Judge Rules In Favor Of Busti Councilman

MAYVILLE – The decision to sell Busti’s current town hall will not face a public referendum in the immediate future.

On Wednesday, the Hon. Judge Deborah A. Chimes filed her decision for “Richard B. Thor vs. Darlene Nygren, as Town Clerk of the Town of Busti, et al.” with the Chautauqua County Clerk.

Chimes, Supreme Court judge for the 8th Judicial District, ruled in favor of Busti Councilman Thor’s motion in finding the petition for the referendum void, insufficient and not in accordance with the law. Thor’s motion for restraining the submission of a Feb. 12 resolution of the Busti Town Board to the qualified electors of the town for their approval or disapproval was also granted. However, she denied the request to declare the board resolution duly and legally adopted in accordance with the law because there was “insufficient evidence before the court to make such a determination.”

In the decision filed, the court found that there were an adequate number of signatures submitted in support of the petition, and the objections to the petitions and the petition before the court were timely filed. However, the language of the preamble to the petition signature sheets – which states “a town permissive referendum related to the sale of Busti Town Hall … approved for sale by the Busti Town Council, February 12, 2014” – was found to not clearly state that the purpose of the petition was to protest the board’s resolution to sell the property.

The decision also addressed arguments that Joel Seachrist was the town attorney, and therefore had a conflict of interest. The court said the respondent presented no proof to support this and organizational meeting minutes indicate Seachrist was appointed “attorney for the town.” This phrase has legal significance under town law because an attorney for the town is not a public official, but is employed to give the town board professional service and advice as the board requires.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision,” said Seachrist. “We hope that the town can move forward the transaction, and that the whole residents of the town – both village residents and town outside the village – can join behind the town board and support them.”

Richard Stanton, attorney for respondent Cara Birrittieri, said it will be their intention to appeal the decision to the Rochester Appellate Court as soon as it is properly filed.

“The proper place to comment on a judge’s decision if you disagree with it is to properly appeal it to the Appellate Division, and that is what we intend to do,” Stanton said.

The case against the sale of the town hall at 121 Chautauqua Ave. resulted from a petition signed by more than 200 people. In February, the town board approved a resolution to purchase the former Tordella’s building at 125 Chautauqua Ave. at a cost of $330,000, contingent upon the sale of the current town hall. The Jamestown Area Community Federal Credit Union, which has an expiring lease, offered the town $300,000 for the building at 121 Chautauqua Ave. Some residents have argued, that despite the cost to upgrade the facility, the town and village should merge offices into the Anthony C. Caprino Municipal Building.

The town, however, recently removed the contingency on the sale of its current town hall and began moving into the former Tordella’s building, which it purchased with surplus funds. The credit union remains interested in purchasing Busti’s first town hall building at 121 Chautauqua Ave.