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Four Residents Take Legal Action, Want to Be Heard on Marion Carll Farm Lawsuit

Commack residents file a motion to intervene in the Carll heirs' lawsuit, calling Commack School District's defense is "inadequate."

Four Commack residents have filed a legal motion to have their voices heard in court on the Marion Carll Farm lawsuit, and have called the district's defense of the suit "a sham."

But school officials don't want the taxpayers involved.

Vito J. Cottone, Daniel Fusco, Arthur J. Reilly Sr., and James Tampellini filed a Motion to Intervene in July on the lawsuit brought forth by Carll's heirs against Commack School District for possession of the nine-acre historic farm in March. The four taxpaying residents, legally called interveners, believe the district's response to the lawsuit is "inadequate."

, who seek to repossess the historic property, claiming the school district has failed to use the land for educational and public purposes. The district responded to the lawsuit on June 12.

The residents said that their motivation for getting involved is to see Marion Carll Farm preserved for the community.

Page three of the residents' motion to intervene reads:

[The] Intervenors are concerned whether the District is making a genuine effort to defend against the Plaintiff's claim to the Property, or whether the District's effort is simply a sham designed to provide the District with a means of ridding itself the Property without obtaining voter approval from taxpayers - which is required for the District to sell the property - and thus circumventing the law...

The four residents claim the district fails to assert specific defenses of the lawsuit, particularly the statute of limitations as to whether the heirs' have a legal right to the property, after not seeking ownership of the farm for more than 20 years.

In the motion to intervene, residents refer to James Tampellini's blog on Commack Patch titled " published May 28. Tampellini, an attorney, lays out the argument for the statute of limitations.

Commack School District Attorney Eugene Barnosky acknowledged reading Tampellini's blog at the district's June 14 board meeting and said the argument would be reviewed and considered. It was not raised in the district's response to the heirs.

The residents also point to school officials' comments that they were hoping not to spend extensive fees defending the suit in a prolonged court battle, their earlier proposal to sell the property to private developer in 2010, and the property's current state of disrepair.

Commack School officials filed a legal response Aug. 13 to the residents' efforts to intervene in the Marion Carll Farm lawsuit.

The district's attorney claims the residents "are seeking to usurp the statutory authority of the District to manage its affairs - including management of its real property - by intervening in this litigation."

The school district argues that despite being taxpaying residents, Cottone, Fusco, Reilly, and Tampellini don't have any ownership or monetary interest in the farm. None of them can claim they've ever used or enjoyed the farm or its land, and hence don't have an interest.

Secondly, school officials said the residents' legal arguments in defense of the lawsuit "border on the frivolous."

"Taxpayers cannot be (and thankfully are not) permitted to intervene and voice their opinions in every action brought against a school district solely because they happen to disagree with the district's legal defense or strategy, regardless of whether they have a real interest in the action," district attorney Lauren Schnitzer, of Melville-based Lamb & Barnosky, writes on page 4.

School officials ask that the residents' request to intervene in the Carll heirs' lawsuit be dismissed.

The Commack residents have until Sept. 4 to file a response to school officials with the court.

The Commack Board of Education does not have any update on the Marion Carll Farm lawsuit, though the topic is listed in their preliminary agenda for their 8 p.m. Thursday meeting at Hubbs Administration Center.

