A yearlong investigation by The New York Times of the life and history of New York State’s town and village courts found a long trail of judicial abuses and errors — and of governmental failure to curb them.
Other Articles in this series:
RE: Vigilante Cops in the Incorporated Village of Patchogue
The Incorporated Village of Patchogue created an illegal constabulary or “fake” police department, corrupting many aspects of government and in order to undermine the minority population and drive the immigrants out. These village employees wore illegal uniforms, ticketed civilians and were armed with crowd control deadly force.
The corruption of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue’s constabulary coincides with the Incorporated Village of Patchogue’s redevelopment. The Village’s used federal and state monies to fund its redevelopment through the New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources Local Waterfront Redevelopment Program, which has federal regulations and guidelines that were violated.
One objective of the Village’s redevelopment included the pushing out of minorities and lower income people out of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue. The “shock and awe” fear of an unlawful illegally armed police force was particularly effective in pushing undesirables out the Incorporated Village of Patchogue’s boundaries. The Incorporated Village of Patchogue’s employees, posing as constables, threatened deadly force and coerced residents to give up their rights, which would have otherwise been protected under New York State and Suffolk County laws. Residents were faced with fines, arrests, unwarranted inspections, harassment, and threats of assault with illegal firearms.
Proof and admissions the Constables were volatile of Suffolk County law
On June 23, 2008, Brian Egan, the new Incorporated Village of Patchogue Attorney, finally publicly admitted that the practice of carrying firearms was illegal. Attorney Brian Egan declared that the arming of their personnel violated not one, but three laws, and possibly violated the oaths of office of those who were involved. The admission of Mr. Egan goes to the heart of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue’s ability to illegally maintain an unlawful and illegitimate policing force.
I an effort to obtain copies of guns permits, I contacted the Suffolk County Police Permits Division and used the New York Freedom of Information; they refused to allow me access to the Incorporated Village of Patchogue employee pistol permits. These pistol permits would have shown the permits used by these employees were unlawful.
The previous Village of Patchogue Chief Constables, Mr. Tameo and Mr. Kratch, who oversaw the Incorporated Village of Patchogue employees unlawfully deemed “Constables,” have admitted in sworn statements of having participated in the this illegal scheme. Mr. Tameo and Mr. Kratch directed Incorporated Village of Patchogue employees, not recognized as Constables, but nevertheless acting like Constables to stop and detain Suffolk County motorists as they drove through the Village [Contrary to law, no provisions to thwart racial profiling were in existence, see below ]. Mr. Tameo and Mr. Kratch testified that they thought their practices were sanctioned by the District Attorney’s Officer, because this agency prosecuted the tickets.
In 2006, Village of Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri conceded in a public forum in accepting the Wood v Incorporated Village of Patchogue, et al, Index No. 01-CV-0229 (the “Wood Case”), class action settlement because the actions of detaining motorists was wrong and that the Village would cease the practice.
In the Wood Case, the Incorporated Village of Patchogue had to pay back motorists for these unlawful tickets as part of the Class Action suit settlement with Suffolk County residents. However, at the time no one realized that the Village of Patchogue’s Constabulary was illegal, unauthorized and lacking federal regulations concerning racial profiling.
The Incorporated Village of Patchogue has failed to fully live up to its settlement. They failed to comply with making the best efforts to heal the motorist driving records. Most importantly, the suit never alleged or resolved the issue of racial profiling. Upon information and belief, the Village has stopped the practice of detaining motorists, but no one has had sufficient access to Village records to investigate the racial bias of the illegal police activity. I used the New York State Freedom of Information Law to obtain information, including the Incorporated Village of Patchogue’s rules concerning racial and national origin profiling instructions and they responded that the Village lacks any instructions.
Due to the recent death of Marcelo Lucero, a Latino immigrant, the Village of Patchogue’s officials attempted to distance themselves from the illegal constable scheme. I spoke at the Incorporated Village of Patchogue Board of Trustee public meeting on or about Monday, December 8, 2008, and when I asked whether the Village would continue to use the title of “Constable,” I was informed by Brian Egan, Village Attorney, Steve McGiff, Deputy Mayor, and Mayor Paul Pontieri, that during the present administration (2004 to present) the “Village never called its employees ‘Constables.’” “never used the term,” “don’t know what you are talking about.” This is a deception.
Furthermore, the Incorporated Village of Patchogue Public Safety code enforcement or Public Safety Departments, or its officers, are defective in that it fails to maintain the minimum standards required by the State of New York. There is no official reporting and therefore, no transparency. This allows the Incorporated Village of Patchogue to run an unlawful and unauthorized Constabulary, a “fake” police department, with the intent to discriminate against minorities.
Suffolk County’s Failure to Protect Village of Patchogue residents:
Suffolk County Officials Knew That The Incorporated Village of Patchogue Was Running An Unlawful Policing Department in The Form of Office of The Village Constables and Did Nothing About It
Sergeant Santa Maria of the Suffolk County Police Department was present at the 1994 enactment of Local Law #9, Chapter 7, of the Village of Patchogue Code, which falsely and deceptively passed a law that allowed the Incorporated Village of Patchogue policing power. The Suffolk County Police Department’s presence condones this illegal act.
Furthermore, the Suffolk County Police Department worked in conjunction with the Incorporated Village of Patchogue Constables, even though they had knowledge of their illegal power and were duty-bound to shut the organization down and arrest those village employees who were impersonating officers. Suffolk County allowed the Incorporated Village of Patchogue Constables to enter crime scenes and to piggy back upon their official privileged access. Furthermore, Suffolk Police Department shared information with Incorporated Village of Patchogue Constables. Upon investigation from the proper authorities, evidence may emerge that the corruption of the Incorporation Village of Patchogue departments started the corrupting of the Suffolk County Police Department and other policing agencies.
The Suffolk County Police Department may have rewarded its auxiliary police force members with opportunities to participate in the illegal Incorporated Village of Patchogue unauthorized and illegal policing force. The Suffolk County Civil Service Department not authorize the practice nor recognized the title “constable” or the practice of carrying guns and told the Village to cease the practice. Many of the Village’s Constables were ex Suffolk Police Department auxiliary police, which in the late 1990’s Suffolk County’s Sherriff’s office trained. This training was illegal and further added to the illusion that the Incorporated Village of Patchogue employees’ policing power was legitimate. Also there was a sharing of personnel between the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Incorporated Village of Patchogue, case in point, Mr. Al Costello, who posed as a Village constable. This professional collusion caused the Suffolk Police Department to turn a blind eye to a policing entity that Suffolk Police Department knew was illegal, dangerous and discriminatory.
