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Feb 25, 2014 5:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Trustees Discuss Lawsuits At Hampton Bays Civic Association Meeting

Feb 26, 2014 11:50 AM

During an impromptu appearance in front of the Hampton Bays Civic Association on Monday night, three Southampton Town Trustees voiced their opinions about ongoing lawsuits that they say are threatening their board’s autonomy.

Board President Eric Shultz, along with Trustees Bill Pell and Scott Horowitz, addressed questions about a State Supreme Court ruling handed down by Justice Peter H. Mayer last month that gave the Southampton Town Board control over the Trustees’ nine bank accounts. Members of the Trustees, who are charged with overseeing the town’s waterfront and baybottoms, also pleaded for the public’s support.

“Just let us go to trial,” Mr. Shultz said, expressing his frustration about the West Hampton Dunes dispute that has dragged on for four years. “Let’s stop all the paperwork and the thousands and thousands of dollars that are being spent—it’s misuse. I’d rather put that in clams in the bay than in generating all this paperwork.”

The lawsuits in question are between the Trustees and a group of West Hampton Dunes residents. Those suits are part of a series of long-running disputes between the Trustees and incorporated villages within Southampton Town, some of which believe the board should not have authority over any land within the villages. The West Hampton Dunes residents have also accused the Trustees of inappropriately distributing funds to nonprofit organizations, and argued that it is not appropriate for the Trustees to maintain their own bank accounts independent of the town.

Justice Mayer issued two rulings, the first coming in January stating that the Trustees are not a sovereign governing body and, therefore, should not control their own bank accounts. The second ruling, which was handed down earlier this month, stated that the Trustees, whose existence was established by English settlers of pre-colonial Southampton in the 1640s, have no jurisdiction within the town’s incorporated villages.

The Trustees plan on filing an appeal of the decision regarding their bank accounts with the State Court of Appeals on Thursday. Because the Trustees do not have access to funds, they cannot pay lawyers to represent them in court and attorneys Richard Cahn and Joe Lombardo are now working pro bono.

Mr. Shultz said he has been frustrated by the legal process, citing the ability of the plaintiffs—in this instance, four West Hampton Dunes residents who are accusing the Trustees of inappropriately distributing money to nonprofits—to levy allegations in court without the individual Trustees getting a chance to defend themselves. He added that if the lawsuit could be brought to trial more expediently, it would save both time and money.

“What it really comes down to is anybody can make any accusation they want, then it gets in the headlines of the paper and, unfortunately, we’re in a position where the only way we can get our point across is by coming to meetings like this, because we certainly don’t have it in the courts right now” Mr. Shultz said. “You would think the judge would say, ‘OK, let’s hear both sides of the story.’ No, it doesn’t work like that.”

Hampton Bays resident Helen Burgess criticized Mr. Shultz’s description of the litigation as being one-sided and an inaccurate representation of the facts. Ms. Burgess, a recently appointed member of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, said if the matter actually goes to trial, the Trustees will be able to offer their side.

“I find it repulsive that you portray something totally inaccurately and make yourself a victim,” Ms. Burgess said during the public forum. “Because you are not a victim. Because it isn’t like you had an unfair trial.”

Hampton Bays Civic Association Vice President Bruce King invited the Trustees to speak during the meeting to give citizens the opportunity to learn more about the ongoing litigation. Mr. Pell asked the 20 or so audience members to put their support behind the Trustees during their legal battles. Mr. King even asked civic members to “like” the Trustees on Facebook, “because we need all the support we can get,” he said.

Mr. Pell said the lawsuits and injunctions are undermining the Trustees’ influence in the town, saying they are now “right below” the dog catcher.

“We definitely need all the freeholders, all the common people to get behind us and help us,” he said. “We’re gonna win, if not we’re gonna go down fighting.”

The Trustees also called upon the Southampton Town Board to back them up. Mr. Shultz noted that the board passed a resolution expressing support for the Trustees at a recent meeting, but members still have gone along with the court-issued injunction by taking over the Trustees’ finances.

