Niagara Gazette

Local News

May 19, 2008

POWER COALITION: Zito banks on trial

Former Niagara Power Coalition Executive Director Mark Zito said he remains confident in the outcome of his multi-million dollar lawsuit against the group, despite last week’s State Supreme Court ruling that eliminated all but one of his case actions.

While Zito declined further comment, attorney Steven Cohen said he believes his client could get a jury trial within the next year and will eventually be awarded at least $20 million for his role in brokering what he categorized as “the largest power deal in the history of the world.”

“Now that this case is going to a jury and the defense has never given us a settlement figure of even $1, we’re gearing up for trial,” said Cohen of the Buffalo-based firm Lorenzo & Cohen. “The $300,000 that this case could’ve bee settled for, that figure is off the table.”

Attorneys representing the coalition and its members are studying their options in defending the remaining claim, however they said State Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch’s ruling last week was a big victory and that Cohen’s certainty of a jury trial is premature.

“We’re pleased the judge dismissed almost the entire case,” said Stan Widger Jr., a partner with Nixon Peabody, which was hired to defend the coalition as a whole. “All the justice decided is that (Zito) barely pled enough to have his remaining motion survive. The plaintiffs managed to dodge that bullet.”

Zito sued the coalition for $37.5 million in August claiming he was not properly reimbursed for his work in negotiating a settlement with the New York Power Authority in support of the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project. As a result of the settlements, the power coalition will receive $9 million annually for the next 50 years to use for projects along the Niagara River Greenway, cash for capital projects and cheap hydropower from the power authority.

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