I, along with members of the Legislature who approved this settlement, am deeply disappointed in D.A. Tendy and the direction he took in Friday’s Press Release regarding the settlement of the DiPippo case. It is clearly an emotional response in a case where two prior District Attorneys obtained convictions, but he was unable to do so. Mr. Tendy does not alone own the grief for this horrific tragedy. Many members of the County administration and the Legislature actually lived here in Carmel all, if not most, of our lives. We recall vividly the days and months following the discovery of the victims’ body, and we watched closely each time a trial was convened to ensure that justice was served for her, each time hoping that closure would be achieved for her and her family. Unfortunately, that was not ultimately to be and we are now simply making the most advantageous decision possible to put this horrible tragedy behind us so that the community and the victims’ family can finally begin to heal.
Mr. Tendy, however, is clearly taking a business decision as a personal affront to him and feels as though it is a comment on his shortcomings and inability to convict Mr. DiPippo. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Rather, it was a decision that was made in an effort to ensure that the County taxpayers would not be liable for a significantly larger verdict after a trial took place in this case.
Mr. Tendy is not even remotely familiar with the specific facts of the federal civil rights case which was commenced by Mr. DiPippo. He could not even begin to describe the conflicting and troublesome evidence that had been discovered thus far in this case which had been litigated for over 2 years by the County’s insurance defense counsel and its insurance coverage counsel. All of the witnesses relevant to whether or not a civil rights violation had been committed by the County had been deposed. Mr. DiPippo’s testimony, on the other hand, would not have been dispositive as to whether or not the County had violated his civil rights. Clearly, Mr. Tendy should concern himself with the business of the District Attorney’s Office and leave the federal litigation to those with greater expertise and knowledge of evidentiary standards.
It is truly unfortunate that Mr. Tendy immediately reacted emotionally in a case where he did not understand any of the facts. This settlement was reviewed and considered by the County’s insurer, insurance defense counsel, two separate insurance coverage counsels and a federal
mediator, all of whom were intimately aware of the facts of this case and all of whom were independent third parties whose only interests in this matter were to vigorously defend the County of Putnam. Every one of these attorneys strongly recommended that the settlement be approved, as it was overwhelmingly in the best interests of the County of Putnam. The fact that Mr. Tendy believes that, with no knowledge of the facts of this case, he knows better than four attorneys and a mediator how the litigation should have been handled is both arrogant and egotistical.
Furthermore, a civil rights violation was never an issue that was litigated in Mr. DiPippo’s prior court cases. Rather, any violations of civil rights alleged to have occurred in this case are now being litigated in the context of a Section 1983 action in federal court. Therefore, Mr. Tendy’s assertion that there had never been a single finding by any court of a civil rights abuse or any police wrongdoing is inconsequential. The facts that gave rise to the civil rights claim of malicious prosecution did not even occur until he was acquitted at his third trial. What matters now is whether or not a federal jury would determine that a civil rights violation had in fact occurred.
Moreover, Mr. Tendy has forgotten that “where you stand depends on where you sit”. He himself admitted on two separate occasions that if he were sitting in the seat of County Executive or Legislator that he would make the same decision. In fact, he mentioned in a telephone call to the me that he would approve the settlement as well if he were still the Supervisor of the Town of Putnam Valley, and he reiterated this statement in a meeting with the myself, the Deputy Chair of the Legislature, the County Attorney and the Commissioner of Finance. Here, Mr. Tendy sits in the role of prosecutor so it is not surprising that he is opposed to settling a civil case pertaining to a criminal prosecution that his office could not win.
No one, regardless of their years of practice or areas of expertise, can predict with any certainty what the outcome of litigation will be. There remained a significant risk in this case that, regardless of how Mr.Tendy believed the case would be decided, a federal jury would find the County liable and would award Mr. DiPippo significantly more money. Eight of the nine members of the Legislature and I simply could not gamble with taxpayer funds like that and therefore approved this settlement, effectively capping the cost to the County taxpayer at $200,000.
Finally, Mr. Tendy is correct in one sentence of his press release where he asserts that the settlement was about one thing: money. The County Executive and the Legislature are collectively responsible for safeguarding the financial stability of the County government and for managing the County’s risk. Mr. Tendy’s job is to put criminals behind bars. Where Mr. Tendy failed to do his job effectively, he cannot then blame myself or the Legislature for doing ours.