Mr. Shultz added that he and the other Trustees do not want to have to call a special meeting to seek Town Board approval on every contract and expenditure, as the court order requires.

Town Councilman Brad Bender attended Monday’s meeting, but was reluctant to provide insight into how the Town Board would handle the issue moving forward.

“All I’ll say is that we support the Trustees 100 percent and always have,” Mr. Bender said. “People say we don’t support them and that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”

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From an Article in Nov, 2010 in the Press:

“Basically, they’re saying the Trustees have no lawful or regulatory power or control anywhere within the village,” Trustee Eric Shultz said of the claims made in the lawsuits. “It appears that Mayor Vegliante is taking the Trustees to court to stop any regulatory authority of the easement. That would affect beach driving, building on the beaches, public access to the beaches—you name it.”

Mr. Vegliante ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 26, 14 10:51 AM
Any threat to the Southampton Town Trustees is a threat to all the residents and visitors. It is a strike to the heart of what has made this town so special.

Dissolving this 300+ year old board that is charged with protecting the interests of all the Freeholders and commonalty would be the biggest mistake this town could ever make, especially since the people who keep bringing it up have a self serving agenda.......one that is NOT in the best interest of the people.

Lets protect ...more
By 007 (45), East Quogue on Feb 26, 14 11:36 AM
3 members liked this comment
The fear that most of us have should the trustees' funds be taken by the town board is that the board will cave in the face of the threat of litigation by well-heeled property owners, as it always has. The very existence of Westhampton Dunes, the residence of all the plaintiffs, is due to board pusillanimity. In 1992, facing a suit by local property owners that might find it liable for beach erosion, the then town board threw in the towel and ceded the westernmost section of our ocean beach to ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 26, 14 11:40 AM
While I had to look up ''pusillanimity'' I agree with your premise and think it's very astute to infer that this move has not only empowered those that would encroach our coastal right but in fact will now put them on steroids.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Feb 26, 14 12:46 PM
HHS - While I have little to offer in defense of WHD, you statement:

"Their effortless triumph over the town board has encouraged these speculators to take on the trustees, the ONLY regulatory body now standing between them and their plan to develop our bay bottom to their further profit."

Is completely bogus. If you think the triumph was "effortless" you need to watch the documentary and you need to look at the lawsuits that were filed and you need to talk to some people who ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 28, 14 11:49 AM
to Nature:

You have misunderstood. I agree completely with your assessment of the totality of the destruction of the community that became Westhampton Dunes and of the misfeasance that caused it, although I would attribute the latter to politicians' supine submission to the dictates of wealthy Dune Road residents at the other end of the beach rather than to incompetence. No one questions that the resurrection of Westhampton Dunes took great effort.

My point was that the Southampton ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 2, 14 11:27 AM
They don't want to develop bay bottom - they want to develop land which was formerly bay bottom. As storms occur and times marches on - areas that were once underwater will become land and vice versa.

The issue at hand is that they WHD residents who have put their proverbial flag in the sand to claim this land did so immediately after a storm which created the above-water sandbar. The Trustees claim that they shouldn't lose their described property simply because it is no longer underwater ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 2, 14 11:46 AM
Keep up the good work Southampton Town Trustees. Without you we will all loose. No beach access, no tourism, no money. All that will be left is a handful of extremely wealthy who will all of a sudden find this area barren and destroyed. This is a barrier beach and needs to remain one..remove ALL hardened structures including homes!
By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Feb 26, 14 11:42 AM
In the (closing in on) 400 year history of the Trustees, Mayor Vegliante is irrelevant (time-wise) and yet he is trying to single handidly destroy the Trustees for his personal gain.

For anyone interested - google: DEC supervisor may have violated ethics rules, 4/15/10

When you open the PDF report from the State, you will get a beautiful understanding of what WHD is all about and how incesteous it is and why the mayor is so anti-trustee. In the quote I posted above from the 2010 ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 26, 14 11:45 AM
6 members liked this comment
The PDF states that the Mayor appointed his wife to the position of Village Treasurer "under her maiden name"--that must make it very easy to get the checks signed, I bet!
By cedric (22), Southampton on Feb 26, 14 1:09 PM
1 member liked this comment
The entire document is basically a written history of unfounded complaints by the mayor against the DEC. The only action the DEC took against Chuck Hamilton was to shift him into a different department and to re-evaluate some permits which he had previously handled.

