Rye Mayor Doug French released a letter to residents today in the imbroglio he has found himself in regards to proper permitting and STAR Exemptions on a second home he owns in Rye.
Here is the letter along with the supporting documents. What do you think? Leave a comment below.
DOUGLAS FRENCH, MAYOR
January 19, 2012
Dear Resident -- Now that the Board of Ethics has put forth their opinion on the complaint brought forward by Ray Tartaglione of Purchase against the Mayor and officials of the City of Rye, I would like to update you on the status of the complaint.
Board of Ethics Review
In the minutes of the Board, they found as per the City Code as follows:
“In executive session, the board reviewed the Code of Ethics and addressed two issues.
- Regarding whether board members had conflicts of interest as described by the Code, each member determined he/she had no conflicts that would preclude rendering an impartial decision.
- Regarding whether the board is empowered to render an advisory opinion in response to the complaint, the board determined the complainant does not have standing, because the request/complaint did not come from an officer or employee of the City, and the board is empowered to render advisory opinions, prospectively, to help employees and officers comply with the Code of Ethics.”
Having rendered such a decision, which is consistent with the process outlined by our City code, the question still remains as to whether or not as alleged there was unethical behavior by City officials or employees with respect to a building violation and a misapplied exemption of the STAR tax exemption on property owned by the Mayor. As a result, I am calling on the Deputy Mayor, Peter Jovanovich, as a City official and as per our code, to refer the matter back to the Board of Ethics to review as to whether or not there was any unethical behavior by City officials or employees with the two matters in question.
In July of this year, a complaint was phoned into the Building Department about a potential finished attic on the third floor on a single-family rental home I own. Tragically, the City Building Inspector passed away in August and the Department transitioned over to a new Building Inspector by November 1st. Later that month I was notified in writing of the complaint and a violation was issued on December 23rd that outlined two violations:
- A two-family home that was converted back to a single-family home
- A 3rd-floor bedroom/finished storage
The attached property listing is how we bought the property in 1992 - as a single-family use. As many homeowners face, based on the violation, we are filing the appropriate permits with the Building Department to legalize the work that was done by the previous owner for re-inspection by the department. Based on calls to her on behalf of the complainant, the previous owner contacted us to say the work was done when her daughter was born in the early 1970s – 40 years ago. Although building codes and procedures have changed since that time, we are completing the legalization process so the changes comply with current requirements.
In 1998 the STAR program was instituted and we applied for the exemption as our primary residence at 13 Richard Place (attached document) with the City Assessor’s office. When we moved to a new home in 2000, we filed a Star application with our new primary residence (attached document). In 2011, New York State changed the exemption eligibility for STAR based on income and required municipalities to confirm eligibility of homeowners based on the new amendments. As part of that process we were notified by the Assessor’s office along with many other residents to file an income verification form to verify our eligibility for receiving the STAR exemption on our primary residence (attached document). As a result of this process, it was determined that the STAR exemption had been misapplied to 13 Richard Place after it was no longer our primary residence. The law allows for a look-back period of only three years, however, our position is that what is owed is owed. We have applied with the County Tax Director’s office to determine the amount due with penalties and will make full restitution once the amount is determined.