Manorhaven OKs settlement in board appointment dispute

Manorhaven OKs settlement in board appointment dispute
Manorhaven's Village Hall. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Manorhaven Board of Trustees passed a resolution authorizing a settlement payment for a legal dispute over appointments to the village’s boards Wednesday night, bringing an end to the more than year-long dispute.

The board voted to approve the $900 settlement for the lawsuit, which was conducted in the the federal court’s Eastern District of New York.

The suit by Brendan Fahey, Jeremy Devine and Audra Signer challenged the village’s “alleged failure and refusal to accept plaintiffs’ various appointments and oaths of office.”

Days before leaving office, former Manorhaven Mayor Jim Avena filled several vacancies. This included the appointment of Devine and Singer to the planning board and Fahey to the zoning board.

Two days after Aveena left office, at the village’s organizational meeting his successor, John Popeleski, was sworn in and Elise Ledda, Frank Ottaviani and Richard Zimbardi were appointed to fill the open positions.

Fahey, Devine and Signer filed a claim in 2022 seeking their “lawful appointments” to be recognized and retroactively corrected to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Boards. They were contesting the appointments of Ledda, Ottaviani and Zimbardi.

Both parties are required to file a stipulation of dismissal by May 13 now that a settlement has been reached.

The board also adopted a local law to restrict parking at all times on the west side of Cottonwood Road from the southern curbline of Manorhaven Boulevard for a distance of 50 feet.

All the other resolutions presented Wednesday were passed by the board, including a budget transfer of $10,000 from the snow removal contractual expense to its equipment account.

Popeleski said the village needs a new salt spreader, requiring money to be moved from accounts to pay for the machine. He said the village opted to purchase it now since prices are lower.

In other news, Popeleski said he asked Trustee Jeffrey Stone multiple times to publicly apologize to the stenographer for a prior insult at the meeting Wednesday night, which he said he refused to do since he had already done it over the phone.

The previous Board of Trustees meeting lit up with insults and angry exchanges between members of the public and board members after Stone asked for a public discussion on the development of 12-20 Matinecock Ave. – a property that has been the root of prior disputes.

Multiple times residents and members of the board were asked to quiet down and allow people to speak one at a time throughout the meeting.

The stenographer had asked individuals to speak one at a time for the record, to which Stone replied by saying: “I thought you were talented.”

Stone said at the meeting this was intended to be a joke but was called out by other board members for being disrespectful.

The meeting was ended by Popeleski after Stone made the comment toward the stenographer.

Popeleski said Stone’s prior comments were uncalled for.

“The chaos that happened was all caused by him,” Popeleski said.

Efforts to reach Stone for comment were unavailing.

When asked why the village would not hold a forum on the property as Stone was requesting, Popeleski told Blank Slate Media that residents can bring up questions and concerns themself during public comment periods at meetings.

The Manorhaven Board of Trustees will convene again for its work session at 6 p.m. on April 3.

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