Justice Robert J. Muller

 

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Plattsburgh Housing Authority (“PHA”) brought an action to rescind an employment contract with its executive director who, as then-current PHA general counsel, drafted the terms for her 15-year employment and, in doing so, violated rule 1.8 of the Rules of Professional Conduct (22 NYCRR 1200.0), which requires an attorney entering into a business transaction with a client to advise the client, in writing, of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent legal counsel and to then give the client a reasonable opportunity to seek such advice. The court noted that there was no dispute that the PHA was not advised, in writing, of the desirability of seeking the advice of independent legal counsel with respect to the agreement, and the court also found no credible evidence of any verbal advice. Throughout the contract negotiations PHA was under a reasonable belief that the defendant was acting as its attorney. The court, which concluded that the defendant had breached her fiduciary duties to the PHA, rescinded the employment contract, determined the defendant was a disloyal employee as of the date of the employment contract, and ordered a forfeiture of compensation.