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Greenport fisherman urges Suffolk DA to investigate village's dock records

Commerical fisherman Sidney Smith, from Greenport, stands on

Commerical fisherman Sidney Smith, from Greenport, stands on the dock where he keeps his vessel the Merit. Credit: Randee Daddona

A North Fork fisherman has escalated his battle with Greenport Village after he said officials targeted his commercial boat for eviction from a village dock following long-standing criticism of the local government.

Last week, Sidney Smith of Greenport asked the Suffolk County district attorney's office to investigate the village after he said officials were unable to account for more than a decade of payments to moor fishing boats at the village's commercial dock.

Smith, a third-generation fisherman, said in a Sept. 11 letter sent by his lawyer to the office of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota that he requested records from the village dating to 1997 detailing the amounts boat owners have paid for slips at Greenport's Railroad Dock. Smith filed the request through New York's Freedom of Information Law.

Greenport's reply said records were available going back only to 2012. "We do not have a separate listing of Railroad Dock rents prior to 2012," states the letter from village clerk Sylvia Pirillo. "For those years the rent is included in the general ledger with all other rental income."

Pirillo declined to comment Wednesday, saying she had not heard from the district attorney's office.

The village produced handwritten records showing three fishing boats, one of which was Smith's, paying a total of between $2,310 and $2,350 each year for the past three years. It also shows two charter boats apparently paying no money for slips in 2012.

"Honestly, it looked like they were copied from something else, or just made up, and all written at the same time," said Smith's attorney, Daniel Rodgers of Southampton.

Mark Phillips, a fisherman and the husband of village trustee Mary Bess Phillips, also rents a slip at the dock. Neither returned a call Wednesday seeking comment.

Village administrator Paul Pallas said Wednesday he believes mooring fee records prior to 2012 exist, but not in the specific form Smith requested.

"It would take some time to go through the records," he said.

Suffolk County DA Spota declined to comment through a spokesman.

Pallas said Wednesday that the village is no longer trying to evict Smith from the dock, which he has used for 17 years, because he has purchased a $1 million insurance policy for his boat.

Smith -- a well-known gadfly who has criticized village policies at meetings -- said he was out of compliance for all that time with $250,000 in coverage, but never heard from the village about it. The board voted on June 23 to evict him.

Greenport Village attorney Joseph Prokop sent Smith a letter on July 25 saying his dock license would end on Aug. 31 because he lacked the requisite level of insurance coverage for his 63-foot trawler.

"It's an abuse of power -- they [village officials] should resign," Smith said Wednesday. But Pallas said the fight is over. "From our perspective, it's a nonissue at the moment," he said.

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