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Feb 16, 2011 10:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Accepts Town Attorney's Resignation

Feb 16, 2011 10:06 AM

Michael Sordi’s resignation as Southampton Town attorney on Friday might have seemed sudden, but Town Board members revealed this week that they had been discussing parting ways with him as far back as late last year, and had even been negotiating a settlement to hasten his departure.

His resignation was expedited, however, after a town resident, at a Town Board meeting last Tuesday, brought to light Mr. Sordi’s failure to file a timely response to a federal lawsuit—a move that could force the town to pay a default judgment of $70 million to East Quogue resident Nancy Genovese.

In her lawsuit, Ms. Genovese claims she was wrongfully arrested and detained after being caught snapping pictures of a helicopter in front of the Air National Guard base in Westhampton two years ago. Her attorney, Frederick K. Brewington, asked the court for a default judgment because the town failed to respond to the suit by a set deadline, and for his client to be awarded the full $70 million. Mr. Sordi stated in a court document that his belated response was due to both his mother and nephew dying within a week of each other, leaving him distracted and under the impression that the response had, in fact, been filed

It was not the first time Mr. Sordi had missed a deadline as the Southampton Town attorney. In an interview on Monday, Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said Mr. Sordi also failed to file a timely response to another lawsuit, which she described as the “Moore case.” Southampton resident Duane Moore, a Level 3 registered sex offender, is suing the town, Suffolk County and Southampton Village officials, charging that county and town laws governing residential restrictions against sex offenders “effectively banished” Mr. Moore from living within the town and county.

Mr. Sordi missed a deadline to file an answer to a motion in that case, Ms. Throne-Holst said, but she noted that the delay was resolved, the appropriate paperwork has been filed, and the case is proceeding.

Numerous attempts to contact Mr. Sordi this week were unsuccessful.

The missed deadlines in the town cases are not the first time Mr. Sordi’s work has been criticized.

Before Mr. Sordi was appointed to the town position, he was employed by Nassau County. In the last few months of his employment, prior to being terminated in December 2009 alongside a host of Democratic appointees when Republican County Executive Ed Mangano took office, he was the lead attorney in a high-profile federal case involving allegations of excessive force by a Nassau County police officer. The county lost the case, and a jury awarded the plaintiff nearly $20 million in damages; the county later settled the judgment for an undisclosed lesser sum. Mr. Sordi was assigned to the case before he was let go by the county.

According to a transcript of a July 12, 2010 meeting of the Nassau County Legislature’s Rules Committee, Republican County Attorney John Ciampoli claimed that Mr. Sordi, as the lead council on the case, did not complete any preparatory work for several pretrial motions that needed to be filed. He also documented a timeline of deadlines that the county missed.

Reached on Tuesday, Mr. Ciampoli said: “I would characterize this case as having been grossly mismanaged and mishandled by my predecessors in virtually every way that I could imagine.”

Nassau County Legislator Diane Yatauro relayed Mr. Sordi’s side of the story in the transcript, noting that he was informed in the middle of preparing for the case that he was going to be terminated, and also that he was not given a reason. Mr. Ciampoli never directly contacted him, she noted. Also, according to his account by Ms. Yatauro, Mr. Sordi could not file a pretrial motion without further direction from the incoming attorney. She also posed the question as to why Mr. Ciampoli would choose to fire an attorney while transitioning on “something as big as this.”

Ms. Throne-Holst this week said town officials were aware of the Nassau County matter when Mr. Sordi was hired, and she defended his actions in the case, suggesting that he should not be linked to a case he never tried. “Those were not his deadlines that were missed … To attach his name to the fact that the county lost that—he never tried that case,” she said.

Visibly uncomfortable discussing the circumstances that led to Mr. Sordi’s resignation as town attorney, Ms. Throne-Holst described the move as a “sensitive situation.” Ultimately, she said Mr. Sordi and the town mutually “decided to part ways” even before the issues with the Genovese case and the missed deadline came to light. She skirted around the specifics of the situation, simply noting that “the time was right” and that it had happened for “a variety of reasons.”

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Kicked out of Nassau and Leaves Southampton prematurely after a poor performance (though I understand the toll losses of close family members can bring). Hopefully Mr. Sordi will flourish in his private practice and not need to hoodwink another government entity.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 11, 11 3:44 PM
"Not comfortable with the terms of the agreement "means that ATH handed him a big bag of money to leave. Tax payer money it goes without saying. And how much will it cost to clean up his mess?

