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Richards taps Bergin for corporation counsel

By: Denise M. Champagne//July 26, 2011

Richards taps Bergin for corporation counsel

By: Denise M. Champagne//July 26, 2011//

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Robert J. Bergin says a few words after being selected by Mayor Thomas S. Richards to be the city's corporation counsel. Vasiliy Baziuk

Robert J. Bergin of Fairport will join the city Monday as its corporation counsel.

Bergin was nominated for the position Tuesday by Mayor Thomas S. Richards, subject to approval by City Council.

Bergin has 37 years of experience representing public and private clients in the state courts and before state agencies and the state Legislature. That includes serving as assistant general counsel, director of public affairs for New York State Electric and Gas Corp. and Rochester Gas & Electric Corp., both subsidiaries of Iberdrola USA.

Bergin also worked as counsel to the state Senate minority and ran a private, general law practice locally for 26 years.

“I look forward to taking on this responsibility,” Bergin said at a press conference. “I consider this to be a real privilege.”

His salary will be $123,191.

Richards, who also worked at RG&E and served as the city’s corporation counsel, said Bergin will be in charge of government relations, providing leadership on the city’s relationships in Washington, D.C., and Albany, and helping the city find solutions to its problems.

“Bob has not only extensive legal experience, he is well-versed in government and legislative affairs, community relations and communications,” Richards said. “I was seeking a corporation counsel who was able to fill a broader role for the city and in Bob Bergin, we have found that person. We’re lucky to have him.”

Council President Lovely A. Warren said she has known Bergin for many years and believes he will be an asset to the city. Richards also lauded Municipal Attorney Jeffrey Eichner who had been filling the corporation counsel role.

“He is the quintessential public servant,” Richards said. “We can be very proud of him and proud of the public service he provides to this city. We should be so lucky as to have a whole bunch of Jeff Eichners around here.”

The city’s corporation counsel supervises its law department staff, which includes 12 municipal attorneys. The department provides legal advice to City Council, the mayor, city departments, boards and agencies, and prepares and interprets contracts and assists in labor negotiations and collective bargaining. Other responsibilities of the law department include drafting local laws and ordinances and reviewing proposed state legislation affecting the city.

The department also researches state and federal legislation, handles acquisition, management and disposal of properties and represents the city in civil, criminal and bankruptcy proceedings. In addition, it implements legal remedies to address quality of life and nuisance abatement issues.

Bergin has been the director of public affairs for NYSEG and RG&E since 2003. He was responsible for corporations’ government affairs, community relations, corporate communications, advertising and economic development. He represented both companies in Albany on key issues impacting regulated utilities in New York state. He also reorganized and integrated the public affairs functions of Iberdrola USA Inc. subsequent to its acquisition of Energy East Corp. As general counsel for RG&E from 2000 to 2003, Bergin was the company’s federal, state and local lobbyist and addressed issues and pending legislation impacting RG&E’s total enterprise capabilities from 1998 to 1999.

Working for the state Senate from 1978 to 1994, Bergin was the principal legal advisor and directed the operations of the Office of Counsel to the Senate Minority. He also served as deputy counsel and assistant legislative counsel.

Bergin, 63, earned his JD in 1973 from Albany Law School of Union University and has a bachelor’s in political science from St. John Fisher. He is on the boards of directors of the Veterans Outreach Center and St. Ann’s Community and is married with two adult children.

Richards said Bergin will be moving to the city, along with Deputy Mayor Leonard E. Redon, whom Richards appointed July 13.

“I’ve already increased the population by two,” Richards joked.

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