Written by Rich Forestano: email@example.com Friday, 06 April 2012 00:00
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.
Saturday, 23 November 2013 00:00
For Frank Lazzaro, getting into floral design was an accident, a stroke of luck. What started out as a makeshift Christmas decoration in the Army eventually landed him in the Oval Office at the White House serving as Christmas decorator for three presidents.
The former Floral Park florist served at Fort Bragg, N.C. during the Vietnam War as supervisor of medical supplies in Womack Army Hospital when his boss made a request.
Friday, 22 November 2013 00:00
Rotary Club of Floral Park-Bellerose President Shane Parouse was among the 50,304 finishers of this year’s ING New York City Marathon, which was held on Sunday, Nov. 3. Keeping stride with the club’s mission “to serve those in need locally, nationally and internationally,” Parouse ran for charity and raised $4,000.
“One of the great things about the marathon is the amount of goodwill that surrounds it,” Parouse said. “Millions are raised every year by people like me, supported by friends and family and strangers who urge us on throughout the 26.2 miles. It’s really a beautiful event.”
The Junior Women’s Club of Bellerose will hold a Shopping Night on Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. at 50 Superior Road, Bellerose Village. Wine tasting, jewelry, cosmetics, baked goods, handbags, scarves and shawls,ornaments, gourmet cookware, spices and handmade items will be available. For more information, Lisa Tice 516-581-9772 or Nancy Knese 516-567-6321.
will hold its annual Holiday Breakfast and Chinese Auction fundraiser at Floral Park Village Hall on Sunday, Dec. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Chinese Auction will begin at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10 and may be purchased at the door or in advance by contacting Lion President John Mansfield 516-233-1564.
• Gam-Anon, an anonymous organization for spouses, adult children over 18, family and friends whose lives have been affected by a gambling problem. Meets Mondays at the Jewish Community Center of W. Hempstead, 711 Dogwood Ave., W. Hempstead. For information call 321-2883.
• Triple Bingo every Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Bellerose Jewish Center, 254-04 Union Tpke., Floral Park. You can win up to $3,000.
• Nassau Mid-Island Chapter Of The Barber Shop Harmony Society invites any man who is interested in singing barbershop harmony to join them any Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. in the Church of the Advent Winthrop Hall, 555 Advent St. (one block east of Post Ave.; two blocks south of Jericho Tpke.), Westbury. Call George Seelinger 333-0803.
• Bingo Robert Van Cott American Legion Post #1139, 734 Woodfield Rd., West Hempstead, hosts a weekly Bingo game Wednesdays at 7:15 p.m. Early bird and game specials.
• Boy Scout Troop 158 Queens Village for boys ages 10 to 18 meets at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 92-10 217th St., Queens Village, every Friday from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Call Mr. LeVine 1-781-465-5522 or email to Pear1H21@nyc.rr.com.
• Look Good...Feel Better sponsored by LIJ Medical Center in association with the National Cosmetology Association, the Toiletry Fragrance Association and the American Cancer Society. The program reaches out to women with cancer and teaches them how to best apply makeup and wear their hair while undergoing cancer treatment. Meets on the second Monday of every month at LIJ Medical Center, 27005 76th Ave., New Hyde Park. Reservations suggested, but not required. Call Harriet Pine or Selma Robinton 718-470-7094. All women who attend receive a makeup kit filled with brand-name cosmetics valued at over $200.
• AARP Chapter #5224 Floral Park meets on the third Monday of the month at the Floral Park Recreation Center. For further information call Marge Vance, president, 354-4296.
• Family Promise Of NC Are you concerned about helping homeless families in our local communities? You are invited to meetings for Family Promise of Nassau County, Inc., the third Monday of every month, at 7:30 p.m. at the New Hyde Park Baptist Church, 635 New Hyde Park Rd., NHP (352-9672 ). All congregations invited: Churches, synagogues, mosques and NC residents. The need is great. Call Family Promise at 684-9833.
• Stewart Manor Auxiliary Police Unit 105 is currently having an ongoing Recruitment Drive. Meetings are held on the last Monday of each month at the Village Hall, 120 Covert Ave. (side entrance on Chester Ave.). Those interested should call Sgt. Jerry Ortell 775-5126 to find out more.
• Garden City Ski Club meets on the first and third Wednesdays through April (except holidays) at 7:30 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus, 1000 Marcus Ave., New Hyde Park. Social events, trips to our lodge in Vermont, and skiing in a variety of areas throughout the West and New England. Ages 21 and over, please. For additional info and schedules visit www.gardencityskiclub.com or call 872-1448.
• Order Sons Of Italy meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at the VFW Hall, Lincoln Rd., Franklin Square. There are also entertaining programs and refreshments and food are served free at every meeting. Call Sal Palmeri 328-0333 for an application.
• Citizen’s Party Of FP meets on the third Wednesday of each month at the American Legion Hall. To become a member, residents are invited to visit www.fpcitizensparty.com or call 775-2940.
• Your Widows/Widowers Social Group, a nonsectarian, nonprofit organization of widows and widowers ages 50 to 70 years of age. Fee for members is $3, nonmembers $5. Meets at 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Church, 5th St. and Franklin Ave., Garden City, on the third Wednesday of each month. Call Denise 488-4597. No meeting at the church during July and August.
• FP Arthritis Support Group meetings will be held on the first Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at the Floral Park Library, Tulip Ave. and Carolina Pl., Floral Park. Call the Arthritis Foundation 427-8272.
• LI Junior Chamber Of Commerce The LIJC regularly has the Meet and Greet on the first Thursday and the monthly meeting on the third Tuesday of each month, along with a variety of other events throughout the month, For more information on the LI Junior Chamber, visit WWW.LIJC.com. Contact: Martin Dekom, Chairman, 850-2717 - Mdekom@gmail.com; Julie Dekom, Membership Director -Julz_5@yahoo.com; Steven Eiselen, Community Development VP -SEiselen@msn.com.
