Settlement is Distasteful but the Right Financial Decision for the Taxpayers
Speaking on behalf of the Republican Caucus of the Yonkers’ City Council, Minority Leader John Murtagh said tonight that the Caucus would be voting in favor of the settlement of the lawsuit brought against the City and Mayor Amicone and by “readers” of The Westchester Guardian, a local tabloid.
“Make no mistake about it” Murtagh said, “what was done here in removing The Westchester Guardian newspaper boxes from the streets of Yonkers was wrong and indefensible. However, continuing this litigation at the cost of hundreds of thousands of additional dollars or even millions of dollars to the taxpayers with little likelihood of ultimate success would only make a bad situation worse.”
Murtagh, an attorney who has defended numerous such Section 1983 civil rights cases in his private practice, explained that the fact that the Mayor has the right to insist that the City pay for an appeal and that such an appeal could risk bringing numerous other city employees back into court at substantial additional expense to the City made settlement now an unpleasant but financially sensible choice. Realistic estimates of an appeal, cross-appeal by the plaintiffs and possible retrial range from the high six figures to over a million dollars with no assurance of success after years more of litigation.
“While it is offensive to have to spend a dime of taxpayer money as a result of this escapade, we are now in a position where the lesser of two evils is cutting off costs before they double or triple. The taxpayers can either pay $393,338.00 now or, potentially, over a million dollars down the road.” Murtagh concluded.
Councilmember John Larkin echoed Murtagh’s sentiment saying that while he was outraged by the actions that led to the lawsuit in the first place he recognized that settlement, while unpleasant, was the fiscally prudent course.
Councilmember Dennis Shepherd said that the case was really an indictment of all that is wrong with the court system. “What was done by the Administration was clearly wrong” Shepherd said, “but that wrong was compounded by an abuse of the court system all of which left the taxpayers holding the bag.”
Source: Yonkers City Council Republican Caucus press release.