When complaints were made to Suffolk District Attorney’s office about the Incorporated Village of Patchogue’s illegal policing force, Darryl Burger, investigating for the District Attorney’s Office said “we can’t tell if the constables are legal or illegal. Our staff lacks the resources to make this determination.” Mr. Burger may have made this statement to conceal wrongdoing on the part of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue policing force. Other members of the District Attorney’s Office then proceeded to make improper determinations in order to protect Suffolk County Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office and to obscure the facts and avoid investigating a criminal matter that both the Suffolk County Police and the District Attorney’s Office were involved in. The result is that Suffolk County residents have been harmed and injustice has prevailed.
The Incorporated Village of Patchogue had willfully violated the following Federal Laws:
Conspiracy Against Rights, 18 U.S.C. § 241. Section 241 of Title 18 is the civil rights conspiracy statute. Section 241 makes it unlawful for two or more persons to agree together to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him/her by the Constitution or the laws of the Unites States, (or because of his/her having exercised the same). Unlike most conspiracy statutes, Section 241 does not require that one of the conspirators commit an overt act prior to the conspiracy becoming a crime. The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.
Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing, 42 U.S.C. § 3631. Section 3631 of Title 42 makes it unlawful for an individual to use force or threaten to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, or attempt to injure, intimidate, or interfere with, any person’s housing rights because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. Among those housing rights enumerated in the statute are: 1) the sale, purchase, or renting of a dwelling, 2) the occupation of dwelling, 3) the financing of a dwelling, 4) contracting or negotiating for any of the rights enumerated above, and 5) applying for or participating in any service, organizations, or facility relating to the sale or rental of dwellings.
This statute also makes it unlawful to use force or threaten to use force to injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person who is assisting an individual or class of persons in the exercise of their housing rights. The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.
Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law, 18 U.S.C. § 242. This provision makes it a crime for a person acting under color of any law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
For the purpose of Section 242, acts under “color of law” include acts not only done by federal, state, or local officials within the their lawful authority, but also acts done beyond the bounds of that official’s lawful authority, if the acts are done while the official is purporting to or pretending to act in the performance of his/her official duties. Persons acting under color of law within the meaning of this statute include police officers, prisons guards and other law enforcement officials, as well as judges, care providers in public health facilities, and others who are acting as public officials. It is not necessary that the crime be motivated by animus toward the race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin of the victim.
The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.
Federally Protected Activities, 18 U.S.C. § 245. The portion of Section 245 of Title 18 which is primarily enforced by the Criminal Section makes it unlawful to willfully injure, intimidate or interfere with any person, or to attempt to do so, by force or threat of force, because of that other person’s race, color, religion or national origin and because of his/her activity as one of the following:
This statute also prohibits willful interference, by force or threat of force, with a person because he/she is or was participating in, or aiding or encouraging other persons to participate in any of the benefits or activities listed above without discrimination as to race, color, religion, or national origin. The offense is punishable by a range of imprisonment up to a life term, or the death penalty, depending upon the circumstances of the crime, and the resulting injury, if any.
Cesar Perales, President and General Counsel of Latino Justice, an advocacy group said an investigation was “…akin to the Justice Department going into Mississippi in the civil rights era to investigate murders by the Ku Klux Klan.”
I fear that the lack of federal oversight concerning the investigation into these Suffolk County Long Island illegal policing activities will lead to the further eruptions of violence in our community.
Very truly yours,
Henry R. Terry
THE LOCAL WATERFRONT REVITALIZATION PROGRAMS (LWRP) PLAN.
1. Under federal Office of Ocean and Coastal Resources Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under the coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended, the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program Policies and New York State Department of State Local Waterfront Revitalization/Redevelopment Programs and Policies grants/contracts, the Village was contracted by the New York State Department of State (“DOS”) to work with the Village residents and begin the process of redevelopment and revitalization along its Village coastal areas including the Patchogue River; programs also including the revitalization of “new and expanding water-dependent uses, such as marinas;” “to protect existing water-dependent commercial, industrial, and recreational uses and to promote their future sitting in accordance with the reasonably expected demand for such uses;” including “waterborne commerce” and “water-related public and quasi-public areas,” “water-enhanced uses are activities that do not require a location on the waterfront to function, but whose location on the waterfront could add to public enjoyment and use of the water’s edge, if properly designed and sited;” “water-dependent use as which includes so as to “subsidize the water-dependent use” and “enhance” them (herein and hereinafter referred to as “LWRP”).
2. Along these lines, I have sought, as was his legal right, to review compliance and other records under LWRP. I, on behalf of Village residents, and myself sought to obtain evidence that the Village met the LWRP requirements. At various times, I have been denied LWRP records and information through various Village excuses, tricks, distortions, improper, fraudulent, arbitrary, and capricious determinations
by the Village, Village Board of Trustees and officials including Village Clerk and custodian of Village records and J. Lee Snead, former Village Attorney and FOIL Appeal Records Officer. This blocking of access to records and information in and of itself violates LWRP policies and rules as they apply to the
LWRP grants/contracts, including grant/contract #C005850, and #C006343 that records be open to the public for audit and review. The Village unlawfully blocked access to records, particularly the LWRP “work products” and “DOS tasks” of the various LWRP grants/contracts, including LWRP Contract #C005850, and #C006343 thus defrauding residents and my legal rights to be informed, educated, reached, i.e. “public outreach” and “community consensus.”
3. Under the LWRP Grant #C005850 there was no “community consensus” and that “work product,” “Task 5: Project Scoping Meetings and meeting summaries” were doctored up to look as if the Village had reached “community” consensus. I believe that the LWRP plan has developed and incorporated new techniques to fraudulently manufacture “community consensus” (See public outreach comments below).
4. LWRP DOS and federal policies require “community consensus” and “public outreach” in the redevelopment and revitalization of its coastal areas. With respect to the LWRP, the Village is in breach of contract. For years the Village Board of Trustees has constructively denied me access to LWRP records though they have publicly promised the records. For many years and also on or about June 20, 2006, June 29, 2006, and throughout 2007, Village Clerk Patricia Seal and J. Lee Snead, Village Appeals Records Officer, have constructively denied access to LWRP records, which should be available
to public under the LWRP federal policies and LWRP DOS rules, the Code of Ethics and the Freedom of Information Law (See FOIL index attached). The Village has concealed records as to require LWRP tasks not performed and does not give access to records with respect to adequate “public outreach” and “community consensus.” In fact, Mr. Dean represented to the community that the Village was not going to pursue any further LWRP when C000585 was terminated. Trustee dean, as director of the LWRP said the Village was going to pursue the redevelopment privately. I believe this was done so that unlicensed and permitted environmental remediation could take place on the property of Village insiders. Once the Village realized that the LWRP was funded by Title 11 environmental monies, Village decision makers proceeded to quickly allow for environmental non–compliance on certain properties to decrease cost of development for Village “insiders.”
