After months of preparation, an administrative delay and a global pandemic, a newly created court in Huntington is set to start hearing code violation cases on Thursday in town hall.
Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said there are 50 cases on the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication calendar, including for noise complaints, illegal housing, illegal business operations, illegal dumping in town waterways, and illegal sewer connections.
There will be morning and afternoon sessions in keeping with New York State COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. Attorney Joshua C. Price is the bureau’s director and chief administrative law judge. He will preside over the day's proceedings.
"This is a good thing for the town; It helps with efficiency in terms of the way things will proceed in the court," Price said. "And it’s definitely a more friendly setting and friendly environment where disputes can be heard."
Violators previously faced a judge in Third District Court. Lupinacci said a town adjudication bureau provides more local control over the enforcement of code violations, cuts red tape and makes the process less intimidating for those who have been issued summonses.
The bureau was established in November 2019, and town officials said it’s the first of its kind on Long Island and only the third in New York State. It will hear cases of town code violations that threaten public health, safety and welfare, but not violations of building and traffic codes.
Price's appointment as director to the bureau was initially rejected in January, which pushed back the start of creating administrative rules for the bureau. Price was then appointed to the $60,000 part-time job in February. The bureau was supposed to start hearing cases in May, but the COVID-19 pandemic created another delay.
"I’m very excited to have this court that I have spent so much time creating from the ground up, is finally ready to launch," he said. "I want every citizen who comes before the court to feel like he or she was heard and had an opportunity to plead his or her case."
Price said once a resident is cited by code enforcement or public safety agents, they will be given a court date and an opportunity to settle the violation with an assistant town attorney. If the two parties can’t come to an agreement, a trial will then be held before Price. Appeals to Price’s rulings go before a three-judge appellate board.
Former planning board vice chairwoman Mara Manin Amendola was sworn in as an administrative law judge to serve as a backup for Price.
Gregory Grizopoulos, two-time town board candidate James F. Leonick and Tammy E. Skinner have also been named administrative law judges and will make up the board to hear appeals.
Amendola will be paid $25,000 annually; appellate judges will get $3,500 per year. None will receive benefits. All are Town of Huntington residents, officials said.