For over a year, former Buffalo School District attorney Rashondra Martin has alleged that school board member Carl Paladino creates a hostile work environment. Last year, Martin filed a human rights complaint, saying that Paladino creates a “racially and sexually hostile work environment” for African-American female employees. The case has now been dismissed, but Martin intends to pursue it in federal court. Attorney Barry Covert spoke to WGRZ about the case and its effect on how taxpayer money is spent. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.
Outside attorneys avoid conflict of interest
WGRZ reports that, since this claim was filed over a year ago, attorneys from outside the district have been hired to represent both sides in order to avoid a conflict of interest. “And it’s legitimate,” Mr. Covert said. “You do have to make sure that you have conflict-free attorneys handling each of the parties here.”
However, this means that taxpayers are covering the cost of the legal fees. According to WGRZ, they amount to $80,000 so far. Mr. Covert told WGRZ that, “Right now, there’s nothing good that’s coming out of this from a taxpayer’s point of view. You’re easily going to get up to the hundreds of thousands of dollars if the case doesn’t get resolved fairly soon.” He went on to say that “there is no end to the finances that are going to be paid here.”
Case could be pursued in federal court
Through the Freedom of Information Act, WGRZ obtained a judge’s order and discovered that Martin “intends to pursue federal remedies in court” now that her request that the original complaint be dismissed was granted. “It’s not uncommon,” Mr. Covert explained, “that you make sure that you file timely with New York State and/or federally to make sure you haven’t lost any rights. And then you make a strategic decision—which way do I want to go? They feel, strategically, that they have a better chance of a larger outcome in federal court.”
Mr. Covert told WGRZ that, “at the end of it, if she prevails, then the city taxpayers are going to be paying for whatever the resolution is.”
About Barry N. Covert
Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.