Email to a friend

Lawyer Alleges Impropriety in Public Defender’s Office

Though relatively new to the area, Hunter attorney Mathew Tully is making his name known.

Last month, Tully offered free representation to people challenging traffic tickets written by New York City Department of Environmental Protection police officers in Ulster and Delaware counties. And lately, he’s set his sights on the Greene County Public Defender’s Office.

In a Jan. 20 letter to Public Defender Greg Lubow, Tully questioned the office’s “contractual oversight” regarding payment for services of assigned counsel representing clients with whom a conflict of interest has been found.

“The Public Defender’s Office, by statute, is supposed to be adversarial to the government,” Tully wrote. “In Greene County, it has become a part of the government and is working in concert with the government. If you are overseeing contracts and approving contracts, that’s a government function.”

Tully said he is not alleging misconduct, but added the appearance of impropriety is great.

Lubow said his office has no control over the purse strings for assigned counsel. Nor, he said, does his office make decisions on conflicts of interest or assigning counsel. He said his office performs “ministerial” duties only – checking vouchers for mathematical accuracy and compliance with the law.

“We don’t control the money,” he said.

Lubow said determining conflicts of interest and assigning counsel are responsibilities of judges. All vouchers are approved or disapproved by judges, he said, and all final payments rest with the Greene County Legislature following an audit. Lubow said he makes no judgment regarding the substance of a voucher, including the hours of service submitted.

Greene County Administrator Doug Brewer confirmed Lubow’s assessment. He said the county includes assigned counsel services as part of the public defender’s budget, albeit a part Lubow does not control.

Tully, to support his argument, cited a 1978 decision in which the state Attorney General’s Office found it inappropriate for a county attorney, as the head of a county law department, to have oversight of contracts and to appoint outside counsel representing clients in family and criminal court because the county attorney occasionally would represent the county in those courts.

Lubow said that opinion does not apply to this situation. In the case cited by Tully, he said, a county attorney would have control over appointing his or her adversary, which is not the case with the Public Defender’s Office.

But Tully said other counties exclude the public defender from the oversight process, either assigning the duties to the county administrator or an “assigned counsel administrator” appointed by the county. He would like to see Greene County do the same.

Lubow said both methods are a common practice.

In Columbia and Ulster counties, contractual oversight is under the purview of the county’s governing body or a department of the government other than the Public Defender’s Office.

Lubow said he has asked County Attorney Carol Stevens to request a ruling about his office’s involvement with the vouchers. He said he would be more than happy to abide by whatever decision is made.

“(Tully) might be correct,” he said. “If that is in fact the case, then we will get out of it.”


Attorney Locator

Find an attorney near you.
Click below.

Contact Us

  • Tully Rinckey announces new hires and promotion

    Derrick T. Hogan was promoted to senior associate, overseeing the criminal defense practice in Albany. Hogan joined as a law clerk in 2009. Morgan Smith joined as recruitment manager. Smith has more than 14 years of staffing and recruitment experience and previously …

  • Albany Police Officer Arrested

    Officer Caught on Camera Slamming 15-Year old Girl Albany Police Chief Brendan Cox says on July 26th, Officer Ervis Miftari was called to St. Anne Institute, a rehabilitation center for troubled girls, to help with one of the residents, who …

Read All

  • Free Download: EEOC 2016 Update White Paper

    You Could Be Sharing Confidential Info and Not Even Know It Tully Rinckey’s white paper details the Equal Employment Opportunity’s (“EEOC”) nationwide change to procedure that has gone largely unnoticed. The new procedure applies to Charges filed on or after …

Read All

Read All

  • Tully Rinckey PLLC Binghamton Office Ribbon Cutting

    You’re Invited: Tully Rinckey PLLC Binghamton Office Ribbon Cutting Tully Rinckey PLLC, an upstate-wide coast-to-coast 70 attorney full-service law firm, is holding a ribbon cutting for its new office space at 4100 Vestal Road, Suite 104, Vestal, NY 13850 on …

Read All