Bethpage Federal Credit Union has sued the Town of Huntington for condemning the Thatched Cottage event hall, alleging officials intentionally hindered the sale because of relationships they had with the former owner of the Centerport venue.
The credit union stated several town officials have relationships with former owner Ralph Colamussi, which led them to condemn the cottage four days before the high bidder was to close the deal, according to the lawsuit filed Feb. 11 in State Supreme Court in Suffolk County.
“Colamussi had dealings and/or relationships, personal, business related and/or political, with various Town of Huntington officers and/or employees,” according to the lawsuit.
Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter declined to comment on the lawsuit and its allegations. Colamussi did not return a call seeking comment.
Huntington officials previously said they condemned the building based on documents Colamussi provided to the town on Nov. 18, 2014, including engineering reports that concluded the lobby posed a risk of “injury and possible loss of life.”
The town condemned the cottage Nov. 20, 2014 — four days before Hicksville-based Suzan Tina Properties was to close the $4.65 million sale. Executive director Yama Raj has said the condemnation was a significant factor in the company’s decision to abandon the deal, which put the credit union in a position to buy it.
Among the town officials named in the credit union lawsuit is Colamussi’s sister, Janet Rinker, one of two leaders of the division of code enforcement. Others named in the lawsuit include Kenneth Lindahl, former director of the department of public safety; Joseph Rose, current director of public safety; Joseph Cline, director of engineering services; and Richard Vacchio, senior building inspector.
The lawsuit is one of two filed against the town over the condemnation. The Thatched Cottage’s Wantagh-based bankruptcy trustee, R. Kenneth Barnard, also said in his Feb. 16 lawsuit that the condemnation interfered with the original sale. Barnard also claims the engineering reports Colamussi gave the town were based on illegal inspections that amounted to trespassing, and has filed a separate suit against Colamussi seeking $4.5 million in damages.
The credit union was Thatched Cottage’s largest debtor. Nearly 200 people and businesses have filed about $15 million in claims against Thatched Cottage. If the original sale had gone through, the credit union stood to recoup the largest portion of the debt accrued under Colamussi’s leadership. Instead, as the second-highest bidder, the credit union obtained the cottage in January 2015.
Condemning the property, which remains boarded up and deteriorating, has interfered with selling the property, according to the suit.
Thatched Cottage condemnation timeline
June 3, 2014: Huntington official inspects of Thatched Cottage
Aug. 18, 2014: Town of Huntington grants permit for hundreds of people to be in the building for its bankruptcy auction
Sept. 24, 2014: Hicksville-based Suzan Tina Properties wins bidding to purchase the venue
Nov. 18, 2014: Former owner Ralph Colamussi gives Huntington inspection reports that conclude the building is dangerous.
Nov. 20, 2014: Town officials condemn the building based on reports from Colamussi
Nov. 24, 2014: Sale to Suzan Tina Properties falls through