County Releases Statement on Sheriff Settlement

After public backlash over settlement, notes it can’t fire elected official

On June 22, the Putnam County Legislature voted unanimously to pay $125,000 to former District Attorney Adam Levy to settle a defamation suit he brought against Sheriff Don Smith. The sheriff agreed to pay an additional $25,000. In an apology issued June 13, Smith admitted that four years ago he made false statements about Levy, who was then the D.A. His admission ended a civil trial over the matter two days after it began. Levy had asked for $5 million.

On Aug. 2, the Putnam County Legislature released this statement:

In response to inquiries and comments made by residents of Putnam County regarding the action taken by the Putnam County Legislature regarding the Levy v. Smith case, please be advised that the Putnam County Legislature was not part of the negotiations that led to the settlement agreement in the Levy v. Smith case. The settlement was negotiated by the parties and their counsel, and then presented to the Legislature for approval or disapproval.

After the trial had commenced, the county attorney, legislative counsel, trial counsel assigned by NYMIR (the county’s insurer) [the New York Municipal Insurance Reciprocal, which insures most municipalities in New York State] and NYMIR’s Claims Counsel all recommended the settlement so as to avoid the possibility of an adverse verdict, avoid the need to expend further legal fees, costs and expenses for the trial and any subsequent appeals, and in order to protect and preserve the interests of the taxpayers in separate pending litigation. [Smith is also being sued for $45 million by Alexandru Hossu, a fitness coach who occasionally stayed in Levy’s home in Southeast and who was accused of raping a girlfriend’s teenage daughter but acquitted].

The Legislature considered the facts and circumstances of the case, as well as the advice of counsel, and determined that settlement served the best interests of the Putnam County taxpayers and avoided potentially greater exposure to liability.

At the June 22 Special Full Meeting of the Legislature, the proposed settlement was approved by the Legislature. All of the Legislators in attendance voted in favor of the settlement. There were statements made by the chairperson of the Legislature along with several of the Legislators in attendance which specified upon advice of legal counsel, this was the prudent action to be taken on behalf of the taxpaying residents of Putnam County.

In closing, please be advised the Legislature does not have the authority to remove a sheriff from office. Only the governor has the authority to take such action. At the November election the residents of Putnam County will have the opportunity to vote their position.

4 Responses to "County Releases Statement on Sheriff Settlement"

  1. Lara Shihab-Eldin   August 5, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I have been following the unfolding information regarding these lawsuits, and their substantial fiscal cost to our community, even as I struggle to understand how a sheriff, whose role it is to help safeguard a community, can repeatedly make false and troubling public statements on topics such as our opioid crisis, shifting the focus (and probably the funding) away from real solutions with a track record. I am heartened that in November, we have an alternative: a qualified and trustworthy candidate who is an active and experienced member of our community: Robert Langley.

    Reply
  2. Laura Kaufman   August 5, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Sheriff Smith’s illegal actions may not be important to the county legislature, but he will be held accountable to voters who want honest, fair, responsible law enforcement for Putnam County. I am thrilled that we have a choice come November. I will be voting for Robert Langley for Sheriff, a just candidate who I can trust to uphold these values.

    Reply
  3. Patty Villanova   August 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    As a taxpayer and resident of Putnam County for over half a century, I am appalled and disgusted at the actions taken by the GOP-controlled Legislature, supposedly on our behalf.

    First of all, as I have pointed out in other comments on this forum, not only was there no obligation to pay for the sheriff’s behavior, but it was illegal for them to do so. The reason that the legislators jumped through every hoop for Smith was plain and simple: They are all members of the same club.

    It is also disgraceful that a man who has, by his own admission, violated his sacred oath of office, will have four lines on the ballot thanks to the equally corrupt party hacks who run the elections.

    It is particularly telling that not one of our so called “representatives” had the moral courage or common decency to stand up and do what was right, namely to refuse to vote to have the taxpayers foot the bill for Smith’s misdeeds.

    For this alone, every single sitting legislator should be voted out of office at the first opportunity. We need to break the cycle of corruption in Putnam County and the voters are the only ones who can do it. Smith should be looking at prison time, not a re-election campaign. The fact that he has the gall to run again like nothing ever happened is stunning.

    It’s too bad Mr. DeStefano got knocked off the primary ballot before we had a chance to vote, but at this point, no matter what political party you belong to, the mantra is “anybody but Smith.” At this point if it’s Mr. Langley, the Dems need to set up a “Republicans for Langley” committee. They might be surprised at how many people would contribute.

    Reply
  4. Ann Fanizzi   August 9, 2017 at 8:30 am

    In order to obtain further information on the Levy/Smith settlement, I filed a FOIL submitted to William Carlin, Putnam County Finance, since an agenda item cited his communication with the Legislature in a memo dated June 15. Shockingly, it was denied based on attorney-client privilege, citing the following: “The record was specifically exempted from disclosure according to Civil Practice Law and Rules – 4503(a) (1).” Mr. Carlin is not an attorney, so my attorney has filed an appeal with the appeal officer, County Executive Odell. Stay tuned.

    Reply

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