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.