Friend of the Farm August 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM
A few Civic groups are currently working on plans to save this historic property and use it as proposed by the Will and open the property for the enjoyment of the Commack / Long Island Community once this lawsuit is resolved. These proposals would remove the property from the school districts expense rolls. The support of the community would go far to bring these ideas to fruition. Contact your local civic associations.
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING August 30, 2012 at 06:13 PM
The District has invested hundreds of thousands of our taxpayers dollars in maintaining and repairing the farm? Cmon....the place is a dump and its being left to rot away into oblivion. Add to that, its closed to the public. There is a padlocked gate at the entrance to the farm. If "hundreds of thousands" of dollars has been spent on this property, then there is someone walking around with extremely overstuffed pockets, because that money sure isnt going into beautification projects.
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING August 30, 2012 at 06:28 PM
If this town cares about its future, it will act post haste to remove any and all "mere" trustees from the board and right a ship that is woefully adrift.
John Gruber August 30, 2012 at 06:43 PM
plus the all the costs of the lawyers, it just doesn't make sense. give it to the heirs and let them decide. it's not like it does anything but cost the district money it can't afford
EDO August 30, 2012 at 07:06 PM
CC - yes the district spent close to a million dollars restoring the property in the 90's (approx $500k local taxes and $500k matching state grants). Those grants still have a few years left for conformance on them for which we could potentially be required to refund the money due to neglect of the property; That is why the state is named in the suit. Then after spending all that money they just let it rot. http://www.jarro.com/commercial/historical-restorations/ Some people might find this link to be funny http://www.commack.k12.ny.us/historicalcommittee/historicalcommittee.htm
Shinbone August 30, 2012 at 07:53 PM
@CC - I believe the Board stated a number of times that it spends approx. $30k a year in insurance and maintenance alone... Add that up over the years along with the restoration costs from the 90's noted by EDO and it's big $$$. The fact that the District has mishandled the property and has not let the community use it does not mean that there's no potential for it to be put to good use in the future for the benefit of the community and general public.....
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING August 30, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Shinbone. I know there is potential for the property. I did not say there was'nt. I do however questionthe validity of the claim regarding the expenditure of $30K a year to insure and maintain a vacant and deteriorating parcel of land. If it isnt broken out of the budget as a separate line item, I do not believe the claim to be true.
Shinbone August 30, 2012 at 08:20 PM
@CC - I am with you on that.... I am just relaying what we are being told by the Board..the truth of what they say is another issue..
pbug56 August 30, 2012 at 08:56 PM
So nice of the district to find new ways to waste taxpayer money. They need to find out how they can return the farm to the family without paying back any grants; they don't want the farm, they refuse to use it, and they have let it rot away. While there is something left it needs to go to someone who will use it for the good of the community.
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING August 30, 2012 at 08:58 PM
Exactly!!!! The Board makes lots of spurious claims!!!!
GM August 30, 2012 at 10:16 PM
Go get 'em boys!
Andrea August 31, 2012 at 01:30 AM
This sounds so absurd. The district does not want to spend money to defend the the lawsuit brought by the heirs, but they are willing to spend money to fight citizens of the community who are helping the districts cause for free? What the heck am I missing here? Why are people not outraged?
John Gruber August 31, 2012 at 01:35 AM
who wants to bet that "30k" goes to something other than the farm and is just included in the budget to get the money?
susan r August 31, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Why can't the school fix it up and use it in some way (educational) to make money, like a little old bethpage village? Kids could go there on field trips, people could pay to walk around and tour the place? Hold classes there, lease it out to senior groups for their meetings, there are a lot of ways to at the very least recoup the yearly expenses and maybe even generate some real income.
susan r August 31, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Concerned Commack - you said it all!!! Very well put and very (sadly) true! Speaking of the Commack attorney, where the hell did they get him? He is the smuggest and most arrogant man I have ever heard speak. He was so incredibly rude at the board meeting this summer! I wonder who he knew to get the job, he sure did not do it on his great people skills or sparkling personality!
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING August 31, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Ive said it before Susan. The CUFSD wants nothing to do with any plan that would give Commack more of a community atmosphere. The lack of a "downtown" or "Main Street" in Commack ensures that school district facilities will remain the focal point for any type of social gathering. This in turn allows the district to keep itself at the forefront of our communal lives. Unfortunately too many people buy into it and nothing changes.
GLENN August 31, 2012 at 11:49 PM
wow ....well said....
GLENN August 31, 2012 at 11:53 PM
