Jul 30, 2014

Opinion: Opposes Port Chester's Amnesty Program

Opinion: Opposes Port Chester's Amnesty Program
The Homeowner Amnesty Program Proves the Incompetency of the Board of Trustees, Village Manager and Building Inspector   The so-called Amnesty Program was legislated by the Board of Trustees with special assistance from the Village Manager and Building Inspector. I believe the program has been a product of their deluded imaginations because the monstrosity they’ve concocted doesn’t stand a chance of surviving over the long haul. When a homeowner asked former Mayor Pilla, “Has this program ever been approved by a higher authority?" the former mayor said he didn’t know and referred the question to Village Attorney Anthony Cerreto who basically said that he hoped that if a higher authority were paying attention, it would approve of what he and his cohorts were doing. These statements prove the Board and two of their most powerful appointees, Christopher Steers and Peter Miley, have undertaken – and continue to undertake -- potentially illegal action against the home and building owners of Port Chester.   In addition, it was stated at this same meeting the Amnesty Program could take 10 years to complete. What an outrage. Imagine being a homeowner who needs to sell their home because they’re being transferred to work in another part of the country or overseas. By the time this floundering bunch gets its act together, every potential buyer you line up is likely to walk away due to the inordinate amount of time it can take the Building Department to complete the simplest of tasks. Don’t believe me? Try getting anything done through them in a timely fashion, especially if you have no pull with the local powers that be. Ten years – why??? I will try to explain, based on my former 57 years as a successful business manager.   What I see in Port Chester is the epitome of incompetence from the way the program was dreamed up, to the way it was barely planned and sloppily communicated to the public, to the way it has been stumbling along over the last few years, hurting local home values and homeowners alike. This Amnesty Program does indeed add up to 10 years of unnecessary work for all of the aforementioned reasons. And why would Misters Steers and Miley have it any other way? They’ve just set themselves up for 10 years of job security that includes enviable salaries and outstanding benefits. While the average property owner, who has no pull at village hall, suffers through the obstacle course these two individuals have cobbled together, they (Steers and Miley) are sitting pretty for 10 years. More than a few homeowners who need to leave Port Chester will either need to rent out their property or sell it for tens of thousands of dollars less than it’s worth. Why? Because the crew in charge of the village erroneously (if not maliciously) claims much, if not all, of property owners’ paperwork, issued by previous administrations, is no longer any good. In the private sector, such crazy behavior is not tolerated because it’s bad for business. In Port Chester, it’s now not only accepted, it’s praised and rewarded – and you know this is no exaggeration, particularly if you follow the bi-weekly BOT meetings. (One of the more recent meetings looked more like a love fest than a meeting concerning the citizenry’s business, as BOT members gushed praise upon Mr. Steers whose tenure was officially extended.)   While writing this, it has occurred to me that a good investigative reporter from The New York Times could have a field day looking into the madness that has overtaken Port Chester. Its people have witnessed scandal after scandal and seen precious little justice meted out. Five years or so ago, home and building owners were told their records were incompetently kept by past building inspectors who may have committed fraud in carrying out their duties. Thereafter, these same property owners were told their records had been lost or destroyed due to flooding. Now they are being told no records were ever lost or destroyed in a flood. Mr. Steers has infamously stated that they have all of the paperwork – nothing’s been lost. If so, why haven’t the past Building Department officials and employees accused of fraud been exonerated and their good names restored? Keep in mind, if what Mr. Steers claims is true, you’ve been duped. All the while you have been attempting to clear obstacle after obstacle on your way to getting a new Certificate of Occupancy, there has been paperwork sitting in your file for each and every stage of the building process. In short, the paperwork evidences contractor and subcontractor licenses, liability insurance, workman’s comp and other vital records. This means that forcing you to come up with the records is not just unnecessary, it’s absurd, mean-spirited, and outrageous and therefore desperately in need of investigation and prosecution by a higher authority – the higher authority Mr. Cerreto never bothered to check with. By the way, if there’s a flaw in my logic or information, will one of Port Chester’s current “civil servants” please show me the error of my ways?  