5. I was shocked to hear that the Village had clandestinely applied for another LWRP grant and even more surprised when it did not appear on the DOS website as do other grants contracts. I was further shocked to see that the Village broke the law and concealed the grant number from the public at its first purported LWRP public meeting. This is significant as the Village Clerk has the policy and practice of blocking the public from records if the person does not know the exact name of the records one is requesting, i.e. the grant or contract number. In fact, Patricia Seal, Village Clerk, will not provide the record because she arbitrarily and capriciously deems it “not reasonably described” (See FOIL index attached). When I further asked Trustee Lori Devlin about the status of the “new” unidentified LWRP, she
said, standing on a linguistic trick that there was “no LWRP.” At this public LWRP meeting, Ms. Devlin was concealing government business from the public by changing the definition of LWRP to mean that the existing LWRP contract/grant was not an LWRP because it was a contract to establish an LWRP. This novel and devious twist to the game that the Village Clerk and Village Attorney had been playing, further exasperates the Village residents’ participation in the New York State funded “outreach.”
6. For many years, Village employees through frauds, deceits, misrepresentations, breach of protocol, further enumerated below, have blocked my access to this LWRP evidence and records thus harming residents from benefiting from the LWRP, while favoring others in the Village as to the redevelopment/revitalization in the Village. The blocking of access to these records was to curtail his investigation in the Village’s policy to favor some over other residents and business owners under the LWRP and other codes.
7. The Village, Village Board of Trustees, Seal, Snead and Village LWRP representative are non-responsive to “work product” records and “work product” records that was not performed. The Village did not properly performed LWRP Scoping Meetings.
9. On or about September 26, 2007, the DOS was finally responsive to my request for a list of all LWRP “work product” records of DOS tasks performed and not performed. The following is a list of those deficiencies as reported by New York State Department of State:
Task 5—Project Scoping Meetings: All records re: Scoping Meetings and meeting summaries—any records that reflect “community consensus” or how the Village plans to accomplish this task. DOS produces: Agenda and Meeting Summaries.
All LWRP records showing how the Village notified or will notify Village residents regarding future or past LWRP: DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 6—Steering Committees: All LWRP records re: Application to become a member of the Village LWRP “Advisory Committee,” (a/k/a “Steering Committee”) and how one is chosen to be included or become a member of this committee or any other “public outreach:” DOS produced: Newspaper article.
Task 6—Steering Committees: All LWRP records re: Names of members “LWRP Advisory Committee”(a/k/a Steering Committee Members and LWRP Committee Members): DOS produced: LWRP Committee Members and conference call minutes.
Task 6—Steering Committees: All LWRP records re: “Public Please also note that the Village has been maintaining, for the past few months, in public forums, that it is not involved in another LWRP contract, in order to conceal their malfeasance concerning previous DOS LWRP Contract #005850.
Public Outreach—public meetings with written summaries—a summary of the public meetings
including attendees, the meeting’s purpose, issues or questions raised and appropriate responses to the issues and questions: DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 7—Public Outreach: All LWRP records re: Study Area Profile—summary description of study area and summary of exiting conditions in the Northeast Quadrant of the Patchogue River or the Patchogue River: DOS responded “no records” exist.
All LWRP records re: developmental pressures along Patchogue River. DOS responded “no records” exist.
All LWRP records re: “moratorium” and who has gotten permission to build during this moratorium: DOS responded that “no records” exist.
All LWRP records re: Village planning initiatives relevant to the coastal area and Patchogue River as well as all “previous planning studies;” DOS responded that “no records” exist.
All LWRP records re: Patchogue River Maritime Action Plan and the website: DOS produced: http://www.co.suffolk.ny.us/planning/PatchogueRiver.pdf
Task 5—Project Scoping Meeting: All LWRP records re: Project Scoping Meeting(s) and summaries, with inventory of problems completed; relevant previous planning records; and other information of the meeting summaries of agreements/understandings reached: DOS produced: Draft LWRP Scoping Meeting Minutes (2 pages).
Task 2—Review & Rank Proposals: All LWRP records re: “Contractors:” DOS produced Agreement between Contractor and Village of Patchogue (110 Pages).
All LWRP records re: “Harbor Management Plan.” DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 11—Techniques to Ensure Compatible Redevelopment: All LWRP records regarding any and all completed “Written Summary of Issues, Conflicts and Opportunities;” “Harbor Management Plan-Identification of Existing Authorities;” “Summary of the issues of local and regional importance that should be addressed in the Harbor Management Plan” and “Summary of opportunities to resolve issues or advance desired projects or uses in the harbor area;” including “necessary [cross out] proposed or potentially desirable zoning changes” “redevelopment of underused or deteriorated areas for projects that advance harbor management efforts” that currently exit: “This summary shall also include a brief description of any conflicts between existing land or water uses and existing zoning standards. Such conflicts might include: existing nonconforming water-dependent uses in areas appropriate for water-dependent uses, but zoned for non-water-dependent uses; and intertidal wetland areas, bays or other offshore or intertidal areas that are used or zoned for residential or other inappropriate uses in these areas. ”DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 11—Techniques to Ensure Compatible Redevelopment: All LWRP records re: Summary of existing authorities. DOS responded, “Records not reasonable described.”
Task 7—Public Outreach: All LWRP records re: LWRP component feasibility study. “The Harbor Management Plan may be completed as a separate document. DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 7—Public Outreach: The minutes of public LWRP meeting already conducted: DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 11—Techniques to Ensure Compatible Redevelopment: All LWRP records re: LWRP Title 11 environmental monies exist.
Task 6—Steering Committee: All LWRP records re: Steering Committee: DOS replied “no records” exist.
Task 6—Steering Committee: All records re: LWRP Steering Committee’s actions taken to ensure public participation during preparation of action plan; and action taken to assist public outreach and Application to join LWRP Steering Committee: DOS replied “no records” exist.
All LWRP records re: Draft Request For Proposal (RFP): DOS replied “no records exist.”
Task 2—Review and Rank Proposals: All LWRP records re: Consultation between DOS and Village to review and rank proposals received as a result of RFP: DOS produced: LWRP RFP Score Sheet (10 pages).
Task 9—Economic/Market Analyses: All LWRP records re: Community and immediate region Economic/Market Analysis with all appropriate sources—economic market analysis that provides sufficient justification to identify a range of realistic future land uses to occupy the area targeted for redevelopment: DOS records produced: Draft Redevelopment Action Plan for the Patchogue River Northeast Quadrant (33 Pages).