The school dist. tried to sell this farm, they held the vote on prom night in the back of the high school with a tiny hand written sign that said "vote here" so sneaky. It sure does seem as if Donald James wants to sell it only to the golf course.hmmmm follow the $$ as always...
Concerned Comamck Citizen September 02, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Ann Marie, you are worse than Paul Ryan when it comes to distorting the facts. The vote was not held on prom night. It was not in the back of the high school, it was the usual places at the high school and middle school as all other votes. Don James was not the supt when the sale was proposed, it was Jim Feltman. And there were mailings and public hearings.
SMJ September 02, 2012 at 06:11 PM
If the Commack Community wanted Dan Fusco to voice his opinions in court and represent the Commack School District we would have voted him into office, that did not happen. The BOE members were put there by the majority of the Commack people because they are who we entrusted to make the decisions regarding what is best for our district. Dan and the rest of his possy need to step back and let the BOE members, who we voted for, do what they feel is best for us.
GM September 02, 2012 at 09:11 PM
The tide is quickly turning. This Board's days are numbered. (I read on another post that the Board is trying to sneak through the crony contracts in the summer session. It appears they were caught.) If you recall, Fusco began a campaign about 45 days before the election and lost by only 400 votes. That's pretty good for a guy nobody really knew. Also, the BOE strategy of putting forward a small budget increase, to keep the voter turnout low, was successful. I don't expect that will happen 2 years in a row. It's time for the Hunderfund Board to step down graciously and pass the torch to the new guard. By doing so, perhaps they can preserve their own legacy, if you will, rather going out kicking and screaming. Do they really want to revisit the Hunderfund, Feltman, and Tornee years along with the respective scandals. I hope that's not where the next BOE election campaign is going. Also, it seems that the posse has grown into a small army at this point. It will be interesting if nothing else.
Friend of the Farm September 03, 2012 at 02:17 AM
We will take all the help we can get to save this historic farm. the commack community spoke on the topic of the district getting rid of the property- they said "NO". Do these five people stand above the will of the community? It is not about what the board feels is best for us, it is what we feel is best for us. We voted on it, so accept our vote! The farm belongs to the Commack community !!
Commack Dave September 03, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Give part of the land to the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps, so that they are able to build a modern building and continue to serve the Commack community as they have been doing since 1966..
Retired September 03, 2012 at 01:26 PM
@SMJ - Trust the Commack School Board to do what's best? Come on man wake up!! Where have you been the past 10+ years of fiscal mismanagement...while they have been raising our taxes year after year so they can dole out more and more money to the District's employees? They don't what's best nor how to do it..... they would give this property away for nothing if they could..and screw the community out of all the money they laid out to maintain it over the past 30 years..while they never even allowed the public access to it.. The fact that you may not like Fusco personally should not distort you from seeing the truth of the matter.. that in this instance he's trying to do the right thing for the community...
Retired September 03, 2012 at 01:30 PM
@CommackDave - Great Idea!! If the District can't figure out anyway to use it then give, it or part of it, to someone who can and will make use of it for the benefit of the community...like the Ambulance Corp. of Fire dept..
Retired September 03, 2012 at 01:36 PM
GM, I Agree --If you think about it Fusco actually lost by only 201 votes..as he only needed 1 vote more than Guber. Not sure if he's running again..but I hope he or someone else worthwhile will.. as there will be 2 position up for re-election.. We need new Board members if some serious changes are going to be made....
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING September 04, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Hate to go off topic, but remember the Energy contract with johnson Controls? The agenda for the August 30 BOE meeting has this in it. "The administration recommends that the Board of Education approve the amendment to the contract with Johnson Controls, Inc. and authorize the President of the Board to sign same" Anyone know what the amendment to this very fresh contract is all about? .
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING September 04, 2012 at 06:46 PM
From the August 30 BOE Agenda....... " The Board of Education is requested to acknowledge receipt of the statement for professional services rendered on non-retainer matters in the amount of $29,712.30 for the period ending June 30, 2012, and in the amount of $16,133.80 for the period ending July 31, 2012 submitted by Lamb & Barnosky, LLP. "
Paul P September 04, 2012 at 08:28 PM
The person who knows is at this link and his e-mail is posted there. http://commack.patch.com/articles/superintendent-welcomes-back-students-parents-for-new-year Please ask and then post here filling us all in
Friend of the Farm January 22, 2013 at 02:35 PM
The Marion Carl Farm looks to be a step closer to being lost forever according to page 22 in todays Newsday. http://www.newsday.com/long-island/towns/judge-4-can-t-join-marion-carll-farm-lawsuit-1.4486746 Well it had a good 400 year run but is probably now doomed to the wrecking ball unless the community gets firmly together to save their history.

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