Mastic Beach Village officials who evicted a couple from their Dogwood Street home after saying it was uninhabitable did not follow due process, a legal expert says.
"It's a terrible, flagrant violation of their constitutional rights," said John Zollo, co-chairman of the Suffolk County Bar Association's Municipal Law Committee and a former attorney for the Town of Smithtown.
"It's an egregious act to take away someone's property without giving the homeowner a chance to be heard. It's a sneak attack and it's just wrong," Zollo said.
On Aug. 28, village code enforcement officers were called to the residence after someone noticed a man running electrical wiring from inside the home to power computers in his van, which was parked in the driveway.
Village code officers received written permission to enter the house from the man, who told them he was a renter in the home where the couple -- owner Donald Polinskie, 66, and Jackie Strech -- lived, officials said. After inspecting the house, officials condemned and boarded the home in two hours while the couple were away running errands.
Mayor Maura Spery defended the decision to board up the home without warning, saying the house was a public safety threat in violation of New York State Property Maintenance Code.
Zollo disagreed. "You still have to give them notice," he said. "You're supposed to have due process and an opportunity to be heard. It's a travesty."
Mastic Beach village attorney Guy W. Germano said the municipality was justified because it felt lives were at risk.
The village would be under a different type of scrutiny if the home wasn't condemned and people had died, he said.
Blue Point architect Edward Silsbe -- hired by the couple -- inspected the home three weeks ago.
While saying the village overreached in its inspection report, he said he believed the house was condemnable.
"It was a wreck. It's not fit for habitation" he said, citing an improperly installed word-burning stove, uneven floors, holes in the walls, roof damage and exposed outlets and wires.
"The shower looks like it's growing mold," he said.
The couple said they have resided at the home for 19 years.
"We were thrown out of our house illegally and they refuse to do right by us," Polinskie said in a statement. He said he continues to pay more than $500 in monthly mortgage payments.
Village officials also say they have received complaints of illegal renters and code violations at the home going back two years. They also said that local taxes on the property haven't been paid since the village was incorporated in 2010.
The couple, who told village officials at a recent board meeting they are now living with relatives, said taxes have been paid and that they have never been cited for any illegal rental violations.
Last week, a Hempstead man, Philip Williams, sued the town, alleging that his West Hempstead home was demolished while he was away in Florida.