Islandia sues Suffolk over ticket revenue
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Islandia has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Suffolk County, claiming its new Traffic and Parking Violation Agency improperly sapped revenue from village coffers.
The lawsuit, filed in state Supreme Court late last month, claims that the number of tickets processed in village court in 2013 dropped by 5,550 -- from 9,178 in 2012 to 3,628 last year -- "causing a significant loss of revenue" for the village.
"The Agency has improperly acted outside of its jurisdiction and illegally accepted and processed tickets . . . for violations that occurred inside . . . the Village of Islandia and the sovereign territories of other villages" to their "extreme detriment," according to the suit.
Village officials blamed a $270,000 loss of ticket revenue for much of a 72-percent property tax hike that is costing the average owner of a home assessed at $40,000 about $264 a year.
The village also maintained in legal papers that the county failed to take a "hard look" at the negative impact on villages from the loss of revenue, as required by the State Environmental Review Act, before building the $2.5 million traffic court. Suffolk also never consulted with any villages before seeking state approval to create the county traffic agency, according to the suit.
The lawsuit followed a meeting in October between village Mayor Allan Dorman, village attorney Joseph Prokop and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone over the dramatic drop in tickets.
Bellone sent a letter to Dorman on Nov. 26, saying the village's concern appeared to be "unfounded." Bellone wrote that after a "complete review" of ticketing policies by Police Commissioner Edward Webber, "the policy . . . is that tickets issued by the Suffolk County Police within the village are returnable to the village" and not the county traffic agency. Webber reported that the policy is being followed, Bellone said.
Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider called the village legal action a "frivolous lawsuit to explain why they had to raise property taxes 72 percent," but said the county is willing to respond to any legitimate village public safety concerns about traffic enforcement.
Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said other villages across the county have suffered some revenue losses since the new traffic agency started, but nothing like Islandia's, which is located between Exits 57 and 59 of the heavily traveled Long Island Expressway.
Pontieri said village officials will be watching the lawsuit "very closely" to see whether the courts determine whether traffic cases are properly directed to villages or the county.