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Southampton sex offender suit tossed out

The state's Supreme Court appellate division has overturned a lower court ruling and dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Town of Southampton against Suffolk County for sheltering all its homeless sex offenders within town boundaries.

In the Sept. 19 decision, the four-judge panel ruled that the town waited too long to file suit, past the time when it knew the trailers were placed on the property.

It did not address the merits of the case.

The decision also noted that the lawsuit was actually an "Article 78," not an action seeking an injunction. An Article 78 suit -- where a municipality is sued over what is considered illegal decisions -- has a statute of limitations of four months.

The suit was filed in 2009.

Since 2007, two trailers have housed the county's population of homeless sex offenders on the grounds of the county jail in Riverhead, with another at a Westhampton property owned by the town. In May, about 20 offenders were housed in Riverhead and about eight in Westhampton, officials said.

The town plans to appeal, according to board members.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a May news conference at Southampton's Town Hall that he plans to move the trailers and replace them with five or six "mini-shelters" throughout the county.

"We are still working on that plan," said Bellone spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter. "And to have that addressed by the end of 2012."

Federal law requires the county to provide housing for homeless sex offenders released from state prison.

While the county continues to find ways to spread the burden, the town board has not ruled out further litigation, despite the ruling.

"The county executive came to Southampton in May of this year and pronounced that the county was moving to implement a new plan that included dispersing the population of homeless sex offenders to more fairly distribute the burden," said Councilman Chris Nuzzi.

"As no action has been taken with the exception of the trailer being moved a few hundred yards in Westhampton, the town has no choice but to continue to compel the county to finally take the action promised."

Nuzzi co-sponsored the resolution to sue the county in 2009.

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