The bankruptcy trustee for the shuttered Thatched Cottage event hall has sued the Town of Huntington and several municipal officials, accusing them of interfering with the sale of the Centerport venue by condemning the building days before the high bidder was to close the deal.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Central Islip by Wantagh-based trustee R. Kenneth Barnard, who is seeking unspecified punitive damages, interest and legal costs, according to the filing.
Lee J. Mendelson, the Garden City-based attorney representing Huntington in the case, declined to comment, saying in an email Wednesday that any response to Barnard’s claims would be through the court system.
Huntington officials condemned the cottage on Nov. 20, 2014 — four days before Hicksville-based Suzan Tina Properties was scheduled to close on the purchase. The company’s executive director, Yama Raj, has said the condemnation was a major factor in the decision to walk away from the $4.65 million deal.
The lawsuit alleges the town did not conduct its own inspection before condemning the building, instead relying on two engineering reports that the former Thatched Cottage owner, Ralph Colamussi, delivered to town officials.
The lawsuit said the reports were commissioned by the cottage’s former chief restructuring officer, Gino Scotto, who Barnard alleged had a personal interest in buying the property. Scotto, who was not named in the case, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The reports by Melville-based Galli Engineering outlined a number of safety issues with the cottage, attributing most damage to superstorm Sandy and concluding that the lobby posed a risk of “injury and possible loss of life.”
Company President Richard Galli said Wednesday he stood by the conclusions in the reports.
According to the suit, the town did not provide Barnard with the Galli reports until Dec. 18, in response to a court order.
Barnard’s suit alleges that the town violated its codes by failing to independently substantiate the structural issues described in the Galli reports.
The suit said a Huntington fire marshal inspected the cottage in June 2014 and, as a result of that inspection, the town issued a permit to allow as many as 1,000 people inside the building for its September 2014 bankruptcy auction.
Barnard also said in the lawsuit the town never sent him a notice of any code violations or summonses related to the property’s condition that would lead to a condemnation and it did not give him the opportunity to challenge or correct any problems.
The lawsuit names the town and its town board, department of public safety and department of engineering as defendants. It also names Joseph F. Cline, the director of the Department of Public Safety; Richard Vacchio, senior building inspector; Terry McNally, the town’s chief fire marshal; former director of Public Safety Kenneth Lindahl; and Janet Rinker, co-head of the Division of Code Enforcement.
Rinker is Colamussi’s sister.