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2017-11-29 / Front Page

Automotive license resolutions send Village Board meeting into high gear

By Carolyn James

The Amityville Village Board approved licenses for 11 automotive businesses on Monday amidst a political squabble between the administration of Mayor Dennis Siry and Trustees Nick LaLota and Jessica Bernius.

At issue was the current administration’s rejection of a fee schedule that was implemented under former Mayor James P. Wandell in the 2015-16-budget cycle. Those fees separated auto sales from the other auto uses listed in the Village code and based them on the size of the applicant’s business. For some of those larger businesses, the annual fees went from $175 to $1,000

“At some point, someone changed the (fees) for auto sales, establishing that as a separate category,” said Bruce Kennedy, the village’s attorney. “That was not legally done.”

“During the 2015-16 year, the board adopted a budget and a resolution that changed the fee structure,” said Trustee LaLota, who was on the board at the time the change was made.

Kennedy explained that while the Village Board could change the fee for the automotive licenses, it cannot pull certain automotive uses, in this case auto sales, out of the code and assess fees that are separate and distinct from the other auto businesses covered in the law. That, he said would require a change of the law, which cannot be done by resolutions alone.

 “We cannot establish auto sales as a separate use unless we change to code to reflect that,” Siry told LaLota who persisted that the attorney’s opinion was incorrect. “That is what Mr. Kennedy is talking about.”

The discussion became more heated when LaLota noted that the board’s decision would require a refund to Security Dodge, which has a lawsuit pending against the Village and the other businesses separately assessed. LaLota also said he and the public did not know the details of the board’s decision before the meeting.

“You are talking about taking thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money and returning it without any public input,” he told Siry, who responded that the board was simply rectifying an error that was made three years ago.

The conversation continued when resident Lauren Haffner asked what brought the issue to the village’s attention. Kennedy responded that he received a complaint came from one of the licensees.

“I think this is a conflict of interest,” she told Kennedy, who represents Security Dodge. “There is a benefit here to your client.”

Kennedy responded that the complainant was not Security Dodge and that he was acting as the Village’s attorney when he advised them that their fee schedule for the licensees was not in accordance with the Village’s code.

Kennedy is not representing Security Dodge in any cases involving the Village or any current litigation.

The Record has reached out to several legal experts and is awaiting their response on the question.

The next Village Board workshop session will be held at 8:15 a.m., Thurs., Dec. 7, followed by a regular board meeting on Mon., Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m. Village Hall, 21 Ireland Pl., Amityville.

Watch for more on this story and other village issues in the upcoming print edition of the Amityville Record.

 

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