21 Aug 2014
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Dems Sue Town Clerk Over Ronjo Petition

Plaintiffs say clerk violated prodecural law.

Dems Sue Town Clerk Over Ronjo Petition

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.

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