The former employees in Hicksville which this big, bad attorney "reduced to tears" when cross examining them after they tried to expose corruption there ought to be told about this. Good riddance.
By Phanex (83), Southampton on Feb 11, 11 4:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
Another incompetent town Attorney. They should fire them all and start again.
By localspud (4), Southampton on Feb 11, 11 4:41 PM
"Confidential" - ATH giving away our money. Private industry would have fired him for incompetence.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Feb 11, 11 5:57 PM
1 member liked this comment
Indeed, EastEnd, indeed.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 11, 11 6:23 PM
Why did Nuzzi and Malone cop out? If they did not agree with the terms then they could have voted no with Grabosky support. If they represent the taxpayer and they are "uncomfortable" with the settlement and don't think its good for the town then defeat it don't abstain.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 11, 11 6:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
By abstaining, Nuzzi and Malone are showing their total non-support of ATH. They are taking advantage of her rough week and tarnished reputation.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Feb 11, 11 7:08 PM
Just who is responsible for ATH's "rough week?"

She made it worse by trying to cover up Sordi's reckless incompetence at Tuesday afternoon's meeting.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 12, 11 12:17 AM
Local - all the town attorney's are not incompetent - The office is comprised of local people with law degrees making way less than they should who are highly qualified in town law and care about our town. Some of which have been with the office for quite some time - the problem is hiring a qualified Town Attorney who will take the position without fear of losing it in a year...No one wants it.....Who do you think does all the competent work when these incompetents are hired as their boss?
By Jac-man (22), Southampton on Feb 11, 11 7:47 PM
2 members liked this comment
If Nuzzi and Malone voted No, it would appear they were not in favor of the town attorney's resignation. By abstaining it showed they were not in favor of the big severance pay out Anna gave to Mr. Sordi.
All with tax payer money, now she has to hire a new TA with over $100,000 salary + the payout. Where does this end with the wasteful spending.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 11, 11 8:31 PM
Do you have any evidence of your accusations of a "big severance pay"? Didn't think so.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Feb 12, 11 8:23 AM
ATH acted quickly to safe her own neck. The conversation most likely went something like this:
Look you have to resign Mike because I have an election in November and this is making me look really foolish. So we'll give you a healthy payoff and out you go.

By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 11, 11 8:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
No, I don't think the payout was that much. Nuzzy and Malone would never have allowed that. They would have looked out for the taxpayer and the town. They would have forced the issue. Remember the MTA thing, remember the I want my reports, they have the votes. They could have voted no, fired the guy. After all, would they not have just cause? Sordi you dropped the ball and exposed the town to a 70 million default judgment...They could of fired him and not payed out? It was more interesting for ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 11, 11 9:36 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ragerep, that conversation was in your own head.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Feb 12, 11 8:23 AM
Resolution still would have passed even with a no vote. For the record a vote to abstain is better than a no vote (in my opinion).
No means you were not in favor of the resolution. If they (Nuzzi & Malone) wanted drama they would have voted no and walked on their own resolution. Sometimes you have to pick your battles and this case I guess they did.
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 12, 11 12:06 AM
Sorry I should have bean clearer. They should have voted no to any payout and to remove TA anyway. In this case their vote to abstain was a yea vote. They endorsed the payout.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Feb 12, 11 1:05 AM
Now if Harold
Fisher would resign we would be in good shape
By joe hampton (3461), south hampton on Feb 12, 11 5:02 AM
A vote to abstain is the vote of cowards. If you disagree, vote no.
By razza5351 (551), East Hampton on Feb 12, 11 8:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
He kinda always reminded me of Grampa on the Munsters
By Bilge Water (131), Southampton on Feb 12, 11 8:30 AM
Anna was the sponsor of this resolution. Maybe Ms. Throne-Holst should have never had a special town board meeting to put this resolution on.
Anyway, even if the 2 did vote NO it still would have passed.

By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 12, 11 8:49 AM
I'm dying to hear what turkeybridge has to say! Where are you - the silence is deafening.
By WorkingWoman (5), Southampton on Feb 12, 11 9:36 AM
George is probably too busy assisting Anna in a search for a new Town Attorney.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 12, 11 12:43 PM
ATH has had a bad couple of weeks ! First, the Linda Cabot fiasco ( wait for the civil suit that is sure to come ! ) and now this incompetent town attorney who should have received $1.00 as a severance pkg. fo his outstanding work !I guess all the good attorneys are in private practice . Why is the settlement pkg being kept such a big secret ? This is taxpayer money being wasted once again, Southampton Town Gov't is a sewer ! ATH should be Throne OUT !
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Feb 12, 11 9:40 AM
2 members liked this comment
So by inadvertently missing the deadline and falling into default judgement the Town will never have to have the underlying conduct aired in open court???
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Feb 12, 11 12:24 PM
I have two words for you:

"Internal promotion"

Hire from the team that is there, and DON'T fill any new positions on the team. Not too difficult a concept, is it?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 12, 11 1:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
This would be ideal, but requires there be a qualified, competent and willing candidate. This is where the problem arrises, those who are qualified and/or competent are not willing. Sewerhampton Township.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Feb 12, 11 5:57 PM
As a manager myself, I understand the concept of assigning tasks, following up, and picking up the slack. If I don't pick up the slack, it's my butt in the end, because I MUST have failed on some level for tasks not to be completed in a timely manner. (HA, HA)

Someone with a degree, and potential NEEDS to step up, and dole out the riot act.

