LaVertu’s Vindicated in Town of Huntington vs. LaVertu Case
In November 2013, Judge Hackling decided in favor of the LaVertu’s in the town’s case against them. It is alleged that the Town acted in a retaliatory manor against the LaVertu’s in regards to violations and fines on their home. The defendant’s motion to vacate a Conditional Discharge and dismiss a Declaration of Delinquency was granted.
In June of 2012, after pleading guilty to one of two violations of the town code, the LaVertu’s entered into a plea bargain to pay a $750.00 fine and agreed to a Conditional Discharge which required them to follow through to bring their dwelling into compliance. The LaVertu’s were given 4 months to come into compliance.
The LaVertu’s applied for a “Letter In Lieu” of a Certificate of Occupancy. A Letter In Lieu can be issued when a dwelling predates the zoning code. The Letter In Lieu was approved on February 14, 2012.
At this point, the LaVertu’s were under the impression that they had satisfied the requirement of coming into compliance.
Many months later the LaVertu’s received an additional appearance ticket claiming that they were not in compliance.
In trying to ascertain why they were being called back into court, the LaVertu’s learned that their Letter In Lieu was revoked at some point. According to the LaVertu’s, Town officials made no attempt to inform them that the Letter In Lieu was revoked. From February 14, 2012 through March of 2013, the LaVertu’s were under the impression that they were in compliance.
After being told of this disapproval, they were unable to obtain a copy of the document stating the denial. Ms. LaVertu stated in a deposition that she needed to make many trips to Town Hall and eventually file a FOIL request to obtain a copy of the denial.
The charges against the LaVertu’s were that they “allowed there to be maintained a two story dwelling without a Certificate of Occupancy.” The approval report from February 2012, indicated that the inspector found no extension to the size on the permit, which was issued in 1956. The inspector indicated that he approved the dwelling for a Letter In Lieu.
The court determined that the Town could have and should have put the defendant on notice as to what additional actions the defendants were required to take.
Steve Morelli, the LaVertu’s attorney, issued the following statement, “The Town brought criminal charges against the LaVertus in retaliation for their free speech against the Town. The attached decision from the Third District Court, Suffolk County, dismissed the criminal charges against the LaVertu’s with respect to the alleged zoning violations to their house. This vindicates the LaVertus, and proves that the Town retaliated against them with these baseless charges, a significant development in the case”.
The LaVertu’s have an open case against the Town claiming that the town retaliated against their free speech. Click here to read about the case.
Read the decision here.