Task 10—Future Land Use Defined: All records re: LWRP Task 10: DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 11—Techniques to Ensure Compatible Redevelopment: All LWRP records re: Task 11 with appropriate design standards and guidelines, local laws, and graphic or drawings; DOS responded “no records” exist.
Task 12—Action Plan: All LWRP records re: Task 12: DOS produced: Draft Redevelopment Action Plan for the Patchogue River Northeast Quadrant Section 6 (33 pages).
Task 16—Measurable Results: All LWRP records re: Measurable Results. DOS responded “no records” exist.
10. The Village denied me access to LWRP records, which he was entitled to review under the LWRP contracts and LWRP Policies that would evidence “work product” not performed.
11. The Village unlawfully denied access to LWRP records and evidence in an effort to conceal that the Village had not properly performed LWRP “public outreach” and reached “community consensus” and to denied me access to the political process.
12. The Village denied LWRP records on false reasons in order to conceal LWRP noncompliance
and wrongdoings and to restrict my waterfront business opportunities in the Village under the LWRP.
13. During the Scheme period, and the years 1997 through July 2007, various the Village, employees and unidentified and concealed persons took over the LWRP process; and unlawfully misled, concealed information from the public, and improperly held LWRP Steering Committee Meetings, whose dates and time are not of public record. In violations of the LWRP grants/contracts and LWRP Policies moneys were paid to these Steering Committee Members of which there is no documentation.
14. In LWRP public notices and at LWRP public meetings, the Village’s policy and practice allowed their LWRP “agents” to defrauded those in attendance as to the purpose of the LWRP contract/grants and the meetings tasks by misrepresenting the meetings’ purpose as “public information.”
15. Furthermore, Village residents were not informed as to the New York State and federal LWRP Policies and DOS LWRP grants/contract tasks, including but not limited to Grant/Contract C#005850, which demanded that the Village gather public information, reach community consensus and have community participation in the LWRP process.
16. Furthermore, the Village and their LWRP “agents” did not allow these LWRP public-meeting minutes to reflect adverse comment and concerns by the public.
17. Furthermore, Village DOS LWRP records evidence the lack of adverse comments by the public in the various LWRP public meetings minutes, reflect improper recording of public LWRP public meeting minutes. My comments at these LWRP public meetings are not on the record. Furthermore, the Village blocked me access to LWRP records to conceal the improper transcription of these LWRP public meetings.
18. Furthermore, the LWRP Steering Committee and LWRP agents designed the meetings in such a way that public comments were only heard in LWRP Sub-committee; and LWRP Steering Committee Member and LWRP “agents” filtered, censored, summarized and reinterpreted those LWRP public meeting comments for the official DOS LWRP written records and for general public at large. In this manner, the Village, Village employees, LWRP “agents,” LWRP Steering Committee Members deceived the DOS, Village resident. In this way they sought to gain unfair advantage and conspired against residents.
19. Furthermore, the Village, employees, LWRP Steering Committee Members and LWRP “agents” use LWRP Grants/Contracts moneys, including #C0005850, for unknown Village agendas, which includes the authorizing of condominiums for “insiders” and contrary to LWRP study objectives, and moratorium for “outsiders.” The times and dates in which these events occurred have been concealed by the lack of compliance with the LWRP Policies and LWRP grants/contracts, including Grant #C005850, the Village Ethics Code and destruction of records.
Frauds and Deceits
A. Denial and Destruction of Evidence
20. Access to information and redevelopment rights are some of the most important rights of business expansion and growth. As a Village and New York State resident and I have right to know government determinations related to Village government. In an effort to document these harms and to safeguard my water dependent business along the Patchogue River, I have requested vital information from the Village that was mostly denied. In an effort to obtain these records pertinent to his business activities, I spoke at Village Board of Trustee Meetings and requesting records, information and answer of various governmental policies, practices and regulations.
21. The Village improperly transcribed Village Board of Trustee Meetings and at other times completely omitted my presentations, questions, answers, as well as the answers of the Village Mayor, Board of Trustees, Village Attorney and the public. The improperly transcribed meetings include the meeting of June 12, 2006 where they threaten to remove and arrest me, thereby violating his rights to petition the government and to exercise his Freedom of Speech.
22. After I complained to the DOS terminated the LWRP under the deception that the Village was no longer willing to pursue the process. Therefore both the DOS and the Village acknowledge that the Grant is incomplete and its results “finds” obtained by fraudulent means cannot be used in any new Governmental study or the present LWRP.
23. The LWRP is an effort to aggregate the different community interests into a shared collective and collaborative vision of the future. The Final LWRP product is intended to be used to gain further financial and political support for an “established” agreed on direction for the community. Taken in this light, the current LWRP plan fails. The community was not contacted or notified properly. The community was not educated properly, they were not included in the process and their interests were
not protected. It is a contractual fraud to claim that community outreach had been reach by placing of an ad in the local paper seeking Steering Committee members and conducting two short meetings. It is a further contractual fraud to conceal these Steering Committee meetings from the public. Most people in our community do not understand the LWRP or what it means to future development. I have been personally and financially hurt by this con.
24. Please be aware that if the New York State Department of State do not stop these practices, the future monies obtained from federal and state moneys pursuant to the LWRP will be fraudulently obtained.
The Village’s Unlawful Policing Practices “Fake Cops.”
25. Furthermore, to maintain their redevelopment objectives the Village is engaged in fraudulent policing practices to the detriment of motorist and Village residents.
Recent Village’s Admissions of Wrongdoings and the Giving Up of Firearms
26. During the LWRP process and the redevelopment of the Village’s waterfront, the Village has maintained an unlawful Office of the Village Constable. This Village agency is comprised of Code Enforcement who are unlawfully deemed to be New York State Constables when they are not. These purported officials work with the Village’s Building Department and Village Justice Court. The Village’s policy and practice is the moving force behind a scheme whereby the Village unlawfully and under the
color of law burdens unwanted businesses with the intent of pushing property ownership and redevelopment rights into the hands of a few “insiders.”
