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Dems Sue Town Clerk Over Ronjo Petition

Plaintiffs say clerk violated prodecural law.

Six East Hampton Democrats filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Town of East Hampton and its Clerk Fred Overton over the petition to try and force a public vote on the sale of the alleyway at the former Ronjo property in Montauk, which .

The suit claims the town clerk violated lawful procedure by invalidating the petition. Overton claims certain legal requirements were not followed which voided the petition.

East Hampton Democratic chairwoman Jeanne Frankl, Democratic vice chairwoman Betty Mazur, East Hampton Independence Committee chairwoman Elaine Jones, and Zachary Cohen, who ran on the Democratic ticket and , are listed as individual plaintiffs on the suit. They signed and witnessed other signatures, according to Frankl. Mary I. Miller of Amagansett and Fred Nagel of Springs, who also signed the petition, also are listed as plaintiffs.

They are represented by Sam Kramer of Wainscott.

Frankl said they are representative of the larger group; 644 signed the petition after the majority town board approved the sale of the alleyway for $35,000. The Democrats then commissioned an appraisal, which showed the alleyway was worth $189,000. Meanwhile, the motel owners had an appraisal done that show the alleyway valued at $22,000.

"No hard feelings about Fred Overton, whom we all love," Frankl said, "But, he was poorly advised. The law is really clear that he didn't have the power to do this."

Overton said he has not received an official copy yet, though a "courtesy copy" was dropped off at his office.

She said section 91 of Town Law "specifically says that the only way these petitions can be challenged is for someone, which could include the town, could file an objection with the clerk and the court within five days of the submission of the petition."

The Democrats filed the petition on April 4. Overton rejected the petition on April 19. Frankl said the town was out of time.

"The law was not followed," she said, adding that the case law he sites within his rejection actually explain why he's wrong. "He didn't have the power to do this."

Frankl said it is the constitutional right of town residents to file the petition.

"It is our position that 644 people signed this, with the possible exception of some who may not have been on the board of election rolls, they are all people who live here and are entitled to sign." She said they all objected to "the haste and lack of an appraisal and the sense that the supervisor gives special attention to his friends."

While the town initially did not conduct an appraisal before approving the $35,000 sale, the town board is now moving forward with one.

"The ultimate purpose of this was to get this redone in the proper way," Frankl said. "In principal, [the town board] have acknowledged an appraisal is needed by commissioning a new appraisal, but we think the way they did it is an oxymoron."

The appraiser's name was not in the resolution and they have yet to rescind the earlier resolution of sale.

Supervisor Bill Wilkinson declined to comment.

