Our only possible conclusion is that Queensbury Supervisor John Strough and the rest of the Queensbury Town Board are suffering from a collective case of amnesia.
It was just a year ago that three members of the Queensbury Town Board with strong connections to the town’s Republican Party railroaded a change in the town’s law firm in which one of the principals also held a leadership position with the town Republicans.
Strough objected that those connections could lead to problems.
And they did.
The town attorney was caught last summer taking sides in an email exchange over a political matter that involved another member of the Town Board. The attorney appeared to be taking sides against Town Board member Tony Metivier, who later said it was payback because he did not vote for the law firm change.
That was inappropriate and unethical, and any chance that those events could repeat themselves should be avoided at all costs.
You would think the members of this Town Board would know that.
We said at the time that going forward, the town — and all municipalities, really — should stipulate it would only do business with law firms that do not allow their attorneys to hold those types of political committee positions.
The sad reality is that most law firms don’t forbid these memberships. We suspect they believe these connections are more likely to get them business than lose it.
That needs to change.
Queensbury got half the job done in fixing its law firm problem last week.
The town hired its former law firm of Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hafner, partly we hope, because their lawyers are forbidden from serving on political committees.
But the town also hired the law firm of Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart and Rhodes to represent them on labor issues. But two lawyers at that firm — Malcolm O’Hara and John Wright — are members of the Queensbury Republican Committee.
We find that problematic considering the recent past, and so should the current members of the Town Board, who are partially there because voters objected to the political chicanery of their former lawyer.
Shockingly, Supervisor Strough did not see a problem this time around. He cited Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart and Rhodes’ reputation as being one of the best firms on labor issues and that the two attorneys serving on the committee would not be involved in town business.
While that may be, we believe there is a bigger issue here.
The Town Board has an opportunity — based on its past experiences — to set an example around the region that it is not going to give taxpayer money for legal representation that might be tainted by politics.
We remind Town Board members Catherine Atherden, George Ferone, Tony Metivier and Jennifer Switzer that Queensbury’s voters sent a very clear message this past November that they objected to political dirty tricks.
We don’t want to deprive Queensbury taxpayers of excellent representation, but we also are not convinced the events of last summer cannot repeat themselves.
The simple solution is for the lawyers at Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes to resign from their positions with the local political party, and the Town Board to acknowledge they will not do business with law firms unless they have a policy against formal political participation.
Post-Star editorials represent the opinion of the Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Robert Forcey, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representatives Patricia Crayford, Carol Merchant and Eric Mondschein.