Thursday, June 08, 2006

Monkey Business

The Villages and Towns in the Hamptons have been up to some interesting tricks. The Town of Southampton, in its inimitable style has begun permitting demonstrations. Of course, they are not the kind of demonstrations many of us may remember (or have read about) from the 1960"s. In those days, the issues were the rights of minorities, mostly black, in a society, mostly white, that prevented upward mobility and equality. If a black man had gotten together with a few friends in Hampton Bays and began waving signs seeking equal rights in the sixties, or for that matter, any time up to last year, he would have risked a beating. In the sixties, he might easily have been killed.

A black family wanting to live in "Skip" Heaney's (Republican Southampton Town Supervisor) Hampton Bays home turf was burned out in those days. Those were the days when an acre of land would cost you $20,000.

Which brings us to the recent immigration "reform" issue. Like several other Long Island towns and villages that are concerned about the civil rights (or lack thereof) of illegal immigrants who do the dirty work in the Hamptons - the Supervisor of Southampton made an election campaign promise with running Chris Nuzzi and Linda Kabot - to treat fire with fire. Instead of simply allowing these ogres to camp in the woods after bicycling to and from work every day, the campaign plank made it known that this should become a search and destroy mission. Search the schools for children who should not be there, harass landlords who provide housing for them, persecute employers who pay them anything for the privilege of cleaning toilets and planting shrubs all day long, and destroy lives of poor immigrants. After all, this is America. We let them in; now that it's inconvenient for some and a good political game for others, let's throw out 11 million people.

It should also not be lost on any of us that 90 percent of the costs are also picked up by those pesky non-resident tax-paying homeowners who do not have the privilege of voting in the Hamptons.

So, now, who are these people that have been bucking the trends (and flaunting their beer bellies) and demonstrating out in the open in front of the local police as well as citizen onlookers?

Have these illegals workers been outspoken people, standing up for their rights in America - the land of the free - using Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech?

Well, not exactly.

It's usually three or four local "boys," standing in front of the Southampton 7-11 with placards. They're overweight, sometimes drinking, smoking and partying - to "protest" the effect that the illegal immigrants have had on their downtrodden lives. Apparently, their rights have been trampled and they are there to raise everyone's consciousness about how they are suffering. Unfortunately, it looks more like William Masterson (who hands out the Asphalt contracts for the Town) was instructed by a still Republican-controlled government, to get out the contractors for a political agenda statement. Deprivation was neither obvious nor believable in these "demonstrators."

Somehow, neither the politicians nor the local police seem to find this offensive. Isn't that surprising?

Neither the Shinnecock Indians, Black activists, Latino housing supporters nor any other minority group has ever successfully been able to launch effective demonstrations in the Hamptons. Why? Because it wasn't permitted. The Town, the Police, or the venerable Southampton Press would make it a non-event. Either it could not happen, or if it did happen, it wasn't reported.

But, get a few contractors together, beer bellies intact and carrying placards in front of 7-11 where the "illegals" stand around looking for work. And, voila, you've got Town approval, no Police presence, and front-page photographs in the Southampton Press.

Now, that's what we call Democracy?

This is the follow-up to the combined State and local Swat teams that recently "raided" the housing in which these poor illegal immigrants live. Perhaps they were singing God Save America when they were rousting the lairs of these criminals.

Speaking of which, the Village of Sag Harbor is busy cooking up some new laws. Now the Village is looking to require permits for publications. Under the guise of protecting its citizens from those nasty free periodicals, a new ordinance is being touted as the smartest thing since dental floss. Any distributor who fails to submit the name, address and license plate number of the person or persons handing out publications - and submits a copy of the publication to the Village for a review of its appropriateness for approval, is subject to a CONTINUOUS $250 per day fine and a misdemeanor 30 day jail term for failure to cooperate.

Don't you wonder if the Village ever heard of the 1st amendment to the Constitution - or, if that doesn't matter - how about the role the pamphleteers played in Revolutionary France just before Louis XV1 got his sore throat?

We've heard that this is a bad move, a bad solution to a fictitious problem, and will have a bad outcome. Makes you wonder if all the political campaign literature fall under the same category.

Stay tuned on this one.

And, just when you thought we were finished with Sag Harbor, there comes this other issue.

For those of you who are in the dark about these matters, the Village of Sag Harbor is located partly within the Town of East Hampton and partly within the Town of East Hampton -- and it plans to start its own Justice Court this summer. Late last December, the Village entered into a $50,000 contract with Fundamental Business Services to provide "services and products" for the Justice Court. The Village has paid FBS $25,000 so far this year, and it plans to pay the balance sometime this July, when the Justice Court is expected to officially begin. Although the Village never actually passed a resolution or a local law which created the Justice Court, the Village Mayor and Board of Trustees say that they are confident about a "resolution, subject to permissive referendum" to create the office of elected Village Justice which also creates the Justice Court once the Village Justice is elected in the June 20th election and then sworn in.