27. On June 23, 2008, Brian Egan, the new Village Attorney, admitted that the practice of carrying firearms was illegal. Attorney Egan declared that the arming of untrained and unscreened personnel violated not one, but three laws, and possibly violated the oaths of office of those who were involved. In a further admission of wrongdoing, on June 1, 2008, the Village ceased the practice Village Code Enforcement Officers, the so-called “Constables” from carrying firearms. The admission of Mr. Egan, goes to the heart of the Village’s ability to illegally maintain an unlawful and illegitimate
policing force. It has been the Village policy to maintain a policing force without
28. The previous Chief Constables, Mr. Tomeo and Mr. Kratch, who oversaw the constables, have admitted in sworn statements to having participated in the this scheme to direct Village Constables to stop and detain motorists as they drove through Patchogue. Mayor Pontieri conceded in a public forum in accepting the Wood v Inc. Village of Patchogue, et al, Index No. 01-CV-0229 (the “Wood Case”), class action settlement case that the actions of detaining motorists was wrong and that the Village would
cease the practice. The unlawful ticketing and firearms, is merely the tip of the iceberg with regards to the Village’s unlawful policies and practices. We refer to this illegal scheme, which included other unlawful acts in the name of Village code and “public safety,” as the “Private Police Force Scheme.” We use the word “private,” because the police force was unsanctioned by New York State and this illegal entity engaged in practices and objectives that were not governmental, but which served the private interests of certain Village employees, Village officials and Trustees and private citizens. Specifically, the scheme allowed Village “insiders” to open bars and use public moneys to gain extra legal police protection to foster their interest within the guise under the color of law.
29. Furthermore, the threat of the illegal police force allowed the Village to force residents to give up their rights, which would have been protected under New York State law and the LWRP, and be faced with fines, arrest, inspection, harassment, threat assault with firearms, etc. The necessary community trust for a Village Building and Planning Department work has been compromised. A redevelopment requires some semblance of trust for the quid pro quo process to work.
It has been found in the case of Mr. Joel Furman that the Planning Department now will “lifts” and entire redevelopment project, call it its own and parlay it to a political affiliate. When Mr. Furman presented an acceptable and potentially lucrative hotel plan complete with public funding sources, the Village adopted his plan as if it were their own and proceeded without him. The Building Department then impersonating New York State Peace Officers attacked Mr. Furman’s property by writing thousands of dollars of summonses and demanding hundreds of thousands or bogus improvements to force the sale of his property to someone they favored. This unlawful redevelopment policies and practices go beyond merely pushing people off their land for the benefit of “insiders,” it allows for the wholesale stealing of entrepreneurial ideas that the LWRP is suppose to foster and protect.
30. These practices allowed the Village to obtain and estimated $7.75 million dollars in faulty penalties from residents. When this issue was brought up at the September 23, 2008 LWRP Village Meeting, Trustee Hilton acknowledged the need to return this money to the residents.
31. The Suffolk County Department of Civil Service does not recognize the merging of these duties and only recognizes the duties of Code Enforcement Officer. It is further noted that the Suffolk county director of Civil Service, Alan Schneider asserts that the final decision makers who ratified the Village “fake police” Constable Department will have to reimburse the Taxpayer an estimated 800,000.00 for the costs of this improper police force. The DOS has a responsibility to remedy the Village abuse of NYS policing power and correct the harms done to the residents that came from using the Village police power to bilk residence and force unwanted business to be burdened with the higher regulatory burden
Civil Rights Violations
32. The Village intentionally, knowingly denied me the right to speak at public Village forums at various Village of Patchogue Trustee’s Meetings, specifically, but not limited to meeting on or about June 12, 2006. The Village barred Me from speaking to and before the panel of the Village of Patchogue Trustees and the Public Record, and the public, the residents of the Village of Patchogue. I was prevented
on various occasions over the past few years from speaking out. The Village has knowingly, continuously and negligently deprived Me of his right to speak under the Federal and State Laws, Open Meeting Laws. The Village has attempted to further block the Me access to information under the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”), by failing to abide by FOIL and stopped me from addressing the record in reference to various unlawful denial of FOIL request for records and other denial of records;
and they did so before the Incorporated Village of Patchogue Trustees’ panel on June 12, 2006; and at other times; thereby preventing me from addressing the public and residents of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue, as to determinations made by Village of Patchogue Officials at Village of Patchogue Trustees’ Meetings. The Village threatened to “call the Suffolk County Police” (interestingly they did not
use the Village Constables I was protesting) and to have me “arrested” and “removed” from Village Hall if I did not stop addressing the Village of Patchogue Trustees.
33. Both J. Lee Snead, former Village Attorney and Village Mayor Paul Pontieri have blocked me from speaking publicly at Village of Patchogue Trustees’ meetings and have on occasion verbally threatened me for speaking out and asking questions.
34. The Village and Village official have a policy of conspiring to conceal the substance of the LWRP from Village residents and has fraudulently made statement that there was no current LWRP when there is, in an effort to conceal this government LWRP and to have the public rely upon this fraud. this concealment was done with the intention of depriving me, business associates, Village residents of their rights.
35. On or about May and June 2008, I attended Village Trustee meetings held for the Village and spoke during the public will be heard portion of the meeting requesting from the Village that they either (1) provide him with the Village policy and practice regarding the Village’s Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”) Application for records; (2) tell him why they have not responded to his request for records under FOIL. Trustee Hilton responded for the Village, and conveyed to Me that he had not received
his a response to his FOIL Applications because I did not provide any services for the Village.
36. From on or about 2003 to the present, the Village Trustees in an effort to hide facts pertaining to Village Board of Trustee Meetings have approved inconsistent and inaccurate transcriptions of Village Board of Trustee Meeting Minutes.
37. The DOS LWRP Policy 2, protected me from these abuses “The intent of this policy is to protect existing water-dependent commercial, industrial and recreational used and to promote their future siting in accordance with the reasonably expected demand for such uses.” It is clear from the New York State Coastal Management Program LWRP Policies, Policy 2, that my Anything Marine business should not have been threatened or prevented from expanding by the Village as it was protected by these LWRP grants/contracts. The Village was receiving LWRP moneys to protect and expand water-dependent uses:
“In general, water-dependent uses, such as marinas, should be located within urban or developed areas that contain concentration of water-dependent commercial, industrial, or recreational uses and essential support facilities.” The Village was also bound to “Ensure the new or expanding marinas: —do not displace or impair the operation of water-dependent transportation, industry, or commerce.”
AKRF—Objections to the Village’s Subcontractors
39. Also please note the attached case on published on the web site:
40. In conclusion, the Village residents have been harmed by the failure of the Village comply with the LWRP contract(s) and the failure of the New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources to ensure the compliance with the federal and state guidelines enforcing the terms of the LWRP contracts. The repetitive and continued deceptions, concealments and abuses of the LWRP considering the history of protest would lead on to believe that the Division of Coastal Resources is conspiring with the Village against Village residents to actively violate their federal, state and environmental protections.
41. The Village is a political subdivision of New York State. The Village, despite its claims does not have any legitimate power of its own, but rather borrows all of its authority from New York State. The Village is in all respects exercising the power of New York State. The Department of State should be aware that harms are befalling United States citizens. These abuse of power, power given to them by New York State, harms, which are exasperated by the defects LWRP.
43. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should work with the Department of Environmental Conservation to suspend the Village’s capacity to be the lead agency concerning EPA laws and SEQR compliance. The Village has used its lead agency status to allow condominiums to be build on previous known contaminated oil fields.
