Anton Community Newspapers  •  132 East 2nd Street  •  Mineola, NY 11501  •  Phone: 516-747-8282  •  FAX: 516-742-5867
Intended comprare kamagra senza ricetta company.
Attention: open in a new window. PDFPrintE-mail

Hempstead Animal Shelter Involved in Second Lawsuit

New Hyde Park, Baldwin-based attorneys to challenge actions of town in court

Two years. It’s been two years since the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter (TOHAS) banned three former employees prompting a lawsuit; one year since the shelter director was “reassigned” after a 20-year-old YouTube video showcased her cheering the euthanasia of a cat and less than a month since a second suit was filed against the town, citing violations of the municipal law.

When will it all end? You be the judge. The town has been entrenched in one lawsuit and now, two more lawyers are jumping into the fray.

Baldwin attorney MaryJean Mezzina and New Hyde Park lawyer Elizabeth Stein filed a lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead on March 19. They claim town officials’ refusal to answer animal shelter-related questions during board meetings violates the Open Meetings Law during a public session.

The town has been berated with accusations alleging neglect of sheltered pets and questionable practices concerning cremation and an operating budget much bigger than a comparable shelter, The Town of North Hempstead whose 2012 shelter budget tops off at $522,141. TOHAS current 2012 adopted budget totals approximately $7.4 million.

Supervisor Kate Murray and Town Attorney Joseph Ra have refused to answer questions about the animal shelter during recent board meetings, citing a pending 2-year-old lawsuit, according to Article 78 proceedings obtained by Anton Newspapers. They instructed that questions be submitted to the board in writing or through Freedom of Information Act requests.

According to the Article 78, on Jan. 10 petitioners were present at a board meeting, where Mezzina posed a question concerning the alleged euthanasia of a pet awaiting pickup by its owner at the animal shelter. The town board, through Ra, refused to answer any questions concerning TOHAS, citing the shelter was the “subject of a federal lawsuit and because board meetings are recorded, these recordings would taint the potential jury selected to hear the case when tried.”

“[MaryJean] wanted to ask about the policies and procedures at the animal shelter that would actually allow something like this to happen,” Stein said. “What could’ve gone wrong that somebody’s personal pet was killed?”

The town released a statement but would not comment further.

“In general, the town does not comment on pending litigation,” the statement read. “At the same time, we believe that this lawsuit is well beyond the bounds of frivolousness. What’s more, the town board fully complies with the provisions of the Open Meetings Law. In response to inquiries about the town’s animal shelter, we have replied to hundreds of Freedom of Information requests in a timely manner.”

“We both felt that this was so outrageous and egregious; that they can be hiding behind an unrelated lawsuit and not answer questions they feel will cause the town embarrassment is unacceptable,” Stein reacted. “We did this out of our own pockets. It’s expensive and time consuming but we feel very strongly that this is something the public has to be made aware of.”

The filing read that Mezzina’s question had nothing to do with the lawsuit concerning the shelter, but was “tangentially related to the suit.” Since the question did not involve the lawsuit, the attorneys felt the town was compelled to answer. Ra reiterated his statement to answer no questions pertaining to TOHAS during the Jan. 10 meeting.

“I was shocked,” Mezzina exclaimed. “I had never been to a town meeting before and I was shocked at their arrogance. My question was totally unrelated to their ongoing issue concerning the shelter.”

Mezzina and Stein claim the board’s refusal to answer questions “not only violates the established protocol of the Town of Hempstead to entertain all questions related to the town and its operation, but violates the law itself.”

“Our feeling is that from a legal point of view, they simply cannot do that,” Stein stated. “The question had absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit regardless if it were during the public session or not. That lawsuit goes back two years ago.”

New York State Committee on Open Government (COG) officials stated that there is no requirement in the law that says a public official has to answer questions or speak during a public meeting. However, according to the Article 78, COG Executive Director Robert J. Freeman noted that when a public body permits the public to speak, it should do so in, “accordance with reasonable rules that treat members of the public equally.”

This is the second lawsuit TOHAS has become entwined in. Three former volunteers filed a lawsuit on Dec. 8, 2010 against the town, Supervisor Murray and seven other employees after the volunteers were banned from the shelter. The suit was filed in federal court for defamation of character and violation of First Amendment rights. A decision has yet to be made.

“They want to whole issue to go away,” Mezzina stated. “It’s not going to go away.”

Anton Newspapers previously reported that former volunteer Diane Madden said the ban came from what they say is retaliation for speaking out to shelter employees and town officials about alleged abuse and neglect.

When requests were made to the town, they went unanswered and after persistent inquiries, she, along with Lucille Defina and Frances Lucivero-Pelletier were banned from the facility in October 2012.

“From that first meeting, [Mezzina] made a decision along with Liz [Stein] to bring this out into the public,” Madden said. “The bottom line is this is something the public hasn’t been aware of because unfortunately everyone doesn’t attend these town board meetings. Much of the public had no idea town officials were refusing to answer questions about the shelter and hiding behind our defamation of character lawsuit which is absurd.”

The animal shelter is currently under investigation by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Comptroller’s Office is conducting an audit of the shelter’s financial operations.

News

At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, residents and community members joined with the Floral Park American Legion to honor veterans at the annual Veteran’s Day ceremonies at Memorial Park, following a march down Tulip Avenue to the park with the members of the veterans of the Legion post, American Legion Auxiliary members, Sons of the American Legion, Boy and Cub Scouts from Troops 482 and 678 and local officials.

During the ceremony, a plaque was dedicated in memory of General Kazimierz Pulaski and others of Polish heritage who have served in the U.S. military. The plaque dedication was led by members of the Polish American Congress, Long Island Division, President Grzegorz Worma and Honorary President Richard Brzozowski. An invocation was delivered by Father Peter Rozek of St. Hedwig Church, followed by a POW-MIA ceremony by Post 334 Vice Commander Matthew Cacciatore.

While parking around Long Island Rail Road train stations is typically a challenge, even on a regular work day, the holidays create more of a struggle for commuters in search of parking spots. LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said that ridership between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day increases by at least 10 percent; last year it was by 12 percent. Though the MTA is adding more trains to the schedule, that doesn’t ease the parking situation, which is operated not by the LIRR, but by individual municipalities in each town.

“Every station is different,” Arena said. “A good part of our parking is in the hands of the locality. They set the rules essentially.”


Calendar

Floral Park Memorial PTSA Fall Fest Fundraiser

Friday, November 21

Buy A Meal, Wag A Tail

Saturday, November 22

Hanging of the Greens and Potluck Luncheon

Sunday, November 23



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com