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BETTER THAN HEARSAY - Politics or Pish Posh or What

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/8/24 | 2/8/24

By Michael Ryan

WINDHAM - A perplexing question remains ponderable following the recent awarding of $24,588 in legal fees to local and longtime business owner Nick Bove by the New York State Supreme Court (Greene County).

Bove, twice a candidate for Windham town supervisor, was granted the reimbursement of attorney costs in late January by Judge Richard Mott.

Judge Mott had also overseen an earlier case won by Bove, challenging punitive actions taken against Bove by Windham’s water district board.

Judge Mott’s earlier ruling, in November, 2023, deemed that Bove’s constitutional rights had been denied when the town fined him for allegedly misusing the municipal water system, dating back to the autumn of 2021.

A series of confusing small town events began to unfold n the summer of 2022 when the town got an unexpected email from the Department of Health after a routine inspection of Bove’s cafe business.

DOH wanted to know if Bove was hooked into the municipal water system, representing a change in service, having decommissioned a private well.

Bove was contacted by town officials and reportedly affirmed he was connected at the cafe and a second property, a nearby rental residence.

Neither site reportedly had water meters operating for nearly a year. The water district board opted to send Bove a letter, fining him for what it deemed “criminal tampering, as defined in the [State] penal law.”

The fines amounted to $100 for each hookup and payment of any previous water usage. Bove hired a lawyer and fought back, filing a formal “Petition and Complaint” in October, 2022.

Boves attorney, in the original complaint, stated that the town, without any basis in fact and in violation of [Boves] due process rights, imposed a criminal fine on [Bove] for allegedly stealing water from the town.

It did this without regard to the true facts of the matter and without providing [Bove] any opportunity to defend himself. 

The Town has acted illegally and unconstitutionally, and its actions must be overturned by this court,” Boves attorney demanded.

Judge Mott agreed, declaring that Bove had not been given fair opportunity to present his side of things prior to the fines being assessed.

Bove claimed he had been communicating with the town while the hookups were being done by a local plumber, presuming all was well and good.

Town officials, including the water superintendent and billing officer, refuted those claims in signed affidavits, saying Bove had requested a water meter but never notified the town any connections were made or meters installed.

Judge Mott, stating there was no reason not to have given Bove a chance to be heard, nullified the fine letter sent by the town.

Judge Mott stated the town had advised Bove he could attend a water district board meeting to defend himself but only after-the-fact, essentially serving as pseudo judge and jury.

Which is where this gets perplexingly ponderable. Judge Mott offered no thoughts or conclusions on the alleged illegal water usage.

It has apparently become so much water under the bridge. Bove has reportedly paid for the water but not been fined anew by the town.

And Judge Mott did not mention a claim made in Bove’s original complaint that, “Superintendent Hoyt was not an impartial decision-maker as [Bove] ran against him in the 2019 election for town supervisor,” referring to the current Windham town supervisor Thomas Hoyt.

Hoyt, in his role as town board supervisor, also serves as president of the water district board. Both boards contain the same five members.

A “press release” was dispatched, last week, announcing awarding of the legal fees to Bove. The source is not specified (please see related story).

Bove is quoted in the document, saying, “I dont know what prompted the town to come after me in this way and why nobody simply reached out to me if there was a question or concern.

“We encouraged the town to avoid litigation. I offered documentation to address their misunderstanding and asked simply that they retract their public accusations of me but they refused,” Bove is quoted as saying.

In his original complaint, Bove referenced newspaper articles that appeared on the matter, noting that in July, 2022, his lawyer, “sent an e-mail to the town attorney advising the town of the procedural due process violations.”

The email further, “asked the town to issue a letter stating that there was no wrongdoing or criminal conduct on the part of Mr. Bove. The town denied the request,” leading to the lawsuit.

Town officials have declined to comment on Judge Mott’s decisions or the latest press release or the reason they did not budge on the alleged wrongdoing which may have resulted in an out-of-court settlement.

The press release states that rather than publicly retracting their allegations about Bove, “the town board refused, instead choosing to use taxpayer dollars to engage in a protracted lawsuit.”

Bove’s legal costs, in the $275 and $365 per hour range from two different lawyers with varying years of experience, are reportedly covered by the town’s insurer which represented the town in the court proceedings.

Meanwhile, journalistically puzzling questions have emerged such as…are politics at the bottom of this?…as hinted in Bove’s original complaint.

Hoyt defeated Bove in 2019, running unopposed twice since then, now serving his third, two-year term which runs through the end of 2025.

The press release blasts Windham officials, claiming, “the court has sent a clear message that the town's actions were not only legally erroneous but also indicative of bad faith.”

But it singles out just one person rather than all five town board and water board members, repeating that Bove, “previously ran for office against Town Supervisor Hoyt,” stopping short of saying…what?

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