44. The Village has a history of prejudicing non-property classes and property classes who lease to the non-property class. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should review its policies and practices to ensure that invisible stakeholders are included in the LWRP process. These stakeholders could be fishermen, workers, tenants, who do not have property and who have been
previous left out of the process because they are not property owners.
45. The Division of Coastal Resources should provide immediate financial assistance to ensure that the Village residents get their money back with regards to the $7.7 million dollars worth of property tickets falsely conveyed by Village employees impersonating New York State Constables.
46. The Division of Coastal Resources should provide immediate financial assistance to ensure that the Village taxpayers get their money back concerning the improper salaries and expenses involving illegal Village Constables. Normally this return of revenue, which was improperly spent by Village officials, would be recoverable through a taxpayer class action lawsuit, but considering the existence of an LWRP,
the Division of Coastal Resources should provide the resources to alert the community to the harms done to them and prosecute the wrong doers.
47. The Division of Coastal Resources should petition the New York Department of State’s Division of Building and Housing to investigate the illegal activities of the Village’s licensed and unlicensed Code Enforcement Officers, who are unlawfully deemed New York State Constable by the Village Code and local laws.
48. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should petition the New York Department of State’s Division of Building and Housing to relieve the Village’s Building Department and temporarily assume its responsibilities to regulate and comply with New York State law.
49. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should petition the FBI to investigate numerous instances of extortion concerning the Village’s Building Department and the Village Constables extorting redevelopment favors from Village residents.
50. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should petition the FBI to investigate numerous instances of Village insiders escaping regulatory burdens and permit processes as was recently done in Hicksville’s Building Department.
51. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should alert the FBI regarding the Village’s rouge and unlawful policing force practices that affected Village residents, property owners, revitalization and water dependent businesses.
52. The Village and the New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should alert the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office and the Dept. of Criminal Justice concerning the prosecution of those who impersonated police officers and unlawfully carried firearms against Village residents and Village property owners. Since New York State does not allow for a private action of extortion or a Hobbes act violation, the residents will need a governmental entity to prosecute to redress these harms.
53. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should do a thorough investigation to ensure the accuracy and proper transcription of Village Public Meetings to ensure the proper protections of Village residents’ civil rights and functioning of the democratic process.
54. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should investigate the impact of the Village’s redevelopment plans on minority neighborhoods (DOS moneys may have already been used to selectively redevelop minority neighborhood in an effort to make them unaffordable to minority residents).
55. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should test and clean the neighborhood of contaminants caused by the releasing of the Patchogue River spoils were released.
56. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should alert the Attorney Generals’ office to review the dredge surveys to ensure that political insiders are not receiving dredging benefits at the public’s expense.
57. The New York State Department of State Division of Coastal Resources should consider rewriting its operating policies and oversight procedures concerning insurance that the Title 11 funds are spent on remediation known environmental problems, such as those involved in the dredging of the Patchogue River. The present policies allow for the squandering on planning for condominium projects when there is known environmental issues that require remediation.
Thank you for your attention to the above matter. If you have any further concerns regarding the above please do not hesitate to contact me in writing with your NAME and email address. Anonymous comments will not be posted.
Henry R. Terry
P.O. BOX 2148 • PATCHOGUE, NY • 11772
On or about June 9, 2008, the Village revealed new evidence that, in fact, constables could not carry firearms. This excerpt from the June 9, 2008 Village Board of Trustee public meeting reveals newly discovered evidence that the guns were illegal: “Upon Motion made by Deputy Mayor McGiff, seconded by Trustee Crean, and unanimously carried, the board set a public hearing to held on June 9, 2008, at 14 Baker Street, Patchogue, New York, to consider rescinding Village Code 7-4, Subsection F. “This has to do with our code officers being armed. Effective June 1st the code officers will no longer carry weapons. This is something we have struggled with over the past four years. The civil service law job description does not address the issue of their being armed. The Suffolk County Charter around 1960 which created the Suffolk County Police Department effectively emasculated villages in having a separate police force. Two prior administrations have sought these code officers as peace officer from Albany and that has been denied…The third thing is, and it is the least out of all of them, but the greatest of impact on those in some sense performing, the liability insurance on our code officers carrying weapons is between ¼ and 1/3 of our total liability policy which is close to $100,000. For that policy that two men, at sometimes three men on duty, and most of the time only one during the course of the day costs about $100,000. It is not an easy decision to make. The Village Attorney did a lot of research on it for us. One of the other issues that became very clear, Village Clerk Seal contacted almost every village that has code enforcement. There is only one other village on Long Island that does carry a weapon and that’s Port Jefferson. They are going through the same process that we are going through…It is unfortunate that circumstances are what they are and based on New York State Civil Service law the carrying of a weapon ceases as of the end of this month. Upon a motion made by Deputy Mayor McGiff, seconded by Trustee Hilton, and unanimously carried, the request was approved as stated above. 74. On or about January 26, 2008, another new piece of evidence which support the illegality of the unlawful police activity on the part of Defendants alleged by Terry is the following Village public board of trustee meeting, in which the Village surrenders its titles of constables: Board Meeting January 26, 2008. The Board Meeting of the Board of Trustees met in the Municipal Building, 14 Baker Street, Patchogue, New York on January 26, 2009. The meeting was called to order at 7:30 p.m. by Mayor Pontieri with Deputy Mayor McGiff, Trustees Crean, Dean, Devlin, Hilton…. Village Clerk Seal read: Notice is hereby given that a public meeting will be held on Monday, January 26, 2009, at 7:30 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 14 Baker Street, Patchogue, New York, by the Village Board of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue to repeal Chapters 7 and 7A of the Village Code, a copy of which proposed Local Law is on file at the office of the Village Clerk. At said public hearing any person interested will be given the opportunity to be heard. Village Attorney Egan stated: This is a re-codification of sections that have been used and are in evolution as part of the code. Chapter 5A was the Park Ranger provision. It was originally adopted in the early 90’s and never been filled; we never actually had one on the force at Patchogue. Constables is step one of a two step legislation reform tonight to move that section from constables to the Division of Public Safety/Department of Code Enforcement where it always really, in my opinion, should have been in the first place. This is just more of a recodification of an evolution of these roles and how they are supervised, what their duties are, and how they are utilized today in modern day Village. We never want to leave anything in the code that doesn’t actively reflect what the actual practice procedure of the Village is. Upon a motion made by Deputy Mayor McGiff, seconded by Trustee Devlin, and unanimously carried, the Board repealed Chapters 7 and 7A of the Village Code. 75.
On December 11, 2008 Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled legislation to empower communities across the state with the ability to fundamentally reorganize and consolidate local governments.
