat McDow (District 1) advises she does not yet have sufficient information to make a decision one way or another. She advises her elected position may ascribe her conduct legally with regard to some concerns but that other issues may free her from such constraints.
Yonkers City Councilman Wilson Terrero (District 2) today advised he has not been approached by Mr Lesnick regarding indemnifying Mayor Amicone using city funds to pay off the $8 million judgment against Phil Amicone personally. Mr Terrero advises there are better uses for Yonkers funds other than indemnifying Mr Amicone his excesses of power.
Yonkers Councilwoman Joan Gronowski (District 3) has asked for and is still awaiting Yonkers Corporation Council supplying her with a full transcript of the court case, presiding Judge Cathy Seibel’s instructions to the jury, and the personal culpability of Phil Amicone personally before casting her vote. Ms Gronowski promises to read every word on every page of the transcript upon its receipt by her.
Yonkers Councilman Dennis Shepherd’s (District 4) was requested to weigh in on this issue before Noon time today… he has yet to afford this publication a callback
Yonkers City Council Minority Leader John Murtagh (District 5) today advised, “This is the first I’ve heard about it.”
Yonkers City Councilman John Larkin (District 6) advised he is aware of the situation facing Mayor Amicone. Mr Larkin advises he has not been approached by anyone, including Chuck Lesnick, with this regard. Mr Larkin believes because Mr Lesnick is a lawyer, he would know better than to approach anyone on this issue until further court action is taken.
Despite the reponses afforded by the responding Yonkers City Council membership, Yonkers Tribune has been advised that Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick is diligently working to assemble a majority of votes among the Yonkers City Council membership to indemnify Phil Amicome from having to pay the $8 million liability he has been demanded to personally pay. Attempting to undermine the Hon. Cathy Seibel’s ruling, as ascribed by a jury of his peers, is Yonkers Corporation Counsel, who are attempting to instill fear among the Yonkers City Councilmembers lest they set a precedent that would pierce the mantle of future elected officials from being indemnified against personal liability. That would be a credible argument were those in elected office acting outside the parameters set by the definition of their respective offices.
The strong mayor form of government does not permit the mayor to exceed the parameters or boundaries set by law just because he is upset by the contrarian stance media had or has of his conduct. The jury came back with an $8 million personal judgment against Phil Amicone because they judged his conduct of exacting retribution against The Westchester Guardian, their property, and personnel, was his response to disliking content in articles written about him in the weekly newspaper. It was because Mayor Phil Amicone exceeded the parameters permitted him as Mayor of the City of Yonkers that he exposed himself to personal liability and fell prey to being personally liable for his actions in bringing the power and might of the City of Yonkers to bear upon The Westchester Guardian, its property, and its personnel.
There is absolutely no rationale for the Hon. Cathy Seibel, after consultation and agreement with all legal counsel before her on how to charge the jury prior to their deliberation process, to be so adamant about the personal liability exposure of Phil Amicone and not the City of Yonkers.
Why should the City Council, or any other entity for that matter, exonerate the brazen “illegal” conduct of Phil Amicone for his folly as Mayor of the City of Yonkers? Phil Amicone’s wanton behavior were he to be indemnified by a majority of the Yonkers City Council would cause taxes to increase almost $400 per Yonkers homeowner.
Why should Phil Amicone be indemnified when Yonkers has a diminished crew of DPW workers, a shortage of firefighters, and police officers who have lost their jobs? Why should Yonkersites have to pay Amicone’s folly when many streets in Yonkers have not been paved for over 25 years? Yonkers infrastructure is failing, our educational system is challenged, and economic development has stalled. Is it appropriate to bail out Phil’s excesses?
Yonkers Tribune’s sources are impeccable. In this situation it seem all the potential protagonists are to be found on the opposite side of this telling. This publication will have to await the Yonkers City Council’s future vote to ascertain if the city taxpayer will be burdened to pay Phil Amicone’s $8 million personal debt or if Phil Amicone will have to pay for his own arrogance and folly. How many on the Yonkers City Council will vote to indemnify Phil Amicone his personal debt and burden the taxpayer even more?
The answer must be a resounding, “No!” to indemnify Phil Amicone his persoanl debt.
“No!“ to Phil Amicone for trashing the U.S.. Constitution and the First Amendment.
“No!” to his past conduct of exacting retribution of others. “No!” to Phil being indemnified by the City of Yonkers.
Say “Yes!” to Yonkers, by saying, “No!” to Phil Amicone.
The author is the Editor in Chief and Vice-President of The Westchester Guardian