Glen Cove council raises payment to law firm 20%

The four City Council members who voted in favor of the $40,000 raise for the city's attorneys were registered Republicans, whereas the three against it were Democrats.// Photo by Julia Capitelli/Long Island Advocate

By Julia Cappitelli and Gabrielle Yanovitz

Tensions were high at the City of Glen Cove City Council meeting Feb. 13 as council members disagreed with Mayor Pamela Panzenbeck over two resolutions that would make unplanned changes to the 2024 budget, including one that would raise the annual amount paid to the city’s legal firm from $200,000 to $240,000 — a 20% jump in pay.

All three Republicans on the council, Grady Farnan, Michael Ktistakis and Kevin Maccarone, voted for the resolution with Panzenbeck, while the three Democrats opposed it.

The firm under contract with the City of Glen Cove — Chase, Rathkopf & Chase LLP — is a team of three attorneys. They were represesnted at the meeting by Tip Henderson, who handles day-to-day operations for the city. The team is in its third contract year with Glen Cove and had yet to receive a raise, officials said.

The main concern surrounding the pay increase was that it needed to be budgeted. Councilwoman Marsha Silverman was the first to raise concerns around the hike, wondering if extra work would be sought in exchange for the raise. Panzenbeck said there would be no extra work, but she said she believed the raise was deserved.

Henderson “is devoting a lot more time to this than he had ever thought,” Pazenbeck said. Henderson is one of three of the firm’s attorneys working for the city. The attorneys are not Glen Cove employees and do not receive benefits from the city under their contract.

Agreeing with Silverman, Councilman John Zozzaro asked if the increase was the norm and where the money came from. Panzenbeck explained that she had a contingency fund, and the money would come from there.

Silverman ultimately voted against the resolution, stating that the budget did not allow for it. “I think a $40,000, or 20%, increase a little over a month into the year that’s not budgeted for, it’s egregious,” she said. 

Zozzaro voted with Silverman, agreeing that the budget had no room. Also voting against the resolution was Councilwoman Danielle Fugazy Scagliola. She expressed similar concerns over where the money would come from.

“I understand that the mayor does have a contingency, and I appreciate that, but I know there’s a lot of people now looking for money through contingency, and it’s just going to get tighter and tighter, and it’s only February,” Fugazy Scagliola said. “Plus, we already have… some risks in the budget that may not work out, so… it’s just not a prudent idea.”

Zozzaro said, “When I speak to you [Panzenbeck], you say there’s no extra money anywhere,” he said.“Twenty percent is a lot. Not saying [the attorneys don’t] deserve it…but I think it should be more structured as far as giving raises.”

Maccarone called the raise a “well-deserved bump” and thanked the legal team for its continued service. “We’ve had no major legal issues thanks to our legal team,” he said. 

Additionally, the council followed up on a resolution from an emergency meeting on Feb. 6 regarding the appointment of Christopher Devane, LLC, to conduct an appeals hearing for a city employee. Such personnel matters are confidential.

“Twenty percent is a lot. Not saying [the attorneys don’t] deserve it…but I think it should be more structured as far as giving raises.”

Councilman John Zozzaro

Debate centered on whether it would be wise to put a cap on the number of days the city would pay Devane for the hearing. The resolution passed, 6-1, with a four-day cap.

While Panzenbeck said the hearing would likely last no more than two days, Silverman moved to amend the resolution to cap the amount paid to Devane at $7,500, or three days’ pay. Maccarone suggested putting the cap at five days. Meeting in the middle, Silverman moved to amend the resolution to cap the amount at $10,000, or four days.

The primary issue here was whether the budget allowed the amount paid to be left open-ended. Silverman, Zozzaro, Fugazy Scagliola, Ktistakis and Maccarone all voted for the four-day cap. Farnan voted for Maccarone’s suggested five-day cap.

Panzenbeck voted against the four-day cap, explaining that she did not want the process to be interrupted. “This is a big process, and I feel as though it probably will be two days. We don’t want to handcuff the entire process,” she said.

Seeking clarification on the amendment, Glen Cove resident Maureen Pappachristou asked council members whether there would be a delay if they had to approve additional time in the event the hearing ran longer than four days. Maccarone and Panzenbeck explained that an emergency meeting would be called to potentially add more days.

“I’m very disappointed that they voted to put a cap on the hearing officer,” Panzenbeck said. “This is a very important situation that needs to be resolved properly.”

“We need to do the best for the city and it gets into politics,” she added. “I’m not partisan at all.”