A Nassau Supreme Court justice on Thursday adjourned a lawsuit that seeks to compel the county to pay $102 million in property tax refunds owed to thousands of businesses and homeowners, giving lawyers until April 24 to submit papers.
Attorney Laureen Harris, head of the tax challenge bar in Nassau, had asked Justice Thomas Adams in a test case to begin the process of turning court-ordered property tax settlements into monetary judgments against the county.
Harris, representing the owner of a Hicksville office building facing foreclosure, asked Adams to compel the legislature's Presiding Officer Peter J. Schmitt (R-Massapequa) and Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) to take the actions necessary to pay a $112,000 refund due her client since September. Harris' case, which is being closely followed by other tax attorneys, is the first of what they say could be hundreds.
Schmitt and Abrahams have asked Adams to dismiss her complaint, arguing a judge cannot tell lawmakers how to vote.
"It's not the business of the judiciary to intrude itself into the business of the legislature," Abrahams' private attorney, Anton Borovina, said outside the courtroom.
Schmitt's private lawyer, Paul Millus, agreed, but said Schmitt is "prepared to do whatever is necessary. Peter Schmitt does not want to see fiscal chaos . . . But in some ways his hands are tied."
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has asked the legislature to borrow the money to pay the refunds. But Democratic lawmakers, whose votes are needed, have said they want more details about the refunds and also want a "fair" redistricting process before they authorize borrowing. Last year, Democrats blocked a Republican plan to redraw legislative districts that they felt was partisan.
County Attorney John Ciampoli said he thinks the legislature can be compelled to act in a special session "but we haven't gotten to that point."
He called the Democrats' redistricting demand "an illegal quid pro quo. The legislature is supposed to put the best interests of the county and taxpayers first."