The Huntington panel that hears some code violation cases will undergo an internal annual review to analyze its effectiveness, over the objection of Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.
The Town Board approved allowing the town attorney to institute and conduct an annual review of the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, which hears cases including noise complaints, illegal business operations and illegal dumping in town waterways. It does not preside over cases involving violations of building and traffic codes.
The bureau has operated since September 2020 and hears cases that had been handled in Third District Court.
Town Board member Joan Cergol, co-sponsor of the resolution with Gene Cook, said the review will provide yearly data that can be analyzed to see whether expectations of the bureau are met, such as moving disputes along faster than had been happening before the bureau was established.
"This is not an attempt for some ‘gotcha,’ " Cergol said. "I’m not making any assumptions that there’s anything wrong; I think we should be able to see data every year so we can evaluate it, especially since this is an add-on to town government."
Cergol said questions would include how many cases have been heard and their outcomes, how many adjournments and default judgments have been issued, and how default fees are collected. She said she would also check on the possibility of capturing data on the demographics of those appearing before the court.
Cergol said the town has invested money in the bureau and needs to make sure it’s getting a return on its investment.
"The investment is not just financial, it’s are we adjudicating matters more quickly, which then helps our communities," Cergol said. "If we’re not, then we need to reevaluate."
The measure was approved 4-1 at the Nov. 4 town board meeting. Supervisor Chad Lupinacci voted against the resolution.
"The Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge of the Bureau is required to submit an annual report on the Bureau’s operations and statistics," he wrote in an email. "It is an absurd conflict of interest to have the attorneys who prosecute cases before the Bureau conduct an annual review of the Bureau."
Cook said there’s no harm in extra oversight.
"It’s a new system for the town and we want to make sure it’s effective and it is covering everything it’s supposed to cover," Cook said.
Cergol said she expects a report before the end of the year.