Press-Republican

January 30, 2013

Crown Point wins lawsuit

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — CROWN POINT — A lawsuit filed by two Crown Point Board of Assessment Review members, whose appointments were rescinded by the new supervisor, has been decided in the town’s favor.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Richard Meyer ruled that Glenn Russell and Ronald Clarke didn’t take their oaths of office for the Town Board of Assessment Review within the required 30 days of being appointed, so their posts were legally vacant.

The Town Council had named Joseph Duval and Douglas Woods to take their places, and those appointments will now stand.

PAST PRACTICE

Russell and Clarke had been appointed by the outgoing town supervisor, Bethany Kosmider, in 2011.

But when newly elected Crown Point Town Supervisor Charles Harrington came into office last year he made a successful motion to invalidate the appointments of Russell and Clarke.

Evidence was introduced in State Supreme Court of Essex County that no one, including longtime members, could ever remember taking an oath of office for the Board of Assessment Review within 30 days.

But Meyer said state law was still clear that the oaths had to be taken.

“While it may well be that all members of the Board of Assessment Review do not legally hold office because they did not take and file their respective oaths of office within the 30 days required by the Public Officers Law, that issue is not before the court,” Meyer wrote.

APPEAL PLANNED

The attorney for Russell and Clarke, Dominick Viscardi of Ticonderoga, said he will file an appeal of the decision to the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court in Albany.

“It was a purely discretionary enforcement (of the Public Officers Law) by the town. The town knew full well the process.”

Harrington, however, said said the town’s actions have been vindicated by Meyer.

“It was so very evident from the start that the prevailing issue was the failure of Russell and Clarke to take their oaths with a 30-day window from the day of appointment. New York state law is specific in regards to that.”

COST TO TOWN CITED

The supervisor said Crown Point’s legal bills so far have totaled $7,208. The town is represented by attorney Cathi Radner of Glens Falls.

“The petitioners may file an appeal, but there would be a significant additional expense (to the town) before that appeal goes forward,” Harrington said.

He said that, in the past, the town has always advertised openings on its boards but hadn’t done that when Russell and Clarke were appointed.

“The town had a process for maintaining a Board of Assessment Review that had been established for over 100 years. As a result of this suit, the established process will be maintained.”

The Board of Assessment Review hears cases in which property owners dispute the value placed on homes and businesses by the town assessor for taxation purposes.

The board has the authority to change the assessment if it finds there is cause to do so.

Email Lohr McKinstry: lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com