More of 'The Story'

Friday, April 25, 2008

More of 'The Story'

From A New Cloud Darkens Village Hall:

The dreaded Eye-Con
"The names of Kelly & Hulme will ... figure prominently in this matter...."

In the ol' days, if someone received an adverse decision on an application before a municipal board... Village Board, Planning Board or ZBA... and they felt strongly enough about it, they "took it to Griffing Avenue," filing an Article 78 action in New York State Supreme Court in Riverhead.

If the applicant still disagreed with what was rendered there, it was sometimes taken to the next appellate level.

However, there's an alternative legal strategy of late, the 1983 Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights. In the practice of Civil law, it would be the "nuclear option..." except that it's a little more "personal," the equivilent of a dis­grunt­led applicant putting a pistol to the temple of a municipality and each named defendent.

It's just happened in the Village, and there's a number of residents who give of their time to serve the community on the various municipal boards, in this instance the Planning Board, none of whose members ever anticipated sign­ing on for personal exposure to a $25 million lawsuit... plus possible punitive damages.

The other named individuals, the attorneys, the planning consultants and the Building Inspector, are well-compensated, and are likely covered by their own insurance carriers.

(The Village Board, with dental benefits and full health insurance, is altogether another matter.... But the big rub is that no award of punitive damages is ever covered by an insurance coompany.)

The Muchnicks' Westhampton Beach Associ­ates LLC has been represented by the local law firm of Kelly & Hulme in the application before the Planning and Village Boards, and by An­drew J. Campanelli of Mineola-based Campan­elli & Associates, PC, in their 1983 Action.

Being under a $25 million gun tends to get one's attention, and after something like this, the municipality may find that the pool of residents willing to serve on a board, just shrunk considerably.

Not-so-coincidentally, The Southampton Press Western Edition this week, in a Page 1 story by Jessica DiNapoli, covers a remarkably similar $25 million, plus punative damages, 1983 Action filed last Fall by developer Rocco Lettieri against Mayor George Motz and several Quogue boards.

If The Press' story is accurate, and Mr. Lettieri and the Village of Quogue "are taking steps to settle" the action, then the "nuclear option" seems to be having the desired effect: the developer looks like he may obtain approvals for most of what he wanted, which approvals were previously denied.

Mr. Lettieri's Homefront Organization, Inc. has been represented by the local law firm of Kelly & Hulme in the application before Quogue, and by Andrew J. Campanelli of Campanelli & As­soc­iates, PC, in its 1983 Action.

And, wonder of wonders, there was a third such action on the East End, Richard Alfaro v. Barbara Labador, et al (CV-061470), in which a displeased applicant, with an interest in the former H. Sacks Produce site at 674 Montauk Highway in East Quogue, took Southampton Town Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Department of Land Management and Zoning, not to Griffing Avenue, but to United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip.

Right! $25 million plus punative damages, and... wait for it... Mr. Alfaro was represented by the local law firm of Kelly & Hulme in the applications before Southampton Town, and, in their 1983 Action, by Andrew J. Campanelli of Campan­elli & Associates, PC.

"What's the big deal here?" some may ask.

  1. Villages and Townships have codes. Wanna do something not permitted in the Code Book, make your case before the ZBA or at a Special Excep­tion hearing, and if the applicant feels the code was not properly adhered to, file an Article 78.
  2. I've never believed in coincidences... in each instance, the same law firm bringing the 1983 Action, and the underlying law firm in all of these actions being Kelly & Hulme.

    Robert A. Kelly, Jr., known to most as "Gus," serves as Westhampton Beach Village Justice. And while only his partner Jim Hulme appears before any Village Boards, did someone say "Con­flict of Interest?"
  3. Because 1983 Actions are brought at the Federal level, there are significant differences in the "table rules."

    The biggest one is that if the action is settled before trial... and how many $25 million lawsuits aren't settled out-of-court???... and the Village or Town winds up paying a token sum of, arguendo, $10 (a plain ol' saw­buck), plaintiff's attorneys are still entitled to their fees: $75,000, $125,000... what­ever "the traffic will bear."

It comes perilously close to being a lose/lose situation for the individuals involved.

Next: who in Village government knew about the Muchnick's 1983 Action, when did they know it, and when was the Village's insurance carrier notified.

Comments

1. Matlynn Carville said...

Does this mean the Villagers will be bailing out their public servants? WHERE are we supposed to get the money from? Library book late fees?

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