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Chief attorney exiting, but no replacement is in sight

More than a month after the city's top staff attorney said he would resign, he is still working for the municipality, and the mayor and City Council have not yet agreed on a replacement.

Acting Corporation Counsel Damon A. DeCastro submitted his resignation at the City Council's request in May, but Mayor Vince Anello asked him to remain in the $48,958 post until he could find a new nominee.

Since then, neither the mayor nor Council members have made a written recommendation to replace DeCastro, and both sides said they have not discussed the issue.

"I haven't received any additional recommendations from the Council," Anello said. "I need a range of names so I have a clearer understanding of what they're looking for."

Under the City Charter, the mayor submits the nomination, which is subject to Council approval.

When DeCastro resigned, Anello publicly said that he would not submit a nomination that the Council would reject and that he wanted the Council to give him names of suitable attorneys for the position.

Councilman Lewis Rotella said Council members plan to give Anello a written recommendation at the next Council meeting, asking that Morton H. Abramowitz, a former city manager and county attorney, be nominated for the position. Abramowitz currently works as a consultant for the Council at a rate of $500 a month.

Abramowitz said he had one brief discussion with the mayor about the nomination a month ago but has not discussed it with him since.

"I've known the mayor for a good number of years. We are on a very friendly wavelength with the two of us, but I'm also on a friendly wavelength with the Council," Abramowitz said. "In that position, I've opened the lines of communication between the mayor and the Council."

On Abramowitz's advice, the Council approved a request earlier this week from Anello to spend up to $30,000 on a consultant for the law department that could help resolve differences that have developed between attorneys working for the developer of a new courthouse and the city's attorneys. The Council had previously rejected the request.

The mayor appointed DeCastro a year ago to serve as the city's corporation counsel, a position that oversees a law department with four other full-time attorneys. The Council never approved the nomination of DeCastro, and he remained in an acting capacity.

Council members also cut DeCastro's salary by $20,000 at the beginning of this year. In May, three councilmen passed a resolution asking for his resignation.

After the vote, Rotella said he felt that DeCastro answered to the mayor rather than the Council. Council Chairman Robert Anderson Jr. said at the time he was unhappy that DeCastro, a Lewiston resident, did not intend to move into the city to abide by its residency law for city employees.


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