36° Good Evening
36° Good Evening
Long IslandSuffolk

Asharoken mayor admits 'goof' in tax grievance process

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

Asharoken Mayor Greg Letica said village officials made a mistake when they held the annual tax grievance meeting without a quorum and without consulting the village attorney.

"We did goof," Letica said Tuesday night at a village meeting in Northport. "We admit we goofed, and we're going to do better next time."

Village trustees rejected all 16 property tax appeals, based on a recommendation from a Feb. 17 meeting that included two of the four members of the Village Board of Assessment Review. A majority is required for them to make a valid recommendation, said Bob Freeman, director of the New York Department of State's Committee on Open Government.

"We're a small village, we do the best that we can do," Letica said. "We learned something from this meeting. We're not going to make the same error."

Legal experts have said the meeting and the resulting March 3 vote by the full board of trustees to reject all tax appeals was invalid. "Absent a quorum, no action could validly have been taken," Freeman reiterated in an email Wednesday.

Village Attorney Bruce Migatz said none of the 16 taxpayers who had their tax appeals rejected were aggrieved because none attended the Feb. 17 meeting.

He said while the participation of board member and Village Assessor Paul Wotzak via phone did not meet open-meeting requirements, three people made a recommendation.

Open-meeting law allows for video conferencing, but phone participation does not qualify to reach a quorum.

The village's notes do not indicate whether Wotzak reviewed the actual appeals before making a recommendation.

Village officials said residents who were denied had filed grievances without sufficient evidence to support their claims, such as comparable property values that might justify a tax decrease.

Those who were denied can appeal through a Small Claims Assessment Review Proceeding "where now they present their evidence before a judge," Migatz said.

Migatz also said he did not anticipate any consequences for the village. If taxpayers were to challenge the lack of a quorum, "the court would send it back for a revote -- but that's not going to happen," he said.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News