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Asharoken's rejection of property tax appeals challenged

A file photo of a sign welcoming motorists

A file photo of a sign welcoming motorists to Asharoken is shown on Sept. 14, 2012. Credit: Andrew Kozak

A decision by Asharoken trustees to reject all property tax appeals is coming under fire because the Village Board of Assessment Review, which made the recommendation, met without a quorum.

Rob Holmes, one of 16 residents who appealed their taxes in writing, said he was "disappointed" that only two of four board members made recommendations to the trustees.

"I don't grieve for fun," he said. "I pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes to the town and the village . . . I would expect it to be conducted with the same decorum and professionalism with which they accept my check."

Without a majority of three members, the assessment review board could not legally issue a formal recommendation for the village board to vote on, said Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, a unit within the New York Department of State.

"They had no authority to do anything," Freeman said.

Asharoken Village Attorney Bruce Migatz said in an email that a last-minute family emergency forced one trustee to miss the meeting. He also said the village's denial of tax grievances was not invalid.

"It is my opinion that no taxpayer was aggrieved, since no taxpayer appeared in person to complain about their assessments," he said.

Village Clerk Nancy Rittenhouse said she contacted the New York Conference of Mayors and Freeman in advance of the Feb. 17 tax meeting, and both supported moving forward with half the board absent.

Representatives of the conference of mayors declined to comment. Freeman said Rittenhouse didn't contact him until three days after tax grievance day on Feb. 17, and that he would never have approved meeting without a quorum.

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica and other trustees did not respond to requests for comment.

Paul Sabatino, a Huntington Station attorney and former counsel to the Suffolk County Legislature, said that without a quorum, the hearing was invalid, "and it wasn't a valid vote and it wasn't a valid recommendation . . . The end result of that sequence or chain of events was . . . invalid."

Village trustees voted 4-1 on March 3 to approve the board's recommendation to formally reject all tax appeals. Trustee Ian Jablonski abstained, and did not respond to a request for comment.

Residents can challenge the decision in small claims tax court, or pursue a proceeding to appeal the decisions.

Holmes said he has not decided if he will appeal.

Migatz said he does not think the courts would have cause to declare the action void because the lack of a quorum was due to the trustee's family emergency.


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