Yesterday we outlined alleged bullying, shakedowns and threats made by some County Legislators in order to secure their own column in the weekly Rockland County Times. Read the story here.
After the County Legislature dropped the Rockland County Times as an official newspaper, County Executive Ed Day continued to place some advertising with RCT which upset some County Legislators.
In June of 2017, Rockland County Attorney Thomas E. Humbach Esq. drafted an opinion regarding the County Executive placing public notices in The Rockland County Times. In part Humbach stated:
The broad obligation of the County government to communicate with the public and remain transparent is a goal met by additional advertisement, over and above the minimum requirements set by law benefits…
Legislative Counsel Elena Yeger, Esq. argued that the County Executive should not be permitted to publish notices in a newspaper not designated as an official newspaper of the county.
In July of 2017 Humbach responded citing case law, the NYS Open Meetings Law, State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), Public Officers Law and the County’s own Access to Records Law.
Essentially all of these arguments cite openness, transparency and the public’s right to know. The memo continues to say that although none of these laws bears directly on the issue of whether or not the County Executive may advertise in The Rockland County Times, the sentiments illustrate that government has a responsibility and an obligation to communicate with the public.
The Legislative Counsel argued that there is no express authority in any statute for the County Executive to advertise in a newspaper. Humbach responded by stating that “…elected officers have the power and responsibility, to communicate matters of government interest to their constituents.…”
Each side presented their arguments and obviously there is a difference of opinion and interpretation of the law however, it’s still not clear that the County Executive broke any law.
A number of questions remain unanswered:
Was the law regarding the designation of official newspapers followed?
Should the public have more transparency?
Does the public want more transparency?
In response to our article published February 5th, 2019, we received the following quote from Rockland County Executive Ed Day:
“This administration, unlike certain Legislators, does not believe in reprisals and prefers transparency above all else. The threatening conduct and comments of certain Legislators is shameful and clearly apparent to all.”
Rockland County Times’ Former Attorney Alleges Thinly Veiled Attempt of Coercion to Commit Perjury
After learning that his attorney hadn’t represented him as he should have, Rockland County Times owner Dylan Skriloff hired Donna Pascucci of the firm Milber Makris Plousadis & Seiden LLP located in White Plains, NY. The first order of business was to file a motion to overturn the default judgement granted to the County Legislature. The hearing was scheduled for October 31st, 2018.
Late in the day on October 30th, 2018, Senior Legislative Counsel to the Rockland County Legislature Elana L. Yeger, Esq. allegedly sent a text to Skriloff’s former attorney.
Apparently Yeger identified herself and tried to set up a call with the RCT’s former attorney for the following morning.
The attorney responded saying that the morning wouldn’t work but that he was working into the evening and that he was available to talk on his office or cell phone numbers.
Yeger allegedly continued via text telling the attorney that she wanted to discuss RCT asking, “You’re aware of the claims he made against you?”
Skriloff’s former attorney responded by telling Yeger that he was no longer the counsel of record on RCT.
Yeger tells him that she’s aware of this and continues by telling the attorney that Skriloff wrote a letter to the court stating that the attorney didn’t tell him about an SJ and a default judgement.
The attorney tells Yeger that he’s aware of that.
Yeger then asks if the attorney is interested in responding to that to which the attorney responds to by saying “not really.”
Yeger then apparently texts “Ok. You’ll deal with it when one of the legislators refers it to the Bar. Sorry.
Yeger’s follow up text apparently said “I really am. Nobody deserves that.”
To put this alleged threat into perspective, imagine that you’re being sued, you file a counterclaim and the opposing attorney makes an error that results in you winning the lawsuit. Most defendants would be thrilled. Would anyone who was victorious as a result of errors made by the opposition actually report the alleged errors made by the opposing attorney to the Bar or would they be more inclined to enjoy their victory and send a bottle of scotch or perhaps a gift basket? If the conduct of this attorney was so egregious and if the Legislator was so concerned about the performance of Skriloff’s attorney, in the interests of justice and fairness, why not ask for a do-over (not a legal term) before the matter was settled?
The text exchange apparently wasn’t over.
Skriloff’s former attorney responded with: “Do you mean that if I respond now I won’t have to deal with the legislators referring it to the bar?
Yeger is alleged to have responded with: “I assume that if you send us or the court an affidavit stating that you discussed things with your client and did not commit malpractice, the judge will immediately deny the motion to vacate on those grounds and nobody will feel its necessary to refer anything. They’re a little pissed off at this little game of his.”
The text messages appear to have been sent from Yeger’s husband’s cell phone. Elana L. Yeger Esq. is married to Rockland County Legislator Itamar Yeger.
We don’t know why Yeger apparently used her husband’s phone. Nor have we yet received a response to our FOIL request asking for information on who attended the meeting that Yeger claimed to be in on October 30th.
The Rockland County Times’ former attorney did however submit an affidavit to the New York State Supreme Court which among other things included screen shots of the text message exchange between himself and Senior Legislative Counsel Elena Yeger, Esq. in which he in part stated:
- The texts were initiated by Elena Yeger, Esq.
- The former attorney for RCT understood these texts to be an attempt to coerce him to perjure himself in an affidavit to the court and to violate numerous Rules of Professional Conduct
- The former attorney for RCT understood these texts to be “…a thinly, if poorly veiled threat that if he did not submit an affidavit consistent to what she (Yeger) wanted me to say in respect to my representation of The Rockland County Times in this matter that she or her clients would take steps to materially harm my reputation, my business and my career.”…
- And that he complied with various rules of professional conduct.
“The facts bear out that certain legislators and their counsel have abused the power of their office to retaliate against a small, local newspaper over perceived political slights” said Rockland County Times attorney of record Donna Pascucci, Esq., partner, Milber Makris Plousadis & Seiden, LLP, “They have initiated and pursued unauthorized litigation against The Rockland County Times, at county taxpayer expense, in an apparent effort to control its content and financially destroy it over a petty dispute with the county executive. We intend to expose and fight this egregious conduct with every weapon in our legal arsenal.”
We left messages for both Legislative Counsel Elana L. Yeger, Esq. and Alejandra Silva-Exias, Esq. and have yet to receive a reply.
As always, we invite those involved to respond and offer equal access to those with opposing positions and opinions. This case continues and we will provide our readers with timely updates.
Tomorrow Part 3: Opinion and Commentary