The people not only deserve it, they need it, and I'm sure demand it.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 13, 11 10:37 AM
Family tragedies notwithstanding, this is yet another stellar example of simple incompetence and inattention to details seemingly proliferating not only on the local, but also national, front. No one appears to be visibly in charge nor inclusively interacting with individual staff (much less other departments). How is it possible that Assistant Town Attorneys were not completely up to speed on this "pending" legal action and ready to jump into the mix when the lead Attorney was "indisposed" ? ...more
By Rainfall (22), Hampton Bays on Feb 12, 11 1:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
it's just one thing after another out here. what is wrong with us for electing people who constantly mismanage? it's on both sides
By littleplains (305), olde england on Feb 12, 11 4:31 PM
LOL, What's wrong with us? Look at the crappy choices we're given each year at the polls..... Dumb & Dumber has been the best choice we've had.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Feb 12, 11 5:52 PM
Just another bad lawyer..... wonder if any other profession has so many incompetents within their ranks. See yah Sordi, can't say I'm sorry to see you go. Just sorry you're being paid to leave.
By ICE (1214), Southampton on Feb 12, 11 5:54 PM
Maybe politics has more incompetents? Although they're mostly lawyers...

That said, there are plenty of good, honorable and ethical attorneys out there. Problem is that, like anything else, you only hear about the bad ones.
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on Feb 12, 11 8:22 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Feb 12, 11 6:22 PM
Editor: The earlier article on this fiasco said plaintiff is seeking a default judgment. This article says she's seeking a summary judgment. Very different things - can you clarify?
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on Feb 12, 11 8:24 PM
The article has been corrected to indicate that a default judgment was sought, not a summary judgment.
By Bill Sutton, Managing Editor (117), Westhampton Beach on Feb 13, 11 10:29 AM
Thank you.
By CoweeDewey (110), East Quogue on Feb 14, 11 10:47 AM
Almost everyone reported on in this article has declined comment, so I won't have much to say, either, except this, and maybe this says it all: Not all hires work out well. Ask anyone in business or government. You win some and you lose some, that's it.

Oh, and Frank: Just because you choose to use your actual name on this site (I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt on this), that doesn't mean everyone else has to, or that anyone whose actual name you think you know should be outed. ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 12, 11 10:30 PM
It's a small world, and a smaller town.

Some of us use nicknames, or names that are personally relevant.

Not that there's a problem with that...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Feb 13, 11 10:35 AM
50 % of all lawyers and doctors graduate in the bottom half of their class. Southampton town hires those who graduated in the bottom tenth of their class.
By big fish (5), quiogue on Feb 17, 11 10:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
I was under the impression that the Deputy Town Attorney was supposed to fill in when the Town Attorney wasn't available. If he or she had stepped in and filed the court papers in a timely manner, the town wouldn't be a risk for having to award a hefty default judgment. Sounds like incompetence to me and certainly doesn't make the attorneys office look too good.
By Casino18 (1), Shirley on Feb 17, 11 6:49 PM
Casino, watch the video of that meeting, Deputy Town Attorney Murray, when pressed, with apparent reluctance, stated that she did not have "the (Genovese) file."

It seemed that she was trying to NOT throw Sordi under the bus.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 23, 11 8:57 AM
I hope all bloggers are following this story in all the local papers.

Is everyone aware that Anna Throne-Holst at last Fridays work session broke with open meeting protocal by neglecting to mention a special town board meeting would be held following the executive session. This was the special board meeting where the resolution to accept Sordi's resignation would be voted on.
Let me explain why this is important. When an executive session is the last item on a work session the press ...more
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 17, 11 9:06 PM

Do you think Nuzzi will do better? (honest and serious question - and this is coming from someone who can't stand ATH)
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 17, 11 10:35 PM
Nature I'm assuming you mean if he should want to run and be nominated to run for supervisor and win.
Well, I would like to see some new blood throw their hat into the ring. But if Nuzzi gets the nomination and wins I think he can do better if he remembers his humble beginnings.
In my opinion the current supervisor plays/played dirty politics even when she was councilwoman. She has not followed through on her promise for transparency. It seems that her campaign never ended, she grandstands ...more
By reg rep (408), Southampton on Feb 18, 11 7:04 PM


So too with Graboski and faux Conservative Malone.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 23, 11 8:59 AM