Orange County legislative whistleblowers face defamation lawsuit, sue county for legal representation

Democrats Michael Anagnostakis, Michael Paduch, Genesis Ramos and Laurie Tautel joined forces with Sen. James Skoufis last October to expose a six-figure, no-bid IT contract for Issac Sacolick.

Blaise Gomez

Feb 27, 2024, 11:13 PM

Updated 49 days ago

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News 12 is learning of another twist in Orange County’s ongoing no-bid IT contract scandal - this time, involving four legislative whistleblowers who might be sued for defamation.
Democrats Michael Anagnostakis, Michael Paduch, Genesis Ramos and Laurie Tautel joined forces with Sen. James Skoufis last October to expose a six-figure, no-bid IT contract for Issac Sacolick.
The StarCIO founder and brother-in-law of HR Commissioner Langdon Champan filed a notice of claim in Westchester County Court last month alerting of plans to sue the legislators over alleged false remarks they made about his home being in foreclosure and his business not having insurance.
The lawmakers want the county to provide legal representation, but Legislative Chairwoman Katie Bonelli has denied their request, saying the remarks were political and not part of their job.
“That shouldn’t be happening. It’s the wrong public policy. The issue is to claim the legislators are not acting in their official capacity. It’s not just somebody off the street. This is their function,” says high-profile attorney Michael Sussman. “If they’re going to discharge their function and be subjected to lawsuits, which is legitimate in our system, they have to be defendable.”
They disagree and hired Sussman to sue the county, claiming they’re being illegally denied representation.
“They have defense indemnification. They have that level of protection. That’s what the local law from 25 years ago says, and it has to be abided by,” Sussman says.
The lawsuit follows the release of a special county legislative committee report last week that found no illegality tied to the no-bid contract, but that it was awarded improperly.
The FBI continues a probe of its own after the county was subpoenaed for information several weeks ago. Sources say at least one official has been interviewed.
Orange County Attorney Rick Golden says the legislative chairwoman found the alleged remarks are “narrowly focused statements” that are not part of any legal or ethical concerns the group raised.
Bonelli did not return News 12's request for comment.
News 12 reached out to Sacolick and his attorney but hasn’t heard back.
Skoufis is not named in Sacolick's notice of claim, despite an attorney for the business owner previously claiming the senator's conduct was referred to the state for review.
“Despite whatever land of make believe Sacolick and his attorneys are operating within, the Senate is not investigating any actions," says Skoufis.
County documents obtained by News 12 show StarCIO's contract began in January 2023 and was renewed multiple times totaling more than $800,000. The county has since hired a full-time IT commissioner.


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