Were Laws Broken? Sounds Like Back Room Deals? Caught on Tape
The Huntingtonian was trying to obtain information regarding the rental registration law as required by Town Code (see below). We believe the law was passed with legislation in 2002 and recently amended to include Section 8 dwellings which were previously excluded. We were under the impression that there was supposed to be some sort of a list available of all non-owner occupied rentals in the Town. In trying to ascertain the facts regarding the rental registration laws, we began to submit FOIL requests and ask questions. Ken Lindahl who is the Director of Public Safety was not familiar with such a list. AJ Carter would not commit one way or another if such a list existed. Glenda Jackson and Susan Berland seemed confused by our request and said they didn’t think there was such a law. After playing our usual game of Freedom of Information Wack-A-Mole with AJ Carter, there was a strange turn of events. In early October of this year A.J. called one of our editor’s cell phones to yet again clarify what we were asking for. When there was no answer on the cell phone, AJ left a message and then hung up, or should we say, he thought he hung up. We know that its not really a tape per se but a digital recording. Some habits are hard to break.
AJ Carter Called our editors cell phone and asked “about the many rental properties” we were inquiring about. He must not have hung up the phone completely because what took place in the room recorded to the cell phone message.
The tape is being investigated, but we believe the voices on the tape are AJ Carter, Janet Rinker from code enforcement and Robert Fonti from the Huntington Housing Authority. The exact names have not been confirmed yet, and the exact number of people in the room has not been confirmed.
This is the nature of what you will hear on the tape:
- It seemed the people in the room were scheming to find out what The Huntingtonian knew before giving any additional information.
- It seemed the people in the room were trying to figure out if laws had been followed in the HHA (Huntington Housing Authority)
- It sounded like collusion to protect landlords who are not following the law.
- A.J. Carter says that “Frank” had been telling him to delay FOIL’s as long as possible. (It is likely that he is referring to Town Supervisor Frank Petrone).
- One unconfirmed voice (We believe to be Chairman of the Huntington Housing Authority Robert Fonti) lies about Councilman Mayoka, stating that Mr. Mayoka asked him to “underwrite” The Huntingtonian Newspaper about a year ago. (The Huntingtonian Newspaper was not even a concept a year ago. Mark Mayoka has no ownership, involvement with or authority at the Newspaper. He learned of its existence online just like the general public did.) Nothing illegal about this.
- One unconfirmed voice (We believe to be Robert Fonti) in the room alludes to having informants in the Republican Party and that he will neutralize any problems. Nothing illegal about this but it is unsettling.
- There is discussion of a well know Legislator having 15 alias on media sites. Nothing illegal about this.
- It sounded as if these conversations were political in nature which could be in violation of the law because they took place in Town Hall during what was, at the time of the recording (October 7, 2011 at 11:22 am), regular working hours. The phone call came from 631-351-3000.
To this date they did not release any information to us. They claimed we would need to spend hundreds of dollars to receive the information we requested. It is our understanding that if information is scanned and electronically sent, the resident does not need to pay for it.
If you want to listen to the recorded conversation click the arrow to the right of the speaker icon below. Please be advised that there are expletives in the tape that are not appropriate for children to hear. We decided not to edit the tape so you could get the full effect of what was said.
Voice Message About FOIL Request
§ 160-3. Registration of rental property required.
[Amended 4-19-2005 by L.L. No. 8-2005]
A. The owner, managing agent and/or person-in-charge of rental property in any zoning district within the Town of Huntington shall register the property with the Department of Public Safety by February 1 of each year. In the event the property is not utilized as rental property until after February 1 of a given year, the owner, managing agent and/or person-in-charge shall register the property within thirty (30) days of the date the property is first utilized as rental property or February 1, whichever is sooner.
B. In the event ownership of rental property is transferred to a new owner after February 1 of a given year, the new owner, managing agent and/or person-in-charge shall register the property within thirty (30) days of the closing of title or February 1, whichever is sooner. If the property is not registered as required by this chapter there shall be a presumption that the property is being utilized as rental property by the new owner(s) in violation of law.
C. Failure of an owner or managing agent to register rental property or to register within the time provided shall constitute a violation of this chapter and shall be punishable by a fine in a sum not lower than one hundred dollars ($100.) or greater than one hundred fifty dollars ($150.) for the first offense; for a second or subsequent offense, a fine not lower than one hundred twenty five dollars ($125.) or greater than two hundred dollars ($200.). Each week the violation continues shall be deemed a separate and distinct offense. In addition to the penalties set forth herein, the Town of Huntington may impose civil penalties in a sum not lower than one hundred dollars ($100.) or greater than one hundred fifty dollars ($150.) for the first offense; for a second or subsequent offense, a fine not lower than one hundred twenty five dollars ($125.) or greater than two hundred dollars ($200.).
[Amended 4-13-2010 by L.L. No. 6-2010]