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June 1st, 2007

RUMORS & LIES: FAIR AND BALANCED IN THE HAMPTONS

by Jack Torrence

Apparently the Southampton Press is so serious about wanting to expand its Kingdom that one of its reporters actually asked a few too many questions about the Motz matter.

For those of you who have not been following Mayor George Motz’s little imbroglio, google “S.E.C. Motz” and the matter will be clear as day. Seems that a little scam like coupon clipping comes to mind, but it’s called “switching tickets”–as in you buy a stock at one price, the house buys at another and the house charges your account for the one that makes THEM a profit. Rumors suggest that the Quogue Mayor and trading associates at his Quogue club whose members (refered to by the younger generation as Quoglodytes) may also be in the soup once the investigation starts to warm up. One wonders why neither the NY Times or theWall Street Journal picked up the story since the Mayor had to take the Fifth. Apparently, the FBI has been holding back on starting a criminal investigation as they monitor the political winds. But, the Press reporter who is not as waspy as the rest of the crowd apparently asked too many questions. The Missus, Judge Kitrick who, of course, runs the local Quogue court with an iron hand, was also queried. There were actually some ruffled feathers and an implication that some anti- Semitism might have been at work. There were also some questions flying about a love affair involving the Major that did not go over well. With the Press moving in on the Easthampton Star’s territory, the Loucheim’s may have had some odd feelings in protecting anyone but a blue-blooded Republican – even a staff member.

Speaking of which, the police blotter that gets editorialized marvelously for the local readers who like to see which Swell has been arrested for DWI in the summer has been treated to some suspect fare. Items that might prove embarrassing to Republicans in power have been rumored to escape publication in the Southampton Press from time to time. But there is more than a hint that instead of solving the immigrant problem, whether legal or illegal, via the hiring hall route-as many communities and civil rights activists agree works best-the Town of Southampton and its police force have coordinated a routine that deeply violates everyone’s rights, which is duly reported in the local Press.

Supervisor Heaney, Pat Nuzzi and wanna-be Supervisor Linda Kabot were elected on an anti-Latino platform. No so with Southampton villages’ gutsy Mayor, Mark Epley, who finally created a hiring hall for day laborers. His detractors, many from an organization with roots out of town (The Anti-Illegal Immigrant Association) have attempted to threaten him and his family personally; it indicates just how deep the anti-Latino sentiments run.

Housing has now become one of the Town’s favorite targets under Supervisor Heaney. Prosecuting anyone who has any association with or helps illegal or even legal immigrants has become the method of choice. You know, frighten law-abiding people with a badge and a gun and criminal prosecution and you can get almost anyone to waive their constitutional rights. The Town targets a house or a neighborhood or a few workers and visits them and intimidates the occupants into allowing them to enter to inspect the premises. They get the rule book out and find something, anything, to violate. Since the homes of the Town officials, the building inspectors and the police would not survive this kind of predatory inspection either, there is always a “positive” outcome. Then, they go after the real estate broker who rented the house. This is the new Town policy towards illegal or even legal workers. No stinking liberal, humanistic, civil liberty approach here. Or, just shoot them as they do in Quogue.When the legal charges are fabricated, the Southampton Press writes up the story and then moralizes about the “facts” in its police blotter. Lest you think the police blotter is real news. Easthampton should watch out for the Easthampton Press. That news is not always fit to print.

Before you decide to take that extra phone line in your bedroom compliments of Cablevision, you might want to think about this. A few business people were a little upset as well. Read the fine print, gang. Apparently, you can’t call 911 on the phone line installed with your cable box if the power is out. Which, of course, is a time when you might need to make such a call.While there are battery pack back-ups available that will supposedly handle that problem, it’s not something readily known. There also appears to not be a directory for information to get other phone numbers of someone who also has one of these new age lines. All numbers on these lines are “private and unpublished” according to Cablevision and cannot be reached by calling 411. Something to remember before you yell “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” At least, not when the lights are out.