• Free/Low Cost Health Insurance The residents of communities served by Mercy Medical Center will have the opportunity to apply for free or low cost health insurance for children, families and adults up to age 64 on the first Thursday of every month from 5 to 7 p.m. in Mercy’s Main Lobby. Staff from Catholic Charities of LI will assist you and your children applying for Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus and Medicaid Health Insurance Programs. The bi-lingual enrollers will screen adults for income eligibility for the state’s health insurance program Family Health Plus. Children are eligible for Child Health Plus. These programs cover medical check-ups, hospitalization, emergency care, prescriptions, vision and dental care.
• Zonta Club Of LI a member of Zonta International, a worldwide service organization with a local club. Members help advance the status of women and are involved in many community service activities. The name Zonta is a word taken from the Sioux and stands for honesty, trust, inspiration and the ability to work together for service and understanding. At meetings members discuss and learn about issues facing women, develop and conduct fun fundraising that benefits community programs and network with Zonta International programs. The club meets at a monthly dinner meeting in New Hyde Park on the third Thursday of each month. Call Kathy Rau 488-2796.
• Art League Of NC monthly meeting and demonstration by a guest artist. Meets on the fourth Friday of each month at the New Hyde Park Recreation Center, Clinton G. Martin Park, Marcus Ave. and NHP Rd., NHP (near Union Tpke.) at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited. Refreshments served. Call 437-0919. Nonmembers $2. No meetings in June, July, August, December.
Has year round classes all taught by a professional. Classes for the littlest artist to the more serious, adult classes too. Call for more information at 742-7662 or go onto the web at thegardenartstudio.com.
Safe Boating Courses, free vessel safety checks and more from America’s Boating Club, the United States Power Squadrons. With 18 squadrons around Long Island, there’s one near you. Visit WeBoatSafe.org or call 1-800-341-8777 for more information.
Are you a senior who would like help paying for Medicare benefits and prescription drugs? Free assistance is only a phone call away if you qualify because of limited income. There may be a way to alleviate some of the cost of Medicare — deductibles and coinsurance, Part B premiums, prescription drug plans (Part D). Reducing monthly premiums, annual deductibles and co-payments, aiding with coverage gaps (the doughnut hole). To learn more call an LIS/HHS (Low Income Subsidy from U.S. Dept. of HHS) counselor from Family & Children’s, a community of caring. 485-3425, ext. 222.
Stroke Life Society is a community organization of survivors and co-survivors in the pursuit of living and helping others. A stroke can be very isolating. By sharing experiences and encouraging one another, together we can face and overcome common challenges. All welcome. RSVP is requested but not required. For information and other locations and times, call Ben Thomas 398-4994. Go to www.strokelife.org.
• Every first Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m. in Room 12, St. Frances de Chantal, 1309 Wantagh Ave., Wantagh.
• Every second Monday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Church of St. Jude, 3606 Lufberry Ave., Wantagh.
• Every second Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, Epilepsy Conference Room, Research Building Level C, 270-05 76th Ave., New Hyde Park.
• Every third Friday at 2 p.m. at St. Bernard’s Parish Center, 3100 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown.
• Every fourth Wednesday at
6 p.m. in Room 106, St. James Parish Center, 80 Hicksville Rd., Seaford.
The NC Auxiliary Police Unit has available, through the cooperation of the NYS Office of Crime Prevention, very informative pamphlets on how you, the homeowner, can better protect you and your family from being a victim of crime. Any resident requesting a copy of these pamphlets can write to NC Auxiliary Police Unit 116, PO Box 288, West Hempstead, NY 11552; call 538-5800; or e-mail: NCAP116@AOL.COM. The following pamphlets are available:
• Common Sense for the Elderly
• The Babysitter Guide
• Crime Check (Home Survey)
• Don’t Be a Victim of Burglary
• Rape Prevention
Provides free transportation to and from medical appointments for senior citizens who are residents of the Floral Park/Bellerose area and cannot afford cab fare or who have no other means of transportation. Should you or a loved one need transportation to a medical appointment, contact FISH at 835-9522 or telephone coordinator Fran Hornberger at 775-0740.
At The Bellerose Jewish Center
Located at 254-04 Union Tpke., Floral Park. Call 718-343-9001:
• Free Jewish education for kindergarten and Sunday School children. A thorough religious curriculum with experienced teachers for third grade to their Bar/Bat Mitzvah is also provided.
• The Renaissance Group. A nonsectarian group of men and women who have lost a dear one. Dialogue and an exchange of ideas can be helpful. Call for date of the next meeting.
The following programs regularly serve all residents of Nassau County (call the NC Dept. of Senior Citizen Affairs 571-4330):
• Employment Referrals for Seniors. The NC Dept. of Senior Citizen Affairs is a resource to employers seeking qualified workers and to mature job seekers, 55+, who want assistance with employment and résumé preparation. Services are free of charge.
• The Foster Grandparents Program is recruiting senior volunteers to share their time and love with children in Nassau County. Volunteers receive a non-reportable stipend, transportation reimbursement, paid holidays, sick days and vacation days.
• If you are 55+, make your spare time count. Join the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, a national organization, and share your talents and skills at one of the many diversified placements.
Franklin Hospital Medical Center’s Thrift Shop, 138 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Floral Park United Methodist Church Thrift Shop, 35 Verbena Ave., open every Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Featuring jewelry, clothing, housewares, bric-a-brac, dishes, linens, collectibles, some furniture, small appliances and antiques. Donations gratefully accepted. Call 354-4969.