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:
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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.