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Board tables payment tied to FBI probe

The Town Board pulled a payment to the town attorney Tuesday for legal work related to a federal investigation of town business.

On a motion by Councilman Robert Clark, the board agreed to table the payment of a $9,575 voucher to Michael Riseman of Hodgson Russ for telephone calls and other conferencing in connection with an investigation being conducted by the FBI and the State Comptroller's Office.

Representatives from both agencies came to the Town Hall on March 15 to speak with Supervisor Steven Richards, as well as some town employees and department heads. The investigation centers on the use of town equipment and materials on private property.

Clark asked that the payment be tabled so the board could discuss the exact nature of the work. He stressed that the town should not pay for legal representation regarding criminal or other charges against an individual, even if the individual is a town employee or elected official.

Town funds should pay only for work to protect the town's legal interests, board members said, and any funding of private representation would be a conflict of interest.

Councilman Charles Teixeira noted past situations in which the town attorney was used when there were possible criminal matters. He said the town attorney should be at every interview. However, "if someone is being charged, they should get their own attorney," he said.

Deputy Supervisor Marc Carpenter cut off the discussion at that point. He was leading the meeting because Richards was absent. Carpenter later explained that Richards has been ill for a couple of months and was unable to attend. Attempts to reach Richards after the meeting were unsuccessful.

The deputy supervisor noted that he also spoke with a representative of the FBI following the initial interview with Richards. Carpenter said the agent came to his home to ask him if he witnessed any of the activities in question.

Carpenter said he would not publicly discuss any of the details of the interviews or investigation on the advice of Riseman. He explained that releasing any unsubstantiated claims or information at this point "can be very damaging."