Thursday, May 3, 2012

Myers in Legal Hot Water?

This dovetails somewhat with the affordable housing situation in Kingston, in which we have Mayor Gallo openly attacking affordable housing during the campaign (to garner votes, no doubt), and then changing course on the issue when the development in question will be for "artists" instead of "poor and low-income" resident. In this case, however, Saugerties Supervisor Kelly Myers has apparently kicked the hornet's nest. From the Saugerties Times:
The lawyer for Dickinson’s Keep developer Crowne Management said last week that town supervisor Kelly Myers should recuse herself from voting on the project or she could face a lawsuit for interfering in a project. As a low-to-moderate-income housing development, a discrimination charge could be made, said attorney Michael Moriello.

Myers denied interfering with the project, and town attorney John Greco said there was no reason for her to recuse herself from the project.

The catalyst for Moriello’s statement was an unsuccessful request by Myers to have the project’s April 4 public hearing at the Ulster County Planning Board rescheduled. Myers said the call was not an attempt to derail the process, that she wanted the hearing to be rescheduled because that same night the town was holding a public hearing on a $15 million sports complex and she believed constituents should be able to attend both. She wanted to attend, too. County Planning Board chair Dennis Doyle confirmed that was the reason Myers gave.

Moriello wasn’t buying it. In a letter to the town, he wrote: “in any event, this is to inform that any further attempts at interfering with my client’s administrative due process rights by the supervisor will not be countenanced.”

In addition, Myers “made opposition to my client’s project a centerpiece of her recent election strategy,” Moriello states. He further states that in his opinion, the Town Board overstepped its authority in rescinding a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement that reduced Dickinson’s Keep tax liability.

Moriello also hinted at discrimination. He cited the Federal Fair Housing Act, which states that action taken by local governments that “would be a discriminatory housing practice shall be invalid.” The law covers both actions motivated by an intent to discriminate, or when “the local government’s otherwise neutral action nevertheless has an unnecessarily discriminatory effect.”

“The supervisor is certainly entitled to her opinion, and she is free to speak the same against this project for justifiable reasons and as a duly elected public official,” Moriello acknowledges. “However, as a town official, she is not entitled to engage in a course of action which is at variance with New York State law and which may result in a discriminatory effect under Federal law,” Moriello states. “Accordingly, it is evident that the supervisor should recuse herself from any further activities which involve my client and/or Dickinson’s Keep LLC.”
If I'm parsing all of this correctly, Myers campaigned against the project when she ran in November. Now, the developer Myers was attacking at that time is fighting back. Granted, the rescheduling of conflicting meetings, especially when it involves major projects, is always a good idea. But, when you make enemies of people who have attorneys on retainer, these things can come back to bite you. Dickinson's Keep will undoubtedly do whatever they can legally do to undermine Myers's position.

Not sure how this one will play out, but it could get very ugly very quickly if potential discrimination is involved (the feds do not look kindly on this kind of thing). Definitely one to watch.


  1. You can tell she drank the Bernardo koolaid of arrogance

  2. Just a correction. The County Planning Board does not hold public hearings or have any authority like that. What occurs is under New York State law and under the County charter certain land use actions must be reffered to the County Planning Board for comments and a vote of either "No County Impact", Required Modifications, Advisory comments, or Disapprove. Required modifications or disapprove must be either accepted or overruked by a supermajority vote of the referring agency. The public may speak during general public comment held every meeting, but there is no public hearing held on a county level.