A civil action accusing Madison County's part-time county attorney of self-dealing has been dismissed because the attorney has paid back some of the money and there is little likelihood the situation will arise again, Albany Supreme Court Justice Michael Lynch (See Profile) has decided.
Mahler v. Campanie, 21502-11, involves a part-time county attorney, John Campanie, who became the target of a taxpayer action. The suit alleged that after an Indian land claim case involving Madison County was referred to Nixon Peabody, the firm in turn cross-referred some of the work to Campanie's private law practice. Campanie revealed the paymentsroughly $800,000 over a dozen yearson his annual ethics disclosure form and the payments were approved by the state.
After the lawsuit was filed, Campanie refunded approximately $30,000, representing the prior year's paymentthe only portion at issue because of a one-year statute of limitations. Additionally, Campanie has affirmed that he will not seek future payments from Nixon Peabody, and the state has barred any future payments. Regardless, the plaintiffs sought an injunction and an admission of wrongdoing (NYLJ, Aug. 24).
But Lynch found the claim moot. "This is not a situation where a party, acting alone, has simply discontinued conduct challenged as illegal, leaving open the real prospect of simply resuming the same conduct once the case was dismissed," Lynch wrote. "Here, each participant in the underlying transaction has represented that no further payments…will be made."
Lynch said the refund of a year's payments and discontinuance of future payments renders the case moot. "This holds true even without an express acknowledgment of wrongdoing by the defendants," Lynch wrote.