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Peter Schmitt Watch

Keeping tabs on Nassau County Legislator Peter J. Schmitt. The truth is here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Another Legal Loss for Schmitt

A State Supreme Court has ruled that Schmitt must bear the cost of the $10million defamation lawsuit against him. Leg. Dave Mejias tells Newsday "The taxpayers of Nassau County should not have to pay for Peter Schmitt's personal, political attacks and lies,"

The lawsuit stems from charges made by Schmitt in 2004 about the law firm of Crowe-Deagan. Schmitt accused the firm of false billing, illegal campaign contributions and tampering with evidence.

The New York Law Journal reports "At a Jan. 12, 2004, news conference and in an accompanying statement, Schmitt said the nine-lawyer firm, which he said was hired to represent several county agencies without bidding, was receiving "exorbitant, unauthorized amounts of money for work they did not perform." He also said the firm had exceeded campaign contribution limits to give "illegal money" to David Mejias, a successful Democratic legislature candidate. "
"Schmitt moved for summary judgment on the grounds that his statements were either true or constitutionally protected opinion. He also argued that the law firm was a public figure unable to meet the actual malice standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1964's New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254.
That landmark case required public figures, such as politicians, suing for defamation to establish that false statements about them were made knowingly or with reckless disregard to the truth of the statements."

State Supreme Court Justice Lally denied a request for dismissal of the lawsuit by Schmitt saying. The case moves forward with the ruling that "Legislator Schmitt made statements ... outside the protection of legislative immunity," which means he is liable for any defamatory comments he makes.
Mejias tells Newsday that this "proves once and for all that Peter Schmitt will say anything, even lie, to take back control of Nassau County."

The judge ruled that because Schmitt cited actual figures, "While the term exorbitant may constitute protected opinion, language stating that Crowe Deegan received an unauthorized amount of money for 'work they did not perform' and language stating that the firm contributed 'illegal' money 'over the legal limit' to Legislator David Mejias is precise and capable of being proven true or false,"

Schmitt gets hoisted on his own petard with that one. Schmitt has frequently cited false numbers to bolster his arguments and has been called out on it. Now his words are in a court of law and he can't say he misspoke or change his story as he usually does.

Schmitt tried to play it too cute with the "illegal campaign contributions" to Dave Mejias. Schmitt charged that the firm gave Mejias $4000 which is over the $2000 limit.
Schmitt didn't get that the firm is a partnership and as Lally ruled "A partnership by definition includes at least two persons," which means two partners can give $2000 each which is the $4000 Schmitt was using.

Schmitts attorney Paul Millus argued that it's okay for Schmitt to lie. He actually makes a case for lying "Politicians have to have the flexibility to say things in the public interest."

As a side note, remember last year during the election the republicans complained and complained about non-nassau county residents working for the county and firms employed from outside too?
So who does Schmitt go to?
A Manhattan-based firm Snitow Kanfer Holtzer & Millus

Monday, April 03, 2006

Heller Still Working to Solve Issue that Schmitt Should Try Helping On


While leaders in Albany are negotiating the nuances of the New York State budget, efforts are being made on Long Island to influence those in the position of power regarding the state-aid formula for education.
Since December 2005, Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi has had numerous meetings with school board officials to resolve the difficult task of controlling the rise in real property taxes, specifically school taxes. On March 9, at a press conference held by Suozzi and attended by most of the 56 school districts in Nassau County, a letter was signed off on demanding that Albany change the state-aid formula for education to include regional costs in the analysis. By doing so, the leaders indicated that Nassau County would receive significant increases in state aid for education that would result in the lowering of taxes, or at least keeping them in check.
On March 24, the Long Island Association (LIA), the region's largest business and civic organization, released a statement prepared by their Education Committee concerning the critical issue of state aid. In this statement it was noted that "unless the regional cost factor is applied to the education aid wealth formula, the result remains unfair" as to the disbursement of state aid for education. The committee indicated that Long Island has 17 percent of the students in the state and receives only 12.8 percent of the share of state aid.
Within local school districts, communities are rising up in a lobbying campaign to ensure that the state-aid formula is changed. One such community that is leading this effort is in the Plainedge School District, where an organization called the Plainedge Tax Relief Association (PTRA) was created. That organization has galvanized the community to write letters to their state legislators and the legislative leaders, and during the final week of the budget process, a phone-a-thon has been organized. All residents in the community have been sent a list of legislators to contact to obtain the fair share of state aid, for Plainedge as well as for the rest of Nassau County.
In Albany, Assemb. Joseph Saladino (R-Massapequa) has proposed a bill, A07702, that would include the regional cost approach in the state-aid formula analysis. Saladino has indicated that he is pushing for a companion bill in the State Senate and that he would be requesting that his minority leadership support this effort.
With the intent of passing a budget on time for the second straight year, by April 1, 2006, all parties are aware that this is the final week to have an effect on this year's budget. This is best described by Phil Toscano, co-chairman of PTRA: "We need tax relief from Albany this year. We cannot fail, because the stakes are too high—that is the future of our children's education."
Craig Heller

Craig Heller, an attorney, is co-chairman of PTRA.