As the Town of Guilderland prepares its final budget, one board member has been asked to back away from discussions.
In a letter to Warren Redlich dated Tuesday, Sept. 30, Guilderland Supervisor Ken Runion suggests the councilman should step aside from the budget process due to a conflict of interest.
In Redlich’s law practice, he represents clients in the Guilderland Justice Court. In his letter, Runion stated that since Redlich shares in the responsibility in the hiring, firing and discipline of town employees, including those in the justice system, he should not participate in the budget process.
Redlich said the complaint against him is a political tactic, and he has not removed himself from the process.
`He’s refusing to answer questions about the budget. He doesn’t have to answer to me; he has to answer to [the media] and to the voters.` Redlich said. `He wants me to stop being a lawyer, and he wants me to stop being a board member.`
Redlich said he had sent a number of questions regarding specific line items in the budget to Runion, and Runion stated that a number of them specifically deal with the police and court system, prompting his letter.
Runion cited in his letter several cases that were transferred to other jurisdictions because of town judges recusing themselves due to Redlich’s position on the Town Board. Runion stated that such moves waste taxpayers’ time and money and could be avoided if Redlich did not practice law in Guilderland.
Runion also stated in his letter that online searches for Guilderland Town Court feature advertisements indicating Redlich is a town board member and clients could assume they would get special favor since he sits on the board, the letter states.
`It is ironic that you seem to pick and choose when you perceive a conflict,` Runion wrote in the letter. `For example, you voted on the selection of a police chief and the promotion and appointment of police personnel, yet you recused yourself from a vote on an individual being appointed to perform court security.`
Redlich cited a New York State Bar Association ethics opinion that states it is not unusual for a council member to practice law in the court system for the municipality represented, so long as they do not attempt to use their positions to influence the justices.
`It’s trivial,` Redlich said.
Redlich pointed out that the issue already came up and said Runion is using `political machine` tactics to avoid answering questions about the budget.
The final budget adoption is set for Thursday, Nov. 6.“