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Democrats question hiring of LDC lawyer

by Sean Carroll

Rochester, N.Y. --- Democrats in Monroe Countys Legislature are questioning how the county retained independent legal counsel to assist with an ongoing criminal investigation.

The criminal investigation is focused on the countys use of Local Development Corporations, or LDCs. Four arrests were announced earlier this month and the 25-count indictment includes charges of Grand Larceny, Conspiracy, Money Laundering, and bid ridding.

In July, Monroe County retained former New York State Attorney General and former U.S. Attorney Dennis Vacco to represent the countys interest and to help comply with the ongoing state investigation. Bills from Vaccos law firm have totaled $167,000 for the months of July, August, and September.

On Tuesday, Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature raised questions about the decision to retain Vacco and argued that it should have been subject to the countys procurement procedures. The countys policy applies to contracts in excess of $5,000 and any professional service contract in excess of $25,000 requires a Request For Proposal (RFP) process according to Democrats.

"That firm shouldn't be decided secretly, it shouldn't be decided by one person, said Minority Leader Carrie Andrews. We're saying that this contract with Dennis Vacco absolutely should've come before the legislature for our consideration and debate."

Andrews, and fellow legislator Justin Wilcox, wrote a letter to the countys law department asking for a review and explanation.

"In my opinion this would not be the time to not exercise due legislative oversight if you're going to retain a law firm to do an internal investigation, Andres continued. We want to have as much transparency, I would think we would air on the side of having extra transparency, to reassure the taxpayers that we're doing everything in the public's view; nothing behind closed doors, nothing in secret.

Monroe County Spokesman Justin Feasel sent the following statement in response to Minority Leader Andrews comments at Tuesdays press conference:

"Another day, another hollow political attack from Ms. Andrews that demonstrates a woeful lack of understanding of basic government operations. Ms. Andrews should know that most municipal governments, including the City of Rochester, classify legal services as not subject to procurement due to their confidential nature, which has been the practice of every County administration whether Republican or Democrat. This is simply another sad attempt by Ms. Andrews to appear relevant when she has no real qualifications or experience to offer informed comment.

Monroe County Legislature Minority Leader Carrie Andrews sent 13WHAM this statement: 

"It's unacceptable that the County Executive can't respond to the substance of our questions and instead resorts to petty personal attacks loaded with misinformation. Contrary to the County Executive's claims, the Rochester City Council and many other local governments do require legislative approval of legal service contracts, because they recognize the importance of legislative oversight. The secret awarding of the internal review contract with no legislative approval is concerning. We've seen before what happens when contracts are awarded without oversight: a two week old company ends up with a $100 million county contract."

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