A venerable eatery, Magic’s Pub in Westhampton Beach, home of the best burgers in the Hamptons, has been targeted by the Health Department. But, not for anything negative. In fact, according to the new owners, after 30 years of benign neglect, the Health Department has new-found interest in the place simply because it has become a beautiful new place to eat. After replacing refrigerators that were no longer cold, freezers that could not make ice, and sinks that leaked-not to mention bathrooms that, well, did not beckon- re-opening has just been a hellish, bureaucratic nightmare. Is it just too clean for the Health Department? Even the Fire Marshall of Westhampton Beach Village, William Hart, told management to open up and the work survived the hawk eye of Bridget Napoli, the Code Inspector. Brian Noone, the Food Services supervisor who controls inspector Bruce Johnson at the Health Department, bent over backwards to find problems with Magic’s. One reason for rejecting the application to re-open involved a missing title signed by the owner.When reminded that 23 people faced being out of work and the Village offered practically no other year-round eateries, No one responded, “That’s not my problem.” There was no response from Johnson or Noone as to why for over 30 years there had been no credible review of the restaurant and that now, after replacing everything to bring it up to code in every way, the Health Department has been looking to find ways to interfere just as the summer season gets under way. As George Washington Plunkitt says in his book, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, “there’s good graft and bad graft.” In Suffolk County, there is no bad graft and it really depends upon who makes the phone call to interfere with business – and just exactly what is done to make it all go right.

Rumors and lies about Southampton Town Justice Court are circulating. Various Soho Journal readers have shared some of them with us. In January, Town Supervisor Skip Heaney announced in his ‘State of the Town” annual address that the Town would take steps to add a fourth justice to the ranks of the three Town justices already sitting on the bench. Those three justices rotate on a schedule that is more complicated than the “Kennedy single bullet theory,” which seems to be why cases seem to drag on and on. (In March, Sag Harbor Village Mayor Gregory Ferraris announced some skepticism as to whether a fourth judge will alleviate the inefficiencies or whether the four judges will just use this additional position to lighten their case load without any appreciable overall improvement, as he claims occurred when the third judgeship was added many years ago. That third judge was Judge Edward Burke.) Many years ago the state legislature in Albany authorized a fourth justice to sit in the Town of Southampton Justice Court if the Town wanted to exercise that but in all these years the Town never saw fit to provide any money in its annual budget for that fourth judicial office and so never took the steps to add the office. Last June, Sag Harbor attorney PatriciaWeiss went to the Town Board and spoke at the public comment session and urged the Town Board to add that fourth justice position. Months later, after Skip Heaney told Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris that there would not be a 4th judge, but then there was a sudden, unexplained shift. The Town finally obliged attorneyWeiss’ request in February, by passing resolutions to create the office of a fourth Town justice. That leads SoHo Journal to report on speculations. Who exactly will become the fourth justice? When Gov. George Pataki (R) appointed a (then) sitting Southampton Town Justice Edward Burke, Sr. to the Court of Claims, and designated him as an Acting Supreme Court Justice for the duration of his term, Judge Burke left the Town bench. But now that Gov. Spitzer (D) is our new governor, the possibility of Judge Burke’s reappointment to the Court of Claims (or any state judgeship) seems quite remote. Rumors circulate that Burke will be the local Republican nominee for the Southampton Town Justice Court’s four-year term “fourth justice position.” But will he? Rumors circulate that many others have screened for the nomination. And who will the Democrats nominate? And will Southampton Town Justice Court ever hold a night session once a month for Small Claims matters, as the Uniform Justice Act requires and the Town Court ignores? Southampton Town Justice Court is facing a few other challenges in its budget as well. It needs a new courtroom, or an auxiliary courthouse, because the talked about move to Hampton Bays (near the police station) has been placed on an indefinite hold. Seems that there is not enough money to do that quite yet, notwithstanding all the property tax hikes.

Then there ‘s the problem with the Town Court’s failure to ensure that “criminal summons” (issued for allegations of even the most minor zoning code violations) are “personally” served upon property owners. For many years, the Town Justice Court clerks have just been mailing the criminal summons to property owners who live in Manhattan and other places inside and outside the Town boundaries. In April, an appellate court in Brooklyn finally agreed to review the practice of merely mailing criminal summons when “the People” (under the alleged auspices of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and/or the Town) have sought to pursue such offenses as a car or two too many allegedly parked on a homeowner’s property or house numbers not being sufficiently visible from the curb. If the appeal is successful, then the Southampton Town Justice Court judges would need to assure that the formalities of personal delivery have been met before proclaiming a default judgment against an out-of-town (or any) property owner.Which branch of bureaucracy will pay for such personal process serving is something that may also have to be determined by the Southampton Town Justice Court judges. Of course, the town code enforcement officers could simply send out reminder letters to property owners and avoid all of the trouble and expense of legal action. But SJ is not predicting that sort of fiscal sensibility for the taxpayers in the Town that boasts that it has the busiest Justice Court in New York.

Filed Under: Commentary | Community | New York | News | Politics | the Hamptons

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