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Huntington Town to hold hearing on establishing code violations court

Huntington Town Attorney Nick Ciapetta, left, and Supervisor

Huntington Town Attorney Nick Ciapetta, left, and Supervisor Chad Lupinacci both say the proposed Bureau of Administrative Adjudication will benefit residents and the town. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Town of Huntington officials want to make it easier for residents — and possibly help them avoid jail time — to reach a resolution on some code violations for which they are cited.

The Huntington Town Board will hold a public hearing Wednesday to consider creating a Bureau of Administrative Adjudication. The bureau will hear all code and ordinance violations related to conditions that constitute a threat or danger to the public health, safety or welfare. It won’t hear cases involving building code violations.

“The Bureau will consist of a director — an administrative law judge who hears cases — and other administrative law judges who will comprise panels of three who will hear appeals,” said Town Attorney Nick Ciapetta. 

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci has been working toward this since his days in Albany as an assemblyman. 

“This is something the town has wanted to do for some time, but the enabling legislation had been vetoed by the governor in the past,” Lupinacci said. “It is very satisfying to see, considering how much of an impact it will have on the town’s efficiency in prosecuting code violations with major benefits for our taxpayers and residents.”

In July 2002, the town board adopted a law establishing a zoning violations bureau to adjudicate infractions of the town’s zoning law. But in 2006, the state Supreme Court ruled it was unlawful in the absence of state legislation.

Lupinacci said he first sponsored a bill to create an adjudication bureau when he started serving in the Assembly in 2013. The bill stalled for a few years before finally getting passed in the Senate and Assembly on the same day in June 2017. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed it into law a few weeks later.

Lupinacci said a local adjudication bureau will provide more local control over the enforcement of code violations, cut red tape and make the process less intimidating for those who have been issued summonses.

“We’ll be taking cases out of Third District Court and hearing them here in Town Hall,” he said.

Ciapetta said that under the current system violations are considered criminal charges and that in some cases a person who is convicted after a trial could face up to 15 days in jail. He said that because the bureau would be a town civil administrative bureau, it carries only monetary penalties.

"For example, if somebody had a zoning violation for having an accessory apartment without a permit we would issue them a violation for not having the accessory apartment permit," Ciapetta said. "They would come into the town’s tribunal where they would either plead guilty or answer a hearing. Right now that violation in the example that we gave, we bring that as a criminal violation in Third District Court.”

If the bureau is approved, a Town Board resolution establishing it would need to be enacted, then rules and procedures would need to be defined.

The hearing will be held during the regular town board meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

BUREAU BENEFITS

  • Defendants can be served by certified mail instead of the $75 delivered notice.
  • Violations (excluding building department violations) will be adjudicated by either pleading guilty and paying the fine, in some cases, online, or by attending a bureau hearing at Town Hall instead of appearing in court.
  • The state currently does not allow anonymous reporting of code violations and requires disclosure of the complainant's name and contact information to the defendant if a summons is issued. Under the BAA, the complainant's identity will not be disclosed.

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