The Suffolk County District Attorney's office has cleared the Town of East Hampton on allegations of illegal conduct and misconduct related to the permitting-process for the Ronjo in Montauk.
Zachary Cohen, who ran for supervisor in 2011, accused town employees and member of the town board of improprieties in a letter that appeared in on May 2. Two days later, town attorney John Jilnicki, on the behest of Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, asked the DA's office to investigate the allegations.
On Tuesday, Christopher A. McPartland, the Division Chief of Investigations in DA Thomas Spota's office, issued a letter to the town calling the allegations "totally baseless."
In his letter, Cohen referred to a meeting between Kathryn Santiago, the town planning board attorney, Patrick Gunn, an assistant town attorney who oversees the building department, Tom Prieato, the building inspector and the two and their attorney Andy Hammer, "who just happens to be an ex-Town attorney and who ran for town justice on the same ticket with Supervisor Wilkinson." The building inspector issued a building permit, though Cohen claims it was illegal under the town code as site plan approval was necessary.
"The inescapable conclusion is that Town attorneys, along with the owners' attorney, encouraged an illegal action by the building inspector," Cohen wrote. "The building inspector may not have known it was illegal, but the attorneys must have known or else they are not competent to represent our Town."
"Specifically, there is no evidence at all to support the claim that the building permit issued was illegal," McPartland wrote, adding that there was also no evidence that the attorneys encouraged illegal action. "Finally, the suggestion that the owners received an unfair advantage from 'friends' on the Town Board is totally without merit."
Cohen had also referred to the sale of the town-owned alleyway to the owners of the Ronjo, which led to Democrats gathering 600 signatures on a . Following the , .
Numerous interviews with town officials were conducted and the letter was provided to McPartland, and "relevant town documents" were reviewed, the letter noted.
Wilkinson said he was thankful for the DA's investigation. "This is the second time that Zach Cohen has cried wolf, and, again at great expense to the taxpayers, we have a determination that there is no evidence of these accusations," he said. "It is unfair that these accusations are so scathing and so wide-reaching and are potentially rendering of harm to all those involved."
Cohen did not immediately return a call for comment, nor did Jilnicki.
Chris Jones, who owns the motel now named The Beach House Resort with Larry Siedlick, said he was appreciative that an independent review had been done. "Obviously Larry and I knew all along that Zachary Cohen's claims were baseless or meritless. It is nice to know that the truth always comes out in the end."
"We're saddened to know that someone would result to slanderous accussation for political gain," he said. Larry and I will be reviewing every oppurtunty avialable to us under the law."