Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 16, 2018

NY Trial Court Finds No Conflict of Interest Where One Board Member was Related to a Former Attorney for the Law Firm Representing the Applicant

This summary was prepared by Aisha Scholes of Touro Law Center

A Greek Orthodox Church and religious education center sought special exceptions and variances to build a 25,806 square foot 2-story cultural center directly adjacent to the church.  The zoning board of appeals granted the permit with conditions attached following a full-day public hearing that lasted more than 12 hours with 16 witnesses appearing in support of the application and 24 witnesses opposed.  Three homeowners that live across the street challenged the granting of the permit on a number of grounds including irregularity in the conduct of the administrative hearing and an alleged conflict of interest of one of the members of the Board. Although the petitioners claimed that they were not given the ability to cross-examine the Church’s witnesses, the Court said that this did not violate their due process rights as they clearly had notice and more than ample opportunity to be heard.

The alleged conflict of interest centered on the fact that one member of the Board is the sister-in-law of an attorney who used to work for the law firm representing the Church. Further, the law firm’s current managing partner was a campaign manager for the Board member’s estranged husband.  The Court noted that the petitioners failed to point to a specific violation of General Municipal Law Article 18, and they did not identify any pecuniary or material interest in the application by the Board member. Further, the Court noted that since the vote was unanimous, the Board member did not cast the deciding vote. Therefore, the Court found no prohibited conflict of interest.

Healy v. Town of Hempstead Board of Appeals, 61 Misc. 3d 408 (NY Suffolk Co, 8/28/2018)


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