The City of Ansonia’s defense of a lawsuit filed by its former trash hauling contractor has so far cost taxpayers about $11,000.
The payments to former Derby Corporation Counsel Joseph Coppola are part of more than $40,000 paid to Coppola by the city in the past two years for services rendered, including a stint as a budget consultant.
The dollar figure emerged as part of a disagreement between Mayor David Cassetti and Aldermanic President Phil Tripp over hiring outside lawyers.
Last August the Aldermen voted 8-2 to hire an outside lawyer to double check an opinion rendered by John Marini, the city’s official corporation counsel.
Cassetti thought the move was a waste of money, and that Tripp didn’t have the authority to hire a lawyer.
Cassetti said at the time he vetoed the vote, though there’s nothing in the public record showing he did so.
The mayor vowed not to pay the bill, which totaled $1,181.
But the city eventually agreed to pay the bill, which caused the disagreement to resurface during an Aldermanic meeting in March.
Second Ward Alderman Lorie Vaccaro and Seventh Ward Alderman Frank DeLibero said Tripp didn’t have the power to hire a lawyer.
After some back-and-forth with DeLibero during the meeting, Tripp noted that the city has hired outside counsel for other matters.
Tripp pointed out the city was sued by its former trash hauling contractor, Winters Bros., last year.
The lawsuit alleges Cassetti, Economic Development Director Sheila O’Malley, and Public Works Director Mike D’Alessio have personal relationships with unnamed officials from City Carting, and wanted to steer the garbage hauling contract to that company.
The lawsuit claims Cassetti, O’Malley, and D’Alessio were motivated by “improper personal considerations,” without spelling out what the alleged considerations were.
Tripp said Coppola is defending the officials — at the taxpayers’ expense.
He said the city has to be consistent on hiring outside legal firms.
“They are currently being defended by an attorney, and I’m sure that outside attorney is being paid,” Tripp said.
Before an Aldermen’s meeting April 11, Tripp said the mayor was being “a little hypocritical.”
He again referred to the fact that attorney Coppola is representing Cassetti, O’Malley, and D’Alessio in the Winter Bros. lawsuit.
“Mr. Coppola’s bills get paid, regardless of how high they go,” he said. “But yet we’re arguing over $1,000.”
The lawsuit-related work done by Coppola includes preparing for depositions and hearings, as well as writing documents related to the lawsuit.
The city and the trash company were scheduled to have a pretrial conference to discuss the lawsuit April 24.
But on April 11 a judge at Superior Court in Milford continued the matter to July after a request from Winters Bros. lawyers.
The request said Winters Bros. was waiting for a counter-proposal from the city.