LUPINACCI: HUNTINGTON EXPECTS ANTIDOTE TO NIGHTMARE DISCOVERY LAW CHANGES
Town of Huntington
… News Release From The Town of Huntington …
Public Information Office ¨Supervisor’s Office ¨100 Main Street ¨Huntington, NY 11743-6991
For Immediate Release
March 4, 2020
Contact: Lauren Lembo
Lupinacci: Huntington Expects Antidote for Nightmare Discovery Law Changes to be Ready by May 2020
Huntington – Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci expects the Town of Huntington to have the sole local municipal antidote to New York State’s criminal discovery procedure changes on Long Island, the Town’s new Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA), operational by May 2020.
Huntington Town Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci stated: “The State's changes to the discovery process created a nightmare for the Town Attorney’s office and Code Inspectors seeking to resolve code violations, restore public safety and improve quality of life for our residents.
“Our Town is fortunate enough to have had the State approve legislation enabling the establishment of the first Bureau of Administrative Adjudication on Long Island, which will not be subject to the State's new discovery obligations. Once it is operational, hopefully by May, residents in Huntington will be able to once again report code violations anonymously while the Town will be able to resolve these matters faster and more efficiently.”
The Town of Huntington has been heavily burdened over the past few months by New York State’s changes to the criminal discovery procedure. The new State law created a very laborious process on a tight timeline for code inspectors and Town attorneys, also eliminating the ability for individuals to report code violations anonymously.
Before the State changed the law, an individual would be able to report a code violation to the Town anonymously; if the violation was resolved through compliance, the entire process remained anonymous. Now, if a summons is issued, the Town must provide the person in violation of the Town Code identifying contact information of the person reporting the violation; if the case goes to trial, the Town must conduct a criminal background check on witness(es) and provide the defendant contents of the background check(s).
Supervisor Lupinacci added: “If the Town can’t protect the privacy of individuals concerned enough to report a code violation, this makes it less likely a person will report sometimes dangerous violations and it can escalate neighbor disputes, which helps no one.”
Previously, paperwork was never turned over to the defendant unless the case went to trial. Now, the Town only has a 15-day window for the process server to personally serve a summons, Town attorneys must file the case in Suffolk County 3rd District Court within 24 hours of a summons being issued, and all discovery must be turned over within 15 days of arraignment. Code inspectors and Town attorneys are chasing down records on a short timeline, copying every record related to the property or violation – documents, emails, texts, and notes – even searching the Town Clerk’s archives for old documents related to the property or violation.
“This adds overtime, more office work and less field work, all for cases that may never go to trial. Code inspectors are spending 25% of their time on administrative work and only 75% out in the field, where they are needed most,” said Lupinacci.
The Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA), or tribunal, resolves many of the issues created by the State's recent changes to the discovery process. The tribunal will cut red tape and improve operational efficiency to the Town’s code violation resolution process; maintain the privacy of residents and individuals who report violations that do not go to trial; allow for more local control over code enforcement, holding hearings at Town Hall instead of Suffolk County 3rd District Court; and resolve issues related to prosecuting violations in District Court that preceded the State's changes to discovery procedures.
The Town Attorney’s office, the Director of the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication and the Information Technology Department have been meeting regularly, since the appointment of the Bureau Director at the February 11, 2020 Town Board meeting, to develop policies, procedures, and forms for the tribunal and to integrate a software system that will manage the caseload.
At its November 6, 2019 meeting, the Huntington Town Board voted to establish the Town’s first municipal Bureau of Administrative Adjudication (BAA), or tribunal. The tribunal is the first of its kind on Long Island and only the third in New York State. It will hear cases of Town Code violations that threaten public health, safety and welfare, except for violations of the Building Code and Traffic Code.