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May 1, 2012 5:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Residents File Suit Over Ronjo Motel Decision

May 1, 2012 6:11 PM

A group of East Hampton Town residents outlined a number of points backing up their case in a lawsuit they filed against town officials after Town Clerk Fred Overton rejected their petition to force a referendum on a sale of a town alleyway to the owners of the Ronjo Motel last month.

The Article 78 was filed in New York State Supreme Court last week. The petitioners listed on the lawsuit are Mary I. Miller, Fred Nagel, East Hampton Town Democratic Committee Chairwoman Jeanne Frankl, Vice Chairwoman Betty Mazur, East Hampton Independence Party chairwoman Elaine Jones and former candidate for supervisor Zachary Cohen. The lawsuit is filed against the Town of East Hampton, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Town Board members Theresa Quigley, Sylvia Overby, Dominick Stanzione, Peter Van Scoyoc, Mr. Overton, and Ronjo owners Chris Jones and Larry Siedlick.

According to a copy of the lawsuit, the petitioners claim that Mr. Overton’s determination to reject the signature petition— a ruling issued last month after he claimed the 644 signatures failed to contain specific language required by form and statute from the New York State Board of Elections—should be annulled. It states Mr. Overton, “acted in excess of his jurisdiction” in making the determination, claiming he had no authority to do anything but receive the petition and any objections to the petition.

It also claims that the petition is indeed valid, and that Mr. Overton’s determination is “affected by an error of law,” and is “arbitrary and capricious, or is an abuse of the clerk’s discretion.”
It further states that a date for a permissive referendum “must go forward,” and that the town’s authorization of a $35,000 sale of the land, despite a Town Democratic Committee-commissioned appraisal that says it could be valued at $184,000, “amounts to an illegal gift of public property” to Mr. Jones and Mr. Siedlick.

The Town Board’s Republican majority—Mr. Wilkinson, Ms. Quigley and Mr. Stanzione—voted on March 6 to approve a resolution authorizing the sale of a 20-foot alleyway that bisects the Ronjo Motel property in Montauk. Democrats opposed the vote because there was no appraisal of the land. Because it’s a sale of town property, the resolution is subject to a permissive referendum. Town Democratic Committee members spearheaded a signature petition to force a referendum on the sale of the alleyway. At the same time, they supplied an appraisal of the land that claims it’s worth $184,000. The owners of the property supplied their own independent appraisal, claiming its worth $22,500. On April 17, the Town Board reversed course and unanimously approved appraising the land before it is sold.

Ms. Quigley said she could not comment on litigation and had not read the lawsuit, but pointed out that by her estimate, the amount of time and money that town staff spent on the Ronjo alleyway issue is enormous. She said many departments have gotten involved in the issue, including the Town Clerk’s office, the Town Attorney’s office, five Town Board members and various clerical staff.

“I think that if people were really desirous in ensuring their taxpayer dollars make sure their government is running efficiently, those people wouldn’t have taken the time for this lawsuit, that’s my opinion,” she said.

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Enough Already!!! Each and every one of those who joined in to file this lawsuit are costing residents and taxpayers MONEY!! I certainly will remember this when the next election comes around ...
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on May 2, 12 7:04 PM
1 member liked this comment
To Board Watcher (she who has no name). How will you "remember this" when the Plaintiffs prevail? Have you read the papers submitted? Have you done any of the research necessary to formulate an educated opinion on the merits of the legal issues? Do you care in the least what the statutory and case law mandates? Don't count your chickens before they hatch. You may be surprised by which "side" turns out in fact to be the one that is "costing residents and taxpayers money." David Buda
By davbud (127), east hampton on May 2, 12 8:35 PM
The group costing taxpayers money are those that initiated this ridiculous movement. The Ronjo has been built on the alley for 40 years. The town knew it for all that time and did nothing. The fire department never once needed to use this "access". And now someone is willing to pay $35,000 for what in essence is the classic definition of "surplus" town land that has had no public use for 40 years - none. So why force the town to spend $40,000 or $50,000 to deal with an issue that involves a piece ...more
By connwatcher (112), east hampton on May 2, 12 9:35 PM
One other point, if you want to discuss law and legal issues. from i read I believe Town Clerk Overton went easy on the petition gatherers. I say this because I say a petition in a local store sitting on the counter. I watched someone sign the petition - no one else was watching the signature. Now, I did not sign as the witness for that petition. Whoever did broke the law by swearing on the petition they witnessed the signatures. That is an offense that could easily be referred to the DA. ...more
By connwatcher (112), east hampton on May 2, 12 9:43 PM
That makes sense. I would guess that witnessing a petition means you witnessed the people signing it. What is the penalty for saying, or I guess in this case swearing, you witnessed the signatures when you did not? Who would make a complaint about that? Would that be something that could be sent to the State Attorney or County Attorney to be investigated? What stores had the petitions? I think you could go to those stores and find out who left the petitions there to be signed, if the people ...more
By factsandtruth (42), East Hampton on May 6, 12 7:13 PM
Well said---so lets recap, 1. A phoney appraisal for 184k courtesy of jean frankl -maybe it was meant to be another currency! 2. A petition prepared in a manner that at best is "thrown out" at worst is arguably illegal- courtesy of Chris kelly. 3. A lawsuit that has no merit at all (as will be seen and just costs taxpayers money) 4. Overby eavesdropping at town officials and board members doors for information. 4. Cohen doing his "Crazy Ivan" impression at the board meeting, 5. Cohen slandering ...more
By Andy P (19), Montauk on May 20, 12 8:38 AM