Massena Central school board authorizes settlement of suit by law firm
Friday, January 12, 2018 - 9:07 am

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA — The Massena Central School Board of Education on Thursday agreed to settle a lawsuit with the Wladis law firm, which represented the Local Government Task Force in negotiations with the New York Power Authority.

The deal settles the $2.9 million suit for $450,000.

The Town and Village of Massena, along with St. Lawrence County, have also agreed to the terms of the settlement.

The money will come from an escrow account held by the county that contains money paid by NYPA as annual compensation for high water flows on the St. Lawrence River caused by the Moses-Saunders power dam.

The money goes to towns and school districts affected by the power project, which includes the county, Massena and Madrid-Waddington school districts, the towns of Waddington, Louisville and Massena and the villages of Waddington and Massena.

Wladis in 2010 represented the task force members in negotiations with NYPA, and there was a dispute over how much they were owed, leading to the lawsuit the town agreed to settle.

The vote passed with no discussion from the board, who opened with meeting with a lengthy executive session where they cited, among other reasons permitted in state Open Meetings Law, a pending court case.

“We only get 1.1 percent of that (escrow) money, so if we were to have any claim on that $450,000 it would be 1.1 percent of it, so we are settling it for essentially that amount,” Massena Mayor Tim Currier said Dec. 19 at the Board of Trustees meeting where they agreed to the terms.

St. Lawrence County approved a resolution Dec. 18 to settle the $2.9 million lawsuit for $450,000.

St. Lawrence County Legislature Chairman Kevin Acres R-Madrid says he is pleased with the settlement, which will not hurt local taxpayers. Payment for the settlement will come from the “high flow” revenues generated by the hydro-dam.

St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button says this funding has been used to pay off debt acquired by the task force in the past and has also been used to fund legal services.

Attorneys who aided in the defense included John Muldowney representing the Village of Massena, Eric Gustafson representing the towns of Louisville, Madrid and Massena, Charlie Nash representing the towns of Waddington and Lisbon, Andrew Silver representing Madrid-Waddington and Lisbon Schools and Charles Symons representing Massena Central School District.