Simply put, our system of local government is broken. It has been outpaced by globalization, regionalization, and an ever changing marketplace. The density of local government in New York is astounding. There are 10,521 overlapping government units, providing duplicative services creating needless, wasteful bureaucracies.
Given the current fiscal crisis New York is facing, reorganization of some governmental entities to more efficiently provide vital services is needed. In some cases, consolidation or dissolution may be necessary to reorganize government to meet the needs of their communities. However, current law is unable to solve the problem for it is inconsistent, often nonsensical, poses legal barriers, and includes anachronisms that make operational reform virtually impossible.
The Attorney General is proposing legislation that streamlines existing processes, eliminates inane inconsistencies, and strikes from the law offensive anachronisms such as requiring property ownership in order to vote in a special town election on a proposition to consolidate water districts.
It is a system almost nobody understands, least of all the people served by it. New Yorkers have the highest local tax burden in the country that dwarfs other states and far exceeds the national average. By consolidating governments and services, taxpayers could save millions of dollars annually.
Special districts were created to assist towns facing population explosions caused by the migration of people away from cities after World War II. They were established to offer service delivery to properties in a specific area of a town. Special districts have grown dramatically since 1940.
In 1940, there were 2,000 special districts and by 2000, there were over 6,000.
Long Island has become a special district archipelago. Nassau and Suffolk Counties combined have over 340 special districts. The result of the hodgepodge is multiple tax bills. A person pays county and town taxes, village taxes, school taxes and taxes for special districts.
WHY IS THE ATTORNEY GENERAL INVOLVED?
The Attorney General’s Office has been doing its part to address the problem of local government dysfunction. Over the past 19-months, the office has been conducting statewide investigations into waste, fraud and abuse at various levels of government. Those investigations have already resulted in numerous settlements and convictions that have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Every case of fraud, no matter how small, can create big problems for the state.
As the state’s chief legal officer, Attorney General Cuomo is often tasked with advising local governments on laws regulating them. It is clear that current laws are filled with inconsistencies, complexities, and anachronisms making meaningful reform in the current environment unattainable.
NEW YORK’S PAST SUCCESS
The conventional wisdom is that government could not be reorganized. Reports were written, but nothing got done. It has gone on for years. But, ultimately, leadership made the difference.
In the early part of the 20th century, the structure of New York State’s Government was every bit as bad as the current state of our local government system. But, what these dire times present is an opportunity.
Take for instance school districts. In 1947, a statewide Master Plan for School District Reorganization was enacted an although not a compulsory plan for reorganization, the Master Plan guided state level efforts to encourage reduction in the still-large number of school districts. The result was the reduction of the number of schools from 10,000 to less than 700 today.
People like Al Smith — supported by reformers, the media, and good government organizations made the impossible possible. In the 1920s, New York comprehensively reformed the structure of State government and created a model emulated by states throughout the nation. It was then one of the greatest achievements in American politics.
It has always been our mission to solve the nation’s problems first here in New York and serve as an example.
Responding to Lawrence Downes’ editorial “Victim Circus” in the New York Times:
Witches hunt? None here. Nor is there any need for a “hunt.” Seventeen years of a fake police should be a hard enough fact–”probable cause” for an investigation.
Is there any proof the Village personnel impersonating peace officers did anything wrong? We don’t need proof of wrongdoing. No speculation is required. Everything that they did is morally questionable and is legally actionable.
Do the immigrant Latinos, who Wolter asked to come forward, know what happened to them? How could they when the victims come from places where police and abuse is the norm? The authority figures in Suffolk, Levy, Pontieri, and others, are no different from what they are used to. Latinos are escaping a world where the fourteenth amendment “equal protection clause” does not exist.
In “Outlier” Malcolm Gladwell talks of cultural bias and how it shapes our lives. Here the cultural bias of many who come from Latin America is to distrust government officials and the police as they are known to violate human rights. But this culture bias, while indeed present in the Latin community I speak to, is actually grounded in reality and the district of the police and government is real. It is the well-founded distrust founded upon the fact that in the Suffolk and in Patchogue there is no equal protection clause to protect Latinos. How could there be one if they have an unlawful and untrained police department who targets them?
“They are not angry” pontificates as Mr. Pontieri characterizes. Many community leaders are asking for forgiveness and reconciliation. However, forgiveness and reconciliation traditionally comes after the admission of wrong doings and as a request for forgiveness and we have yet to hear such a request. In fact, Mr. Pontieri and others have done everything they can to suppress the truth of the illegal untrained police force is doing. If the Latin population and the general population is not angry YET, it is because are not aware of what has been done to them in the name of public safety.
Here in the North we believe that only the South would have such a corrupt police force to push the “undesirables” out. It couldn’t happen in New York, not 60 miles from New York City. You couldn’t possible have an untrained, illegally armed fake police force with no “racial profiling” and no prohibitions on asking detainees their status. This isn’t Alabama after all. Right?
Fake Cops, it must be a hoax you say. Suffolk County Police Department would never go along with that! Wouldn’t they have an obligation to put a stop to it? Doesn’t the Suffolk County Police Department have to uphold the law?
From the moment this hate crime problem came up, the politicians began to clamor for immediate “healing.” They wanted the cameras and newspapers to go away. Lawrence Downes alludes that Priest Wolter is a grandstanding, because after all, the Mayor “is concerned.” Somehow we should bow down to the Mayor’s authority, as he knows best and grew up two blocks away from where Marcelo was murdered. After all, he says, “The Village of Patchogue has always taken care of its own issues.”
The question, which Mr. Downes does not ask is how does the Village of Patchogue takes care of its own issue, but I will answer him:
1) They create a fake armed and untrained police force.
2) They illegally destroy and doctor records to hide their illegal activities.
3) They defraud Suffolk County Civil Service.
4) They deprive residents of the right to speak at public meetings.
5) They destroy public meeting tapes and do not record public minutes.
3) They only allow certain business in town.
6) They use constables to target Latinos and the poor.http://villagepolicecases.com/documents/Patchogue_Fourth_Amended_Complaint.pdf
7) They exempt their friends and associates from complying with Village Law and selective enforce the laws against others.
8) They call in a fake fire alarm to search the homes of suspected immigrants.
9) They deny anything happened.
Then one would ask, what’s has been the motive? Why the fake cops in the first place? Why go through so much trouble? Why put everything, the entire Village government at risk. FEAR is the confessed answer. Fear of whom?
If you want an answer, don’t listen to me draw conclusions. It’s all in the 17 years of Village of Patchogue, Village Court records and police records that were illegally “not maintained.”
