A Montauk mechanic is suing former East Hampton Town officials in federal court for $6.8 million in punitive and compensatory damages, claiming they met behind closed doors illegally to conspire against him and ultimately deny him of his constitutional rights. Thomas Ferreira, a mechanic who has operated an auto repair shop on Navy Road for the last 35 years, is claiming in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Islip last Thursday, that the town officials met illegally in executive sessions and ordered a cleanup of his property at 63 Navy Road in Montauk on June 22, 2009.
The suit was filed against the town, former Ordinance Enforcement Supervisor Dominic Schirrippa, former Assistant Town Attorney Madeleine Narvilas, Town Attorney John Jilnicki, Ordinance Inspector Kenneth Glogg, East Hampton Town Police Lieutenant Thomas Grenci, former Town Supervisor Bill McGintee and former Town Council members Julia Prince, Pete Hammerle, Brad Loewen and Pat Mansir.
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Jilnicki said he had no comment since he did not have a copy of the lawsuit. “I haven’t seen it yet,” he said. “We have not been served.”
In June and September 2009, the town hired contractors to clean up Mr. Ferreira’s property, which was full of car parts that were valued at more than $100,000, said Thomas Horn, an attorney from Sag Harbor who is representing Mr. Ferreira. The town then charged Mr. Ferreira approximately $10,000 for cleaning up the property, which he couldn’t pay, according to Mr. Horn. The town then placed a tax lien on his property he added. The lawsuit alleges that town officials intentionally suppressed information leading up to the seizure.
The June seizure was in response to complaints from neighbors that the property was an eyesore. The Town Board at the time authorized the enforcement action, citing health and safety issues, including the potential spill of flammable and combustible liquids, corrosion of fuel tanks and rotting of fuel lines.
“Underlying this also is the greater battle of the township who are combining forces with the gentrification to eliminate local working people, or certainly to have them out of sight and out of mind when it comes to real estate values,” said Mr. Horn.
Mr. Horn said Mr. Ferreira would like to get the lien removed and keep his home.
“I think that ultimately we want Mr. Ferreira to be made whole,” Mr. Horn said. “And even though that is impossible— meaning the damage done to his reputation and him emotionally, probably he can’t made whole—we hope that someday he can feel secure to make a living that he’s entitled to make under local and state law.”