Boat captain calls on DA to investigate Village

09/18/2014 11:38 AM |
Village officials had given commercial fishing boat captain Sid Smith notice that he'd have to leave the railroad dock, but now appear to have reversed course. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Village officials had given commercial fishing boat captain Sid Smith notice that he’d have to leave the railroad dock, but now appear to have reversed course. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A Southampton attorney representing Greenport commercial fishing captain Sid Smith has requested that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office investigate the village’s method of collecting and sharing information.

Attorney Dan Rodgers submitted a complaint to the DA last Thursday after the village clerk denied his client several Freedom of Information Law requests. It claims the village has failed to keep accurate long-term records of its collections fees from users of the railroad dock on Third Street.

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Mr. Rodgers states that while the Village of Greenport has been collecting dock fees from commercial fishermen since 1986, it only could provide yearly dock fee information from 1997 through 2014.

He said the village also denied one of Mr. Smith’s FOIL requests, explaining it did “not have a separate listing of railroad dock rents for the years prior to 2012.”

“We find it highly unusual that the Village is now stating that they have no records of nearly three decades of rental payments made by local fishermen and women,” Mr. Rodgers said.

The complaint also claims that Trustee Mary Bess Phillips’ husband, who moors their commercial fishing vessel, the Illusion, at the railroad dock, has been given special exemptions because of her position in village government.

“We have evidence that one individual commercial boat owner has an arrangement with Village officials to perform services for the Village in exchange for a waiver of his usual and ordinary dock fees,” the complaint states. “This arrangement with the Village of Greenport is not offered to any other boat owner. The individual boat owner who receives this unusual benefit is married to a current Greenport Village Trustee.”

The village declined to comment on the allegations.

“I referred it to the village attorney,” Greenport Village administrator Paul Pallas said Monday. “I haven’t talked to him about it yet.”

Village attorney Joseph Prokop didn’t return calls for comment. District Attorney spokesman Robert Clifford declined to comment.

In addition to the concerns voiced in the complaint submitted to the DA, Mr. Rodgers also claims the village deliberately and unfairly raised the insurance rate of Mr. Smith’s 67-foot fishing vessel, Merit, in order to rid him from the dock.

In July, Mr. Smith — who said he’s docked his boat there for 17 years without incident — received a letter from the village informing him he’d have to vacate the dock by Sept. 1.

The village said he was being forced out because he didn’t have proof of a $2 million insurance policy for the boat. Village records, however, show that all the other boat owners using the railroad dock are only required to carry $1 million insurance policies.

Following a Sept. 4 article published in The Suffolk Times, officials cashed the rent check Mr. Smith submitted to the village in March — effectively allowing him to stay at the railroad dock with a $1 million policy.

“As far as I am concerned, he can stay,” Mr. Pallas said. “I received his insurance information. I am not asking him to leave.”

Mr. Rodgers said he hasn’t received official word from the village allowing Mr. Smith to stay at the dock.

“There is no communication,” he said.

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