As you probably know, Building Inspector Miley and his partners in the governance and operation of Port Chester have been overseeing the scanning and digitization of all property-related records so property owners can view them online. How nice, but remember all of these records were originally handled in accordance with the filing systems used at the time the records were recorded and were most likely handled accurately, though we need to allow some slight room for human error. Having said that, why are nearly all home and property owners being treated like scofflaws who must run an ill-defined, ever-changing gamut to prove they're worthy of a new CO? After all, the village already has their respective property records on file, according to Mr. Steers who has unequivocally stated they’re complete.   On a directly related matter, from what I’ve been told, the current backlog of work that needs to be completed by the Building Department is now well beyond ridiculous. Some homeowners who have been told their homes have passed recent inspection cannot get their new Certificate of Occupancy. Their phone calls to the Building Department inquiring as to why go unreturned and these homeowners wonder why in the world they paid $200 for “expedited” handling when they can’t even hear an excuse as to why they still have no new CO in hand. Based on my experience as a business manager, I can only imagine the warm sense of job security Misters Steers and Miley must be feeling. If they worked in the private sector, they’d be long gone by now. But as “public servants” in Port Chester their incompetence is likely to be rewarded with raises, praise and protection from a fawning Board of Trustees that has circled the wagons around their Amnesty Program in what I believe is an effort to protect it – along with their reputations for having foolishly supported it.   It bears repeating that this monstrosity that the good property owners of Port Chester are facing – and may need to endure until enough of them wake up – is largely due to brainstorming by the current Village Manager and his Building Inspector whose past credentials deserve some investigation. From what I’ve been able to determine, the Village Manager had no prior experience as a Village Manager, having held various municipal jobs in the State of Florida. In Port Chester, he received his on-the-job training from his predecessor who was allegedly removed from office due to his incompetence. Does anyone know whether the Building Inspector (and Code Enforcement Officer) had any directly relevant experience before joining Mr. Steers in Port Chester? Frankly, it certainly does not appear Mr. Miley came to Port Chester with the requisite training or experience that would qualify him for the job, having held the position of Fire Chief of New Rochelle. It's more than a little baffling why these two men were selected for such key positions in Port Chester.      There is plenty of criticism for the manner in which the two aforementioned village officials have so adversely impacted village home and building owners both physically and financially. No one should have to pay for forms, look up their old records, or pay unnecessarily because this pipedream of a system has been so sloppily conceived, implemented and mismanaged. You may know the Building Inspector hired additional clerical help quite some time ago. Therefore all of the archived records should have been matched up with the accurate card files before involving home and building owners. Then all of these existing records should have been put online where they could be seen by those whom they concern. Afterward, any homeowner or building owner could see if they were lacking information and, if so, they could then apply for update forms, instead of experiencing the havoc created by the present system. Note: If your property was turned over to you with the assistance of an attorney for the seller and your own attorney, it means that all records were in order, according to the manual system which existed at the time (and legally and properly so).  It is my opinion that the home and building owners of Port Chester are being scammed and taken advantage of by the utter incompetence of individuals who have been learning their jobs by the seat of their pants and at great taxpayer expense. At best, they have instituted what can be referred to as nothing more than a pilot program (with property owners as their personal guinea pigs), and I’m being generous calling it a pilot program, since it’s apparent very little logical or rational thought went into it.   It is also my opinion that no one on the BOT has any significant business management experience and therefore will continually put everyone in jeopardy by their lack of management experience, not to mention their lack of basic problem-solving skills, which are so critical to the success of any organization.   I’ll wrap this up by saying that the self-proclaimed Bully on the BOT should change his ways. There is no room for bullies in village government or anywhere else for that matter! Also, the Mayor needs to be more tolerant in allowing taxpayers to speak their mind. “Moving it along” does not win points or build trust with the public whose absence from BOT meetings is painfully obvious to all who bother to tune in on TV. Really, Mr. Mayor, running the clock and allowing five minutes for a taxpayer to speak is ridiculous when one considers the multiplicity of problems created by this Board and its two most powerful (and apparently under-qualified) appointees.  Anne Latella Naples, FL

Don’t miss updates from Patch!