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A top aide to Bronx City Councilmember Mark Gjonaj announced his resignation Tuesday, hours after THE CITY’s inquiry about his involvement in a drama roiling bucolic City Island.
Attorney Edmond “Teddy” Pryor, who works as a legal advisor to Gjonaj and represents the Hells Angels in his private practice, wrote he was stepping down from the Council post.
The lawyer earned $28,619 in public funds over the course of 2018 and 2019, according to records from the Empire Center. In his letter, Pryor said he did not want his personal life to distract from Gjonaj’s political work.
“I will not allow my work as an attorney in private practice or what I do as a private citizen to be used as a weapon against you and all of the positive work that you have been doing to make our community a better place to live in for all,” Pryor wrote to the Council member.
His resignation also came days after a new Hells Angels clubhouse in Throggs Neck was fired upon.
War in a Nautical Nabe
THE CITY had contacted Pryor twice Tuesday regarding a defamation lawsuit he filed in November against Teddy Montee, a real estate salesperson and outspoken Gjonaj critic, and two other City Island residents.
The two Teddys have traded accusations in court and administrative papers.
In one court filing, Pryor contends Montee impersonated a law enforcement officer and pepper-sprayed a person described as “mentally handicapped.”
Montee disputes how this incident was characterized and alleges his sexual orientation, as well as his public comments about Gjonaj and other issues, made him and his husband targets of retaliatory behavior.
“Nobody can come up with any other reason [for the perceived harassment] other than the fact that I’m married to a man and I live on the island,” Montee told THE CITY.
But the defamation suit filed by Pryor in late November claims Montee and one of his co-defendants — former Gjonaj Council challenger John Doyle — engaged in problematic conduct, including online and verbal attacks and threats against community members.
“Montee uses his sexual identity as a way of asserting complaints against anyone who disagrees with or opposes his views or agenda,” the Nov. 25 complaint from Pryor and co-plaintiff Tom Smith charged. They alleged Montee “baits people into making complaints about him.”
Pryor also has been the subject of recent scrutiny for his role in the Hells Angels motorcycle club’s purchase of two properties in Gjonaj’s district, the first in Throggs Neck and the second on City Island.
The saga began in 2018, when Montee, Doyle and Stephen Swieciki, the third defendant in the defamation suit, were all members of the City Island Civic Association. Montee told THE CITY group members were rankled by his social media posts critical of everything from Gjonaj to placard abuse to local businesses.
In a March 2019 complaint to the City Commission on Human Rights against the civic association and its president, William Stanton, Montee claims that Stanton publicly described him as an “invader” and “sociopath” who has “preyed upon” others.
Stanton couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
After a contentious April 2018 meeting, Doyle told THE CITY, he was ordered by board members to sever his relationship with Swieciki and Montee — or lose his officer role in the organization he’d been involved in for 10 years.
Doyle declined to denounce the duo, and the association’s board later demanded he resign for “unbecoming” conduct, according to Pryor’s lawsuit. Doyle eventually stepped down in December 2018 and he co-founded City Island Rising, another civic group, the following March.
‘Nobody Is a Saint’
In Montee’s version of events, which later became the basis of the complaint he filed with the City Commission on Human Rights, he was singled out because of his sexual orientation.
In response to the CCHR complaint, Pryor, acting as the civic group’s attorney, described Montee as a bully and detailed an alleged pattern of aggressive behavior that illustrated an “incredible quest to attack.”
“The Complainant has a history of making vile attacks against friends and neighbors in the community” — including “weaponizing” 311 to register baseless complaints, Pryor’s May 3 response contended.
Pryor’s response also catalogs a string of bizarre alleged incidents: Montee was banned from the American Legion after he “overtly wished that a young lady whose brother had recently died of a heroin overdose should also die in the same fashion,” Pryor wrote.
He also charged that Montee “shockingly misrepresented himself as some type of law enforcement officer to a local business owner and pepper-sprayed a mentally handicapped person.”
As for Montee’s claim he was essentially ousted from the civic association because he is gay, his standing in the group only changed because he had “simply stopped paying his $20 annual dues,” Pryor wrote.
Montee, in an interview with THE CITY, did not deny involvement in the events described in Pryor’s letter to CCHR officials, but he disputed how some of the incidents were described. He’s consistently alleged that Pryor has targeted him because of his criticism of Gjonaj and his support of Doyle, who lost his bid for the City Council seat in 2017.
An investigation of Montee’s complaint is ongoing, CCHR officials told THE CITY.
“Nobody is a saint or an angel in this story,” Doyle told THE CITY. “But let me say this, the things they accuse Mr. Montee of — being a jerk on Facebook, calling 311 — a lot of people have done that. What is different about him, as compared to all these other people who are doing very similar things?”
Montee also noted Pryor’s involvement in another lawsuit filed last year against him and his husband. Pryor represented a neighbor who claims that the couple built a fence and steps that make it difficult to access his driveway and garage.
The complaint, Montee noted, was filed nearly five years after the fence and step work started — and after he had begun speaking out against Gjonaj.
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