Law firm representing Guilderland School District in hot water

Girvin and Ferlazzo, the Albany law firm that represents the Guilderland School District, was penalized by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli because four lawyers from the firm were inappropriately drawing pensions from the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES retirement system.

The law firm is the same one that has represented the Guilderland School District on issues such as labor relations, special education, construction contracts, and sexual harassment and discrimination claims, among other legal matters.

In a Thursday, April 17, written statement from the Comptroller's office, DiNapoli said that lawyers James Girvin, Kathy Ann Wolverton, Kristine Lanchantin and Jeffrey Honeywell were incorrectly reported as Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES employees to the Retirement System. Under the Retirement System, the attorneys inappropriately earned 5 to 16 years of service credit, even though none are retired or employees of the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES.

As a result of the findings, DiNapoli has revoked the Retirement System memberships of the four lawyers.

The written statement also said that DiNapoli and his office, would recover any pension benefits paid out to wrongly classified individuals who have already retired. [DiNapoli] would ask the Attorney General to pursue civil recovery of those benefits when necessary.

The representative for Girvin and Ferlazzo did not respond to requests for comment before press time.

According to the Girvin and Ferlazzo Web site, the firm has been representing school districts for more than 20 years. There are 21 attorneys who work for the firm. Currently, they represent more than 70 schools.

Guilderland School District's Superintendent, John McGuire, said he has never had a problem with the law firm, and is confident that there are not any lawyers from the Girvin and Ferlazzo firm that are listed as employees of the Guilderland School District.

"We have a retainer agreement," he said. "I check every bill that comes through here. I'm comfortable that the bills are accurate assessments of the services we've received."

McGuire said that it is too early to know if the school district will continue to use the Girvin and Ferlazzo firm. He said the issue will be brought up at the Tuesday, April 29, school board meeting.

"It's for the board to determine," said McGuire. ""

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