Can you imagine if the Suffolk Police Department said it didn’t have any records? Well, this is what Village of Patchogue officials, Judge McGuire, former Village Attorney J. Lee Snead, current Village Attorney Brian Egan, and current Village Clerk, Patricia Seal are telling us. The records should document the illegal detaining of motorist, and the illegal search of DMV records, and the failure to remove false convictions marked on the victim licenses–a racial profiling cocktail, but which is by no means the main course.
The fake armed untrained cops (call them what you like Village Constables, Code Enforcement Officers, Park Rangers, because the Village of Patchogue unlawfully gave all these officers policing power) reason for EXISTING can be found in the government records and “Facts are stubborn things.”
If you want to find out what is going on in Patchogue you must go to the records. Slavery has its invoices and manifests and contracts and the Village Patchogue has its minutes and department records. An inspection of these will show what the history of what Patchogue did in the name of public safety, redevelopment, and progress.
Henry R. Terry
PRESS STATEMENT OF THE REVEREND DWIGHT LEE WOLTER
The Congregational Church of Patchogue
95 East Main Street
Patchogue, New York, 11772
People who believe they are the victim of hate, harassment, injury, or attack simply because they are Latino, have the right to tell their story in a safe and supportive environment. But if such persons are afraid, for whatever reason, to report the incident to the police or other agencies, or if they did report the incident, but their statement was not accurately recorded; then the need for an alternative place and method of reporting becomes apparent.
That is why the Congregational Church of Patchogue has offered to be a sanctuary church where people are encouraged to come and be heard on Wednesday, December 3rd between 6 and 9PM at the Congregational Church of Patchogue, the site of the funeral of Marcelo Lucero.
Many who come may lack evidence or witnesses that could result in legal action. But simply telling their story, and feeling listened to, often results in an experience of healing that may never be found in a court of law. Even so, we will advocate for those who come seeking accountability and justice.
The spirituality of peace and reconciliation must have an equal seat at the table of justice. May we continue with the many good things about us, face and accept the bad ~ and may we become a powerful example of a community transformed by tragedy into a place of peace and justice, so that Marcelo Lucero will not have died in vain.
Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter
Congregational Church of Patchogue
Some of the courtrooms are not even courtrooms: tiny offices or basement rooms without a judge’s bench or jury box. Sometimes the public is not admitted, witnesses are not sworn to tell the truth, and there is no word-for-word record of the proceedings.
“This Is Not America”
Part 1 of 3
A yearlong investigation by The New York Times of the life and history of New York State’s town and village courts found a long trail of judicial abuses and errors — and of governmental failure to curb them.
Other Articles in this series:
Nearly three-quarters of the judges are not lawyers, and many — truck drivers, sewer workers or laborers — have scant grasp of the most basic legal principles. Some never got through high school, and at least one went no further than grade school.
But serious things happen in these little rooms all over New York State. People have been sent to jail without a guilty plea or a trial, or tossed from their homes without a proper proceeding. In violation of the law, defendants have been refused lawyers, or sentenced to weeks in jail because they cannot pay a fine. Frightened women have been denied protection from abuse.
These are New York’s town and village courts, or justice courts, as the 1,250 of them are widely known. In the public imagination, they are quaint holdovers from a bygone era, handling nothing weightier than traffic tickets and small claims. They get a roll of the eyes from lawyers who amuse one another with tales of incompetent small-town justices.
A woman in Malone, N.Y., was not amused. A mother of four, she went to court in that North Country village seeking an order of protection against her husband, who the police said had choked her, kicked her in the stomach and threatened to kill her. The justice, Donald R. Roberts, a former state trooper with a high school diploma, not only refused, according to state officials, but later told the court clerk, “Every woman needs a good pounding every now and then.”
A black soldier charged in a bar fight near Fort Drum became alarmed when his accuser described him in court as “that colored man.” But the village justice, Charles A. Pennington, a boat hauler and a high school graduate, denied his objections and later convicted him. “You know,” the justice said, “I could understand if he would have called you a Negro, or he had called you a nigger.”
And several people in the small town of Dannemora were intimidated by their longtime justice, Thomas R. Buckley, a phone-company repairman who cursed at defendants and jailed them without bail or a trial, state disciplinary officials found. Feuding with a neighbor over her dog’s running loose, he threatened to jail her and ordered the dog killed.
“I just follow my own common sense,” Mr. Buckley, in an interview, said of his 13 years on the bench. “And the hell with the law.”
The New York Times spent a year examining the life and history of this largely hidden world, a constellation of 1,971 part-time justices, from the suburbs of New York City to the farm towns near Niagara Falls.
It is impossible to say just how many of those justices are ill-informed or abusive. Officially a part of the state court system, yet financed by the towns and villages, the justice courts are essentially unsupervised by either. State court officials know little about the justices, and cannot reliably say how many cases they handle or how many are appealed. Even the agency charged with disciplining them, the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, is not equipped to fully police their vast numbers.
But The Times reviewed public documents dating back decades and, unannounced, visited courts in every part of the state. It examined records of closed disciplinary hearings. It tracked down defendants, and interviewed prosecutors and defense lawyers, plaintiffs and bystanders.
The examination found overwhelming evidence that decade after decade and up to this day, people have often been denied fundamental legal rights. Defendants have been jailed illegally. Others have been subjected to racial and sexual bigotry so explicit it seems to come from some other place and time. People have been denied the right to a trial, an impartial judge and the presumption of innocence.
In 2003 alone, justices disciplined by the state included one in Montgomery County who had closed his court to the public and let prosecutors run the proceedings during 20 years in office. Another, in Westchester County, had warned the police not to arrest his political cronies for drunken driving, and asked a Lebanese-American with a parking ticket if she was a terrorist. A third, in Delaware County, had been convicted of having sex with a mentally retarded woman in his care.
RE: The Investigation Is Ongoing:
Ronald Brinn from Patterson’s HRC has forwarded our complaint to Pamela Chin at Justice. Also Suffolk DA’s Sgt. Woolman is now investigating the legality of Patchogue’s Fake Police Department.
The DA’s Office told us on December 2, 2008, that the Village of Patchogue is no longer calling their constables “constables.”
On December 3, 2008, I questioned Victor Cruz and asked him if he still considered himself a “constables,” he said that he is not. I asked Mr. Cruz when he gave up his “constable” status and he said that it was “about three months ago.”
The retraction of this title along with the surrendering of weapons on June 1, 2008, is an admission by the Village of Patchogue that they are guilty of abusing this New York State power. We estimate that there are over 7.5 million dollars taken from Village of Patchogue residents in connection with this scheme. If you have any information, please post it here.
Patchogue redevelopment was racially motivated to push Latino’s out. The question remains to what extent Title 11 enviornmental, and other Department of State monies used to advance racially motivated policies?