On Thursday, May 17, 2012 The Register Star ran an letter by planning board member and former head of the Stuyvesant Republican party Tom Shanahan called "Courts have better things to do." I know Mr. Shanahan resents the fact that newspapers and the ballot box are not the only checks on government. Luckily, the founding fathers gave us a strong judiciary to stand up to factional government. James Madison, arguing for strong courts, said, "By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."
I found out Mr. Shanahan objects to lawsuits the hard way. On October 26, 2011 I filed my first article 78 suit. On October 30, 2011, after Mr. Shanahan was seen observing my property, I was given a citation in town criminal court for dog barking. The charge is ridiculous but the charge allows up to 15 days in jail. When I showed up at the appearance date on the ticket on November 9, 2011, Judge Carrie O’Hare reported that the affidavit for this charge disappeared off the face of the earth. The town tried to prosecute me in the same way back in January 2011, a charge clearly based on a false affidavit. After I filed a suit in federal court, the town judge dismissed the first ticket, but not after the town hired a special prosecutor, on a dog barking charge, and spent more than $7000 on expensive Albany lawyers from Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna to prosecute me.
Since I filed my suits, this kind of nonsense has now stopped completely. I have not been ticketed for impossible charges. I do not have to endure hearings (the town put me through 16 in 2011). I don't have cars at the end of my driveway. The zoning officer stays away. I can operate my business without worrying about having to justify every action (even how I take out my trash) questioned before a board of busybodies.
Filing these suits is not sending a message. This is fighting for my livelihood and freedom from oppressive factional government. What is at stake in these suits is the rule of law, the 14th amendment, and basic issues of fairness.
Mr. Shanahan said, "Perhaps it is best encapsulated in a statement Mr. Pflaum posted about the most recent lawsuit on one of his blogs – 'My lawsuit is meant to send a very simple message: ...'" I never said this statement. It's in quotes.
Mr. Shanahan said, "the courts are not there for the purpose of 'sending messages.'" Yet on August 5, 2010 in an article on a junkyard in New Lebanon in the Regsiter Star, the town attorney said that a suit was would “send a message to anyone in New Lebanon who’s violating the law.” Google the phrase "send a message" and "lawsuit" and watch what happens.
Speaking about the lawsuit for information filed against the town clerk, Mr. Shanahan said, "Even the state Committee on Open Government, which oversees the FOIL law, applauded Town Clerk Melissa Naegeli’s diligence." This statement was long ago. Mr. Shanahan has clearly not been following the actual suit. I sued to get information Ms. Naegeli denied existed, including evidence that the Hook Boat club assessment is fraudulent. Although Ms. Naegeli mislead the court, I now have town officials on record that the documents exist, the ones they earlier denied. I consider that a complete victory.
Then Mr. Shanahan called my efforts "a frivolous abuse of the legal system." Mr. Shanahan can say this in a newspaper article but none of the town's seven (at least) attorneys have made this charge in court.
Then Mr. Shanahan said, "For Stuyvesant, the legal fees to defend against them now amount to many tens of thousands of dollars – and it’s likely to go higher." Did Mr. Shanahan complain when the town spent $150,000 to target me? And now, why does the taxpayer have to pick up the tab to defend supervisor Ron Knott's personal interests or the personal interests of ZBA Secretary?
As per New York General Municipal Law 805 (1)(c), officials cannot “receive, or enter into any agreement, express or implied, for compensation for services to be rendered in relation to any matter before any municipal agency of which he is an officer, member or employee or of any municipal agency over which he has jurisdiction or to which he has the power to appoint any member, officer or employee.” Mr. Knott signed a contract with William J. Better to defend his personal interests on the taxpayers' dime. Does the above law preclude this contract?
Then Mr. Shanahan said, "In the long run – surrendering to intimidation never turns out to be cheaper." My point exactly. As the zoning officer Gerry Ennis admitted, the town posted the ZEO at the edge of my property before dawn 25 times in June 2010, for example. I have a video of town board member Ed Scott threatening to beat me up for conducting a sound test mandated by the planning board on which Mr. Shanahan sits. The fire chief and town employee Steve Montie posted on the internet that I should move out of town and applauded Scott's vigilantism.
In addition, the town hired a special prosecutor, William Nolan, from the biggest law firm in the capital district to prosecute me in town court on a false, indeed impossible charge, based on a perjury then destroyed an affidavit proving a secondary account of perjury. Mr. Shanahan was involved in the second incident of judicial harassment and destruction of evidence in October 2011 as above.
Mr. Shanahan is part of the oppressive government that I am suing. If Mr. Shanahan got his wish and removed the ability of courts to keep tabs on local government, can you imagine the abuse and larceny that would be going on? Even now, the situation is not good.