New Battle Erupts in Oswego Election Controversy
Feb 19, 2015 11:23AM ● Published by Steven Jack
If you thought the controversy surrounding who was to appear on the April 7 ballot in Oswego was over, you were incorrect.
A new battle erupted at Tuesday night’s Village Board meeting over a $6,380 bill owed to the law firm that represented Village Clerk Tina Touchette. Trustee and former Village President Candidate Terry Michels balked at paying the bill to the firm, saying he first wanted to know why a written legal opinion from Touchette’s attorney, Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, dated Monday, Dec. 15, was first sent to the legal firm representing Village President candidate and Trustee Gail Johnson and trustee candidates Karin McCarthy-Lange, Ryan Kauffman and Joe West.
Michels said he believes that memo, which states a legal opinion about how Touchette should proceed with accepting election nominating petitions, should have been sent to the village attorney first given the village was paying for Touchette’s representation.
“How is it that we use taxpayer money to pay a bill, and we get a rendering of a decision from the law firm, but that’s not shared with the village attorney first?” Michels asked Touchette.
Touchette responded that she was not aware of how or why that happened, and she assured Michels that she did not withhold information.
Contacted Thursday afternoon, Krafthefer said she provided a copy of the opinion to Touchette and Village Administrator Steve Jones at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 15. They were the first to receive the opinion, Krafthefer said.
Further, Krafthefer said she shared the opinion with Silverman, Mahoney and Cross the following day because partner David Silverman asked her for it.
Village Attorney Karl Ottosen said Tuesday night he received the opinion from Krafthefer “third hand.”
“I did have a conversation with (Krafthefer) saying I was not happy with the way it went out,” he said.
Krafthefer said she was not obligated to share it with Ottosen.
"I was representing the Village Clerk in this matter, and she was being threatened with a suit from the village attorney," she said. "I know of no ethical reason that would require me to share the opinion with opposing counsel."
Michels said his attorney eventually received the opinion from Krafthefer from Mahoney, Silverman and Cross.
“As another Village Board member put it ‘I smell a rat,’” Michels said at Tuesday night's Village Board meeting, quoting an earlier statement from Trustee Pam Parr.
Parr shot back that Michels should take his questions to Krafthefer's firm, Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Krafthefer
“That’s out of control of the clerk,” Parr said. “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”
Michels made a motion to withhold payment to Ancel-Glink until an explanation for the incident could be provided. Trustees voted 4-3 with Village President Brian LeClercq breaking a 3-3 tie to withhold payment. Trustees Parr, Johnson and Sollinger voted to pay the bill with Michels, Tony Giles and Scott Volpe voting against.
Johnson questioned whether asking for more time from Krafthefer would add to the village’s estimated $100,000 in legal bills from the election controversy. Michels said he would accept a personal phone call from Krafthefer to hear an explanation.
Administrator Jones said Thursday afternoon village staff is currently working on a timeline of the release of the opinion that will be distributed to trustees at the next Village Board meeting.
This isn’t likely to be the end of wrangling over the payment of legal fees, as Parr promised to raise similar concerns at a future Village Board meeting over money owed to Ottosen’s firm.
“I’m happy that we’re setting a precedent here,” she said.