The mayor admitted to and was found "guilty" of numerous DEC violations and filed many complaints against Chuck Hamilton after the "play-to-pay" scheme "ended" eventhough he was, in fact, in violation of DEC regulations. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 26, 14 2:42 PM
Sure the information is out there, but in the grand scheme of things, issues like Linda Kabot's so-called "insults" to single mothers is infinitely more newsworthy than the cozy crony politics of WHD. [sarcasm off]

By cedric (22), Southampton on Feb 26, 14 3:57 PM
This is one of these deals where you have to take sides, stick to your choice come what may, come out swinging for your chosen side, keep swinging, and then swing some more.

Why? Because unlike most other issues that allow for nuance, where you can do the old on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand thing, where you can "see both sides," this one is pure life and death for the Town of Southampton.

Sure, the Trustees probably aren't doing everything 100% right (who does?), and sure, there's ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Feb 26, 14 8:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
I would like to see how much money is in the nine bank accounts that were frozen and understand what fees generated the money accumulated in these accounts. The trustees have been increasing the cost of permits and creating fees for the amount of material used to replace bulkheads and repair docks etc. they are also selling the sand from the dredging projects. What legal authority gives them the right to charge the citizens of the town of Southampton these new fees. An example of the fees is a per ...more
By Ernie (88), Hampton Bays on Feb 26, 14 10:48 PM
check out RIVERHEAD LOCALl and search for beach sellout see what happens when a board does not fight
By clammer (23), hampton bays on Feb 27, 14 12:50 AM
The Trustees should run thier own books just like the other departments in the town. However if it isnt it should also be transparent so when asked anyone can understand their accounts and accounting. West Hampton Dunes has been rebellious from the onset and i find that the judge has made a mistake as long before the town was cut up into villages the trustees governed all the beaches and waterways. they have done a fine job and should continue to be soverign West hampton Dunes wont be satisifed ...more
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Feb 27, 14 9:16 AM
GUYS, resorting to cut and paste, misstatements, fabricated facts and even slanderous statements, clearly show the benefit of your own pusillanimity (great thesaurus HH) and the cowardice of keyboard anonymity.
Very High, time to put down the thesaurus and start reading the facts, we never sued the town regarding the beach incorporation the TOWN WAS NEVER THREATENED by an impending suit regarding incorporation.
Nature, I didn't expect you would be that disingenuous "admitted and found ...more
By veggary (45), West HamptonDunes on Feb 28, 14 9:09 AM
Mr. Mayor (sir), note the term guilty was in quotes - as in not to imply guilty in a court of law, but "guilty" in that the village did in fact have wetlands violations on their property and "guilty" in the fact that the property which was subdivided did not in fact benefit from approval by the DEC and "guilty" in the fact that allegations you made against Chuck Hamilton and the NYS DEC were unfounded.

Not one thing that I stated above is a "misstatement" "fabricated fact" or "slanderous". ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 28, 14 11:41 AM
to veggary:

The FACT is that the Southampton Town Board ceded jurisdiction of our westernmost town ocean barrier beach (currently Westhampton Dunes) as a quid pro quo for being exempted from the prospect of interminable litigation by you and your chums. This is standard town board procedure. In the face of expensive litigation, regardless of the the prospective outcome, it makes the problem go away by giving up (or, more commonly, by never even attempting to enforce the legal rights of ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 28, 14 3:34 PM
Well that explains it, I should have said you were "guilty" of cut and paste, misstatements, fabricated facts and even slanderous statements. What you apparently left out were the words "notice of " violations. There was not one conviction of any allegation made by the DEC.
"the fact that allegations you made against Chuck Hamilton and the NYS DEC were unfounded." unfortunately you could not have read the report which clearly indicated a serious problem but a union agreement time barred any ...more
By veggary (45), West HamptonDunes on Feb 28, 14 5:14 PM
I'll let your deflection of my inquiry stand on its own. I'll also trust the NYS Inspector General over your vague denials.
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 28, 14 5:34 PM
1 member liked this comment
HHS is way off the mark again with this comment: Having poured concrete over every inch of “buildable” acreage within your village

