A legal dispute between a former Old Brookville trustee and village officials over the use and improvement of a cottage has escalated into a civil rights case in federal court.

The village violated the "class of one" equal-protection rights of Jacqueline Sacher and her husband, Howard, by treating them differently than other residents when it denied them zoning variances to expand the cottage and use it as a residence, the Sachers allege in court documents.

Mayor Bernard Ryba had "personal animus" toward them because they opposed his re-election, they allege.

"Numerous other similarly situated" residences were granted variances or allowed to use cottages as residences without permits, the Sachers said in a complaint filed last month in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York.

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The complaint lists five village entities and 26 elected and appointed village officials as defendants. In it, the Sachers also say they were denied due process rights and request a jury trial, $1.5 million for damages and $13.5 million from the individuals for punitive damages.

Mark Radi, a Carle Place attorney for the defendants, said he would file a motion to dismiss the complaint with a request for a pre-motion conference. In the request, he said the Sachers did not use "factual allegations" to support their claims that others were favored.

Ryba could not be reached for comment. Village attorney John Chase said he could not comment on ongoing litigation.

The Sachers and their attorney, Angelo Ferlito of Copiague, could not be reached for comment. Jacqueline Sacher served on the village board of trustees until last summer.

The Sachers last month lost a case in State Supreme Court in Nassau that claimed the village board of zoning appeals denied their variance application illegally and irrationally. The court said the Sachers did not submit evidence to support their claims.