amagansett voter April 27, 2012 at 02:25 PM
When will all the bickering stop...its silly to waste time and money over everything that happens in this town. Time to hire a professional manager to tell all these politicos on both sides to stay aside and let the peoples business be done.
J April 27, 2012 at 03:20 PM
So the Democrats are now costing the town even more money by forcing it to defend a frivolous lawsuit? When will the Democratic party officials stop robbing taxpayers of their hard-earned money? Is there no end to the ways they can sap the town of money? So the town is potentially going from getting $35,000 for a strip of property that the hotel had already built on decades ago to potentially losing money now that there is a lawsuit that will surely cost the town money and the appraisal could come in lower than that price? Shameful ... someone please tell the Democrats to stop wasting our money!!!
Preliator April 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
How much money will this cost the town and the taxpayers? If the democrats lose will they cover the costs the town incurs due to their frivolity? Democrats: always finding ways to waste taxpayer money.
Yearounder April 27, 2012 at 04:13 PM
If the petition is about lost revenue to the Town for them taking a lower price on the land, then why sue and incur more costs to the Town?The Dems just proved that this is all about politics. I can understand the other hacks. But shame on Cohen. This is no way to get yourself elected.
David Buda April 27, 2012 at 04:18 PM
The unidentified party partisan operatives would be well advised to read the legal papers and study the facts before they shoot their mouths off spouting nonsense and reciting misstatements of fact and law.
Yearounder April 27, 2012 at 04:25 PM
No "party operative" here, Bub. Just a LIFE LONG local independent who can't stand the political BS from either side.
J April 27, 2012 at 04:32 PM
I'm not a party operative either. I've never voted straight across one line of a ballot in my life. Wilkinson should've never said he plucked the price out of thin air, but man are the Democrats really foolish enough to think he actually did? I assumed it was a joke right away, but I guess some people don't understand humor. If the town attorney and others in the government looked at comparable sales the town has made and viewed $35,000 as a fair price, then it should be approved. The town employees and our elected officials have access to more information than us and have experience with these sales. It seems like the Democrat party bosses saw who was buying the land and figured it would be best to turn it into a political issue - and that is the worst kind of joke. I read that nearly no Montauk residents signed the Dems /invalid petition. Talk about the ultimate sore losers ... the problem is we all end up paying more money for their whining.
Pat Mansir April 27, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Enough already! See if the Montauk Fire Dept wants to trade the alley in the Ronjo for a piece of property in the same district where access for emergancy services is lacking. Price if sale and price to pay may not be equal. But there is an assesment coming, but has there been a public hearing? MFD needs those (usable) alleys for fire and emergency access. Too much politics going on and we are losing sight of what is needed to properly govern for the town as a whole.
J April 27, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Isn't the strip of alleyway already built upon by the Ronjo? That's the way I've interpreted all that I've read on the topic. If it is indeed already built on, including the hotel's pool and has been for years, clearly the MFD has no access from that end to the alley anyway. I'm not saying the town should go sell the rest of the accessible alleys in Montauk just that if the Ronjo already has a pool and a deck over the alley then the MFD doesn't have access to it now and that point is moot. I am happy an appraisal is getting done ... I just hope it doesn't come back in below $35,000 because that'll suck for the taxpayers, especially if they have to fend off a frivolous lawsuit at the same time!!! (I assume Fred won't be running as a democrat if he seeks re-election for clerk next year.)
mtkmiss April 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM
Lets ask the MFD how many times in the last 10 years they have used the "alley", heck, why not go back 20 or even 30 years? I am sure, as the rest of Montauk's residents are sure, that the answer will be a big fat ZERO! You might even get a "there's an alley there?" answer. Give us all a break. Here's a novel idea. How about thinking of the people & towns best interests, instead of political grandstanding & one-upmanship. I am so sick & tired of it all.
Springs Advocate April 28, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Why is it that any time a point of view is put forward the labeling begins? People can't be labeled as concerned, hard working, or just plain fed up citizens, They must be "party operatives" . It's not enough that this town is so polarized. Does everything have to be a time and money consuming political gesture?
David Buda April 28, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Very simple. Stop using "assumed names." Use your real names, and then all will know whether you have any particular axe to grind, and your views will be then be taken at face value.
MensaLady April 28, 2012 at 01:37 PM
A law suit? Really. How novel.... Democrats filing frivolous law suits! The airport isn't enough for those special interest dems. Now they have found another way to take money out of our pockets. Go away please and leave us alone. We taxpayers are sick and tired of the constant bickering and petty name calling. I think that front row of Town Board hecklers should go find something productive to do with their lives, like volunteer at the hospital, or some other needy charity. Stop gumming up the work of government just because you are not in power. You gummed it all when you were in power - BIG TIME. Please STOP THE MADNESS!
Springs Advocate April 29, 2012 at 12:40 AM
What's in a name? All that matters is that people be able to exert any opinnion they care to without being unfairly labeled. If you remember many of our founding fathers refused to use their real names for good reason. As to your point I don't have any particular axe to grind except to see every point of view taken at face value since another citizen took the time to have a thought and express it.
Rick Hoyt April 29, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Going Forward in - Please Get An Assessment First, Secondly To Sue Your "Own" Town Over This, Really ? If They Lose - They Should Should Pay All Legal Costs - Out Of "Their" Own Pockets.I'm With David - Use Your "Real-Full" Names.

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