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Liverpool BOE ousts controversial attorney

You won't see Dennis O'Hara at Liverpool school board meetings anymore.

The board voted 6-2 at their meeting Monday night to terminate a retainer agreement with O'Hara's firm, O'Hara, O'Connell and Ciotoli, and transfer all active files to the law firm of Bond, Schoeneck and King, with whom the district entered into a retainer agreement in September.

"From my personal perspective, I think this is the right move," said Acting Board President David Savlov, who first introduced the resolution at the board's Sept. 30 meeting. "I feel very confident that Bond, Schoeneck and King can take care of our files and act in the district's best interest."

Board member Pat Mouton, a former teacher at the high school, agreed.

"As a person who's been in this district for 30 years, I think we need a lawyer who is not part of the story," Mouton said. "I'm especially concerned about the 3020a hearings [hearings to terminate suspended administrators George Mangicaro and Bonnie Ladd based on disciplinary charges]. We've had no updates, and we don't know where we stand or what the timeline is."

Donna Marsh O'Connor said she wasn't sure the move went far enough.

"For 37 years, we worked with this firm without a retainer agreement," O'Connor said. "I want to make sure that, when we say we're terminating the retainer agreement, we're terminating the relationship entirely."

The most vocal proponent of the resolution was Joe Unangst, who had himself been targeted by O'Hara's firm.

"After sending out an e-mail to friends, family, supporters and other board members expressing my opinion, I received a letter from Mr. O'Hara threatening litigation against me if I again expressed my opinion," Unangst said. "I had to retain my own legal counsel."

Unangst also noted that O'Hara's firm had sent similar letters to community members, had continued to work on new cases without authorization and had sent letters to certain board members criticizing other board members, among other infractions.

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