Lawsuit Filed Against Town Over Unanswered Shelter Questions
Two attorneys, who also happen to be avid animal rights advocates, have filed a lawsuit against the Town of Hempstead after the town board allegedly "refused" to answer questions about the animal shelter at multiple public meetings.
The lawsuit states, "The refusal of the board to entertain questions concerning the Animal Shelter not only violates the spirit of the law, but in view of the established protocol of the Town of Hempstead to entertain all questions relating to the Town and its operation, is violative of the law itself."
However, the town has maintained that it cannot answer questions about the animal shelter during the public session with a pending lawsuit regarding the shelter already in place.
According to the lawsuit, during a public meeting held on Jan. 10, Joseph Ra, attorney for Hempstead Town, said that since the animal shelter was the "subject of a federal lawsuit and that because the board meetings were being recorded, these recordings would taint the potential jury selected to hear the case when tried."
"In general, the town does not comment on pending litigation," the town said in statement. "At the same time, we believe that this lawsuit is well beyond the bounds of frivolousness. What's more, the town board fully complies with the provisions of the Open Meetings Law. In response to inquiries about the town's animal shelter, we have replied to hundreds of Freedom of Information requests in a timely manner."
The town's claim about the lawsuit's "frivolousness" may very well be true. New York State Committee on Open Government assistant director Camille Jobin-Davis told Newsday [paid link] "there is no requirement in the law that says a public official has to answer questions or speak during a public meeting."
Town Working to Reopen Shellfish Harvest Areas
The following is a statement from the Town of Hempstead regarding shellfish harvesting areas. No shellfishing licenses have been revoked by the town, nor any other entity at this time.
"The Town of Hempstead is committed to ensuring that bays and waterways in the township are safe and clean. In response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration report that has questioned the reliability of certain bay water quality testing data, the town will work with New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation to collect additional water samples to verify the quality of local bay water. Our municipal workforce is dedicated to working toward the reopening of shellfish harvest areas as swiftly as possible."