They say the best defense is a good offense.
Port Jefferson Village officials believe it will be better equipped to enforce elements of its housing and building code thanks to its newly approved village special prosecutor. The village board voted unanimously to approve the appointment of attorney Paul Feuer to serve as special prosecutor during a Dec. 18 public meeting. He will serve in the position at a rate of $225 per hour, with a 15-hour monthly cap not to be exceeded without board approval.
Village Mayor Margot Garant said Feuer will be used to pursue cases including, but not limited to, illegal rentals, illegal signage and site clearing. Prior to Feuer’s appointment, Dara Martin Orlando prosecuted all cases on behalf of the village.
“What we’re doing here is we’re splitting out the prosecution of these cases from basically parking violation cases,” Larry LaPointe, deputy mayor and trustee, said, adding he’s known Feuer for about 30 years, calling him highly competent. “These are far more complex than parking cases. They’re not an area in which our present prosecutor is very well versed. I think it’s a good idea to split out the tough cases and to give them to a specialist who can start winning cases in court.”
Feuer’s selection came following the recommendation of Village Attorney Brian Egan and Alison LaPointe, special village attorney for building and planning, according to Garant. The new appointee’s law practice, Feuer & Feuer, is located in Patchogue and specializes in personal injury, real estate and criminal cases. According to his attorney profile on the website, he has been practicing law since 1987 and opened his own practice in Patchogue in 2000.
“There’s some serious cases that involve these illegal rentals,” Garant said, adding the typical slow pace of state supreme court cases, where cases on the local level can sometimes end up, were a motivating factor to establish a better system for handling and ultimately resolving more cases in-house. “Paul is a specialist in this … we are hoping that the people who continue to violate the code will now take us extremely seriously.”
Garant said the village is also considering separating building and housing code violators making court appearances in front of the village justice from parking-related cases, Currently all code violation cases are heard on Tuesday nights.
“If you’re ever up there on a Tuesday…everyone moves through that courtroom very quickly except for these,” Bruce D’Abramo, village trustee, said. “And then everyone with a parking ticket is sitting and waiting.”
The board expects Feuer’s hours to be heavily front-loaded, as it will take him time to get up to speed on existing cases. Garant said the expectation is that Feuer’s handling of the cases should allow the village to divert other dollars from its legal budget to the new special prosecutor, while also reducing the amount of hours spent on the cases by others. D’Abramo suggested Feuer’s appointment could also result in more revenue brought in by the village court, which could assist in paying his hourly rate.
“It could make a real difference, especially when these are serious cases that may go up to the next level, to the state supreme court,” he said.
Chris Bianco, an attorney who sat in on the meeting for Egan, also made the case for Feuer’s appointment.
“They’re the type of cases that invite legal challenges,” he said. “People actually get attorneys for these types of cases and they’re going to nitpick the information, subpoenas if they’re used, and it makes it difficult.”