The Town of Huntington Ethics Board is reviewing a complaint calling for the removal of Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Christopher Modelewski over his relationship with a local zoning attorney and a Huntington-based engineering firm.
Town officials received a letter late last month from a Cold Spring Harbor resident asking that Modelewski be removed as chairman and that the relationship between him, Huntington attorney John Breslin and RMS Engineering be investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, “as a result of Chairman Modelewski utilizing his position to assist his ‘friends’ in obtaining relief that should not ordinarily be granted.”
The letter, written by William Coden, says Modelewski and Breslin have office space in the same building, that Breslin routinely appears before the town zoning board as an attorney and real estate appraiser, and that Modelewski, Breslin and RMS work together, often representing the same client, before other municipal boards, including the Village of Northport.
Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the matter has been turned over to the ethics board counsel, who will determine whether action will taken.
“Anybody can call and make any accusation they want,” Petrone said. “But they first have to have their facts and make sure it’s in order.”
Modelewski and Breslin have offices in the same building at 44 Elm St. in Huntington.
Modelewski was appointed to the ZBA in 1993 and became chairman in 2002. As a member, he is appointed to a seven-year term; his term expires on Dec. 31, 2021. The chairman is appointed every year. The chairman’s compensation is $21,000. The ZBA has 7 members.
“I’m not going to respond to their call for my termination,” Modelewski said. “I don’t get paid by John Breslin, I don’t pay John Breslin; the same goes for RMS Engineering. I’m an attorney in private practice and I have a right to make a living.”
Breslin said he is considering legal action against Coden for libel and slander.
“The allegation is nonsense and it’s baseless,” he said.
RMS officials did not return calls for comment.
Coden said he hand-delivered the letter dated Dec. 27 to town hall and delivered the same letter to Northport officials.
Coden said after three years of dealing with the zoning board over issues involving trucks on his street, and a review of cases Modelewski, Breslin and RMS Engineering are involved in, he was “confounded” that Modelewski is permitted to determine matters presented to him by Breslin and RMS officials.
“When you go before the zoning board you expect to have a fair hearing and you expect to be in front of someone impartial,” Coden said. “Clearly he’s not.”
Coden’s concerns arise from disputes over the Sandbar restaurant on Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor, which Breslin represents. Coden and other Spring Street residents complained about trucks loading, unloading and backing up on the street behind the restaurant. The zoning board is considering a plan presented by Breslin that includes using an adjacent property to address the truck traffic issues.