The Town of Oyster Bay will turn over all documents federal prosecutors requested this week in a housing discrimination lawsuit, town Supervisor John Venditto said Wednesday night.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Michael Goldberger and Sean Greene on Tuesday submitted a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke saying the town is refusing to turn over some documents and imposing “unreasonable burdens” in providing access to others. They asked the Central Islip judge to compel the town to make the information available to the government.
On Wednesday afternoon, town spokeswoman Marta Kane said attorneys were working on a response, and that it “largely will be in opposition to what’s in the letter.”
A few hours later, Venditto said that Thursday morning he will ask the town’s lawyers in the case to “immediately comply with the requests which have been submitted by the federal government.”
The Department of Justice in 2014 sued the town and Venditto, alleging that Oyster Bay’s preference for town residents and their children in its below-market-rate senior and first-time-buyer housing programs is discriminatory because African-Americans comprise less than 1 percent of town residents eligible for the programs.
Venditto contends the programs are not discriminatory and the residency preferences are so that local senior citizens and first-time homebuyers can afford to remain in Oyster Bay.
The U.S. attorney’s office is seeking applications submitted for the first-time homebuyer program, letters sent to individual applicants and past waitlists. The town had offered to turn over the old waitlists, but argued that the other documents are “burdensome and duplicative,” prosecutors wrote. Instead, the town produced only template letters, a blank application form and the current waitlist, they said.
The government argues that “who applied for housing, and the treatment by the Town of applicants from within and outside the Town” are key issues in the case.
The government also is asking for easier access to applications for the senior-housing program.
The town has permitted inspection of 30,000 pages of documents but had refused to allow an off-site, government-funded scan of the documents, prosecutors wrote. Instead, prosecutors said, the town only will allow scanning on-site and outside regular business hours, something the town said would be at “significant expense to the Town’s taxpayers” because of security, overtime and other costs.
Prosecutors said that “by imposing such unreasonable and costly restrictions on the document production, Defendants essentially have denied the United States reasonable access to” the documents, which are “undisputedly relevant” to the case.
Venditto said Wednesday night he would ask the town’s lawyers to tell prosecutors they can have complete access to the documents wherever and in whatever form they request.