Differing opinion sparks lively debate

ORANGE - Before a packed meeting room, Town Attorney Brian Stone blasted Selectman Jim Zeoli for putting the town at "great risk" for disclosing legal strategy during a public meeting at the previous board of selectmen meeting.

"I cannot emphasize enough how your discussion out of executive session puts us at risk," Stone told Zeoli and the rest of the board. He was referring to a deal arranged and discussed at the June 13 meeting of the board to remove the 55 or older age restriction on 17 homes to be constructed at the Great River Golf Course in exchange for $200,000.

Zeoli and Selectwoman Dottie Berger voted against removing the age restriction.

"I don't think we have a leg to stand on," Zeoli said pertaining to the fact that the age restriction was left off the plans.

Stone said his comments put Orange at risk.

"The attorney for Great River spent over an hour listening to tapes of the last board of selectmen meeting," Stone said.

"Claiming any legal opinion in public was inappropriate," Stone told Zeoli.

"If you want to buck me, disagree with me as much as you want. When it comes to legal issues I am the town counsel," Stone added.

Berger stood up for Zeoli explaining that they are lay people on the board and may not see counsel as the ultimate authority.

"We are trying to be responsible and (when we ask question) go to the source. We may not think of you as the source," Berger said.

When given the chance to rebut, Zeoli denied offering a legal opinion.

"It was my opinion, not yours," he told Stone.

"I feel I'm trying to do a responsible job for the town," Zeoli said

First Selectman Mitchell Goldblatt jumped into the discussion and told Zeoli that this was not the first occasion he spoke out of turn citing a discussion he had regarding the Lambert Road construction.

"As far as Lambert Road, I spoke with (Ed) Lieberman. That's all I did. I didn't get into any litigation. As many times as I've met with Mitch in his office why did you wait until now (to bring this us,) Zeoli said.

"And Brian, why didn't you call me (on this) I have a phone?" Zeoli asked Stone.

Board of Finance Chairman Tony Nastri told the board that this type of discussion should not have taken place in public.

Richard Civie, referring to the Lambert Road litigation said that Zeoli was the only one working to find a solution and asked Goldblatt where he had been.