February Village Board Meeting

Thursday, February 05, 2009

February Village Board Meeting

...or, Dirty Deeds, III(b).

Nothing much on the agenda this evening other than an audio-visual presentation on how our tax assessments work... kinda... by John Valenti from the Southampton Town Assessor's office.

What was of interest was the information elic­ited from Village Attorney Hermon Bishop on the recent, thought-to-be-concluded legal matters pertaining to the reclamation of Vill­age property on Hazelwood Avenue, and why the taxpayers of Westhampton Beach are on the hook for over $80,000 through no fault of the municipality.

("Thought-to-be-concluded" because, according to Mr. Bishop, the documents, signed by all parties, have not been returned by the Court.)

Essentially what Mr. Bishop said on the record was that State Supreme Court Justice Melvyn Tanenbaum had set the $10,000 figure, and that all parties1 had stipulated to it.

But Mr. Bishop agreed that it would have been "nice" had the Village been able to fully recoup the $90,528.80 costs of the legal action neces­sitated by "the filing of a series of false deeds."

Those deeds had been filed, purportedly circa 1997-98 by Attorney James N. Hulme, Kelly & Hulme, P.C., at the direction the owners of the cement plant.

In essence it claimed for the Kelly & Hulme clients, the Carnevales, title to certain land which had always belonged to the Village.

When this matter eventually went to New York State Supreme Court in late 2007, after seven days at trial, Judge Tanenbaum directed Mr. Hulme to remove himself as the Carnevale attorney, and referred certain aspects of the case to the Bar Association and the D.A. for possible action.

There it has sat until now.

Getting the full story on this has proved oddly difficult since it's all supposed to be a matter of public record.

Contacted for comment about aspects of his testimony, Lance R. Pomerantz, an attorney specializing in title issues who received $5,011.85 for his appearance on behalf of the municipality, declined to be interviewed pend­ing permission of Village Attorney Bishop who had retained his services.

(Following the Village Board meeting, Mr. Bishop initially stated that he had no ob­jection to Mr. Pomerantz speaking about the matter, then reconsidered and said "I really don't want all this 'out there.'")

Another witness in the proceedings before Jus­tice Tanenbaum was Floyd Carrington, succes­sor to Raynor & Marcks Land Surveyors, who appeared under a witness subpoena2.

Interviewed for this report, Mr. Carrington re­called that he testified:

"There was nothing in the file to reflect who directed Steve Marcks to draw the maps the way he did."

This would appear to cloud the issue of who actually is responsible for the "dirty deeds," but apparently not in the mind of the Judge who subsequently shut down the hearing and issued his unusual ruling.

So the proceedings are concluded and as soon as the court approves the signed documents, it's all over. The Village gets its roadway back with clear title, and the Carnevales and lessee David Schiavoni of East End Cement and Stone Inc. can start fighting about their rental agree­ment and who owes how much to whom.

Here's the rub....

The court's $10,000 sanction not only doesn't begin to make the Village whole for its legal expenses and disbursements in this matter, the Carnevales probably collected more than that from Mr. Schiavoni in rental of the illegally annexed municipal property.

Again, who should we see about the more than $80,000 this matter cost us?

I am again reminded of the Fourth Book of Gulliver's Travels in which a neighbor, coveting another neighbor's property, simply hires a lawyer to assert his title to it.

  1. Including the Village.
  2. Instead of pulling down the big "Expert Witness" bucks, one gets a modest... pitiful, actually... recompense for gas mileage.


1. Paramarine said...

My gut tells me that maybe there's something more to the story; I can't understand why the Village and its attorney would ever agree to this.

Not only should the Village be able to recover the attorney's fees and expenses, but there is a property against which the Village could file a lien to do so. Can you think of a more just remedy?

It's a bit murky to me, but my understanding is that the Village didn't negotiate the resolution/settlement so much as the Judge presented this to the parties involved.

2. Hampton West said...

Isn't this called "Fraud" in some parts of the United States other than the Village?

It may yet be... both the Suffolk County District Attorney and the Bar Association have, at the direction of Judge Tanenbaum, been forwarded the files on the matter.

But as we have seen in at least two other recent local instances, the DA has coughed discreetly and looked the other direction on what would seem to be equally clear cut examples of wrong-doing.

Plus, the DA seems to have his hands full with another local matter right now.
– Dean

3. Hunt Marckwald said...

In Costa Rica, people, such as these appear to be, are referred to as "squatters." It always costs a small fortune to get rid of them and they always end up on the winning side financially. Of course there are always attorneys involved to "protect" the poor squatters interests... Lo mismo aqui.

Other than the "small fortune" part, it's really not the same thing at all. "Squatters" are one thing, land-grabbers are another.

As for the financial "winning side," the Village paid its Special Counsel, Mr. Bishop in this case, $160/hour as I recollect, and he put something like 480 hours into successfully defending the Village's title to the land. And now the Village's part should be concluded.

On the other sides, lessor and lessee, their attorneys likely bill in multiples of $160/hour, and just on the seven days at trial... never mind the prep work... it had to have run into a great deal more money for the Carnevales and Mr. Schiavoni... and their issues are still an open matter!

"Bo" Bishop and I are never likely to take in a ballgame together and go for a beer afterward, but he seems to have done a credible job for the municipality on this matter.

But there's more here to be reported.

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