Sometime after the position of elected Village Justice was created on December 15, 2005, however, the Village Mayor and some members of the Board of Trustees began to have second thoughts about the qualifications for that elected position. Under the State's Public Officers Law and the State's Village Law, one of those qualifications is that the elected Village Justice must be a resident of the Village in which he or she adjudicates. However, there is a special provision in the State's "Village Law" that says that if any village has less than 3000 residents, that village "may provide" that the qualification of village residency can be abolished and replaced by a qualification of county residency. Apparently, that is what the Village government decided to "provide" at the February 2006 monthly meeting when it voted on a resolution that said that the elected justice must reside in "Suffolk County."

However, one of the village residents has objected to that streamlined manner of abolishing a village residency requirement by expanding the pool of lawyers --- and non-lawyers --- who may serve as the elected Village Justice of Sag Harbor. Local attorney Patricia Weiss, who lives, works and votes in Sag Harbor, has filed an Article 78 proceeding that is now pending before Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley, Jr. Ms. Weiss is saying that the Village ought to have held a public hearing, with advance notice to the public and to her, as part of the procedure for any amendment of the local law which established the office of elected Village Justice last December. Weiss's position is that there are many reasons why the village residency requirement should not have been abolished without such a public hearing for an amendment of a local law first being held. Ms. Weiss says that the Village government was required, under both a 1979 Attorney General Informal Opinion and the "legislative equivalency doctrine", to afford her a public forum in which to express those reasons before the Mayor and Board of Trustees hastily moved by a mere "resolution" to abolish the qualification of local residency for the elected Village Justice. Ms. Weiss has requested that the names of all persons who live outside the village be removed from the June 20th ballot for elected Village Justice.

One concern expressed by Ms. Weiss is that even if a village resident who is an attorney is elected to the four year term, that justice could later move to the far western part of Suffolk County and designate the Village Board's appointed (back-up) justice (perhaps even a non-lawyer) to handle practically all of the Justice Court's caseload, while still receiving the same monthly paycheck. Because local justice courts are required under the Uniform Justice Court Act to hold Small Claims Court once a month in the evening and because arraignments must be held within 24 hours of an arrest, Ms. Weiss believes that proximity to the Village is a serious consideration, given the fact that the morning traffic congestion over the Shinnecock Canal was one of the factors that the Village took into consideration in deciding to establish the Justice Court in the first place.

Ms. Weiss' concern is that the hand-picked "appointed" justice would then be hearing virtually all of the cases involving parking tickets, speeding tickets, and alleged violations of village ordinances which the Village government has passed, some of which provide for penalties and fines up to $1000 per day.

There are three candidates in the running, who are awaiting the decision by Justice Baisley along with Ms. Weiss. One non-lawyer candidate who lives outside the Village has been quoted in the local newspaper as saying that the Mayor personally contacted him and asked him to run for the office. That candidate is running on the party line of the two trustees who are seeking reelection and are unopposed. A second candidate lives outside the village limits and is an attorney with a private practice as a mediator of civil disputes. The third candidate is a local resident who is also an attorney with extensive experience in the areas of both criminal and civil law.

Finally, the Marty Tankleff saga continues - the story of what many claim is the false confession at the hands of the notorious Suffolk County Police Department and subsequent railroading and imprisonment of an innocent man - is coming to New York City. The Puffin Foundation, a non-profit SoHo gallery, is holding a fundraiser and meeting on June 21st where many of the notables involved in the movement to free Marty Tankleff will appear to speak. For further information log on to Many consider this travesty of justice to be one of the worst scandals in Suffolk County politics - and one which is about to erupt.

Be sure to keep informed by frequently checking the SoHo Journal blog.

Breaking News:


June 8th, Riverhead, Exclusive to the Sohojournal

Suffolk Supreme Court Justice Paul J. Baisley, Jr. determined on Thursday that Sag Harbor Village did not follow the State's Village Law when it took steps last December 2005 to create a Village Justice Court and make plans for an election of a Village Justice on June 20th. Justice Baisley found that the Village's February 2006 resolution to abolish the local residency requirement is a "nullity" because it sought to change the qualifications for an elected position that had never been properly established in accordance with the State's Village Law in the first place. With the decision coming so close to election day, June 20th, there is an insufficient amount of time for a "do over" before the annual Village 2006 election.