Huntington is launching a panel to hear code violation cases.

Huntington is launching a panel to hear code violation cases. Credit: Raychel Brightman

There could be a delay in the planned spring start of Huntington’s newly created panel set to rule on notices of violation issued by town enforcement personnel for most violations of town code.

The town board on Jan. 13 failed to name a director to run the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, which Supervisor Chad Lupinacci has said was one of his top priorities in 2020. The Republican nominated Josh Price — his chief of staff at the time — to the role, but his appointment to the five-year term was voted down 3-2. 

"Rules must be published before we can operate the bureau, and the director has a key role in drafting and finalizing those rules,” said Lupinacci, who established the bureau last November. “We still have time to hit our target launch timeframe, but the window is closing for a timely launch."

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.

Town Board members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol, both Democrats, and Gene Cook, an Independence Party member, who usually caucuses with Republican council members, voted against Price. Cook and Price are former business partners. 

“This newly established bureau is in charge of both code enforcement and the adjudication of violations,” Cuthbertson said. “A person with experience in those areas should be appointed and I don’t believe Mr. Price has that background.”

Price, of Commack, is an attorney who previously ran unsuccessfully for the town board. Cook said Price is a "good guy," but the process should be more transparent.

“There should be a process where everybody gets information at the same time and there are no surprises,” Cook said.

Cook said that’s why he supported Cergol’s resolution at the same board meeting to require resumes of perspective appointive public office holders, including town directors, deputy directors, town assessor, town attorney and the adjudication bureau chief, no less than three weeks before their appointment is to be voted on.

Cergol said the final straw for her was getting very little information about East Northport resident and real estate attorney Lisa Leonick before she was appointed town assessor in December for a six-year term beginning June 1.

“A critical town post with a six-year term such as the assessor warrants the formation of a search committee followed by a thoughtful interview process inclusive of all board members,” Cergol said. “Regarding other appointees, I basically got tired of hearing myself complain that we were not seeing the resumes of persons being presented to the board for a vote until game time.”

Lupinacci, who voted against Cergol’s resolution, said while it’s not always a burden to supply a resume for a prospective employee within that timeframe, it's not always realistic.

“There are times when an essential position must be filled to avoid a break in continuity of government; we may be considering many resumes that don't quite fit the bill and it is not uncommon that the most suitable candidate presents him or herself in the 11th hour,” he said.

Cergol's resolution passed 3-2, with Republican Ed Smyth also voting no.

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