The only area that's paved is the roadway which leads to a county park and would be there regardless of the presence or style of homes in WHD. All homes within WHD are on pilings - there's no concrete, no slabs, just posts which hold the houses above the ground. This type of building is far less "destructive" to our lands than standard construction ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 28, 14 10:45 PM
Nature, was there even an inquiry to deflect ?

Your post seems composed with a predetermined agenda, to discredit me, my family and my community. As you know "being vague" is never my style so I will be very clear, there never were any laws broken by myself or our community regardless of what you my have gleaned from a very inaccurate, poorly written and disputed IG report.

Doesn't it seem the least bit suspicious that during a dispute with a very powerful DEC official these ...more
By veggary (45), West HamptonDunes on Feb 28, 14 9:34 PM
"Nature, was there even an inquiry to deflect"

I listed 9 "facts" gleaned from a state sanctioned report and asked which are not true. A simple "true/false" would have sufficed.

I don't think there's anything wrong with you signing paperwork for the subdivision or even buying the land afterward (nothing precludes you from it) but when the purchase is done with an LLC, only later to be transferred to your wifes name, and when the land division did not benefit from the DEC, and ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 28, 14 10:50 PM
to veggary & Nature:

While my comment on "pouring concrete" was a metaphorical reference to the plot coverage of oceanfront buildings in Westhampton Dunes that is apparent in aerial photographs, it WAS inapt. Apologies.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 28, 14 10:55 PM
Thank you HH.

Nature, it is so much easier now that your framing your inquiry a little more like a question and a little less an accusation.
Yes, the property was purchased as an LLC, as I'm sure you know is quite common for many high end, expensive properties. Yes, it was later changed to my wife's name, Unfortunately, you well know my wife and I were hit by a lawsuit from our wonderful town trustees, we were forced to convert the property into her name in order to support this very ...more
By veggary (45), West HamptonDunes on Mar 1, 14 1:35 PM
Mr. Mayor,

Again you have impressed me with your ability to deal with the questions at hand (ultimately) and not get off on some far flung tangent as many posters often do.

My comments at the top of the thread were not meant to slander you or frame you or to misrepresent you. They stemmed from reading a report prepared by NYS's IG and from years of general knowledge and understanding of the operations of your village and people involved.

I asked what was true and what ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Mar 1, 14 5:40 PM
Nature, sorry if I mistook some of your posts. Your even tempered responses and your knowledge of our community is most impressive and appreciated.

We've all been victims of "appearance" however I've come to learn the truth usually prevails.

I believe we did do a little better in a subsequent census but 11 people on a freezing winter Weds. in February is probably no more accurate than 3,500 people on a sunny Saturday in August.

I have benefited and even enjoyed our conversations ...more
By veggary (45), West HamptonDunes on Mar 1, 14 11:27 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you HH.

Nature, it is so much easier now that your framing your inquiry a little more like a question and a little less an accusation.
Yes, the property was purchased as an LLC, as I'm sure you know is quite common for many high end, expensive properties. Yes, it was later changed to my wife's name, Unfortunately, you well know my wife and I were hit by a lawsuit from our wonderful town trustees, we were forced to convert the property into her name in order to support this very ...more
By veggary (45), West HamptonDunes on Mar 1, 14 1:35 PM
Apparently the judge failed to read the patent. It expressly sets up the Trustees AS a governing body across the board. Pun possibly intended. It seems like people think they can find land made from recovered bay bottom, and plant a flag on it like Cortez.

Does this kind of BS go in in other towns which the multiple Dongan Patents apply to?

To quote Wiki:

At the time of his appointment, the province was bankrupt and in a state of rebellion. Dongan was able to restore ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Mar 1, 14 6:01 PM