After serving Westhampton Beach Village, off and on, for the past three decades, longtime Village Attorney Richard T. Haefeli will no longer have a seat at the village dais.
At last week’s Village Board meeting, Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore announced that she had replaced Mr. Haefeli with an entire law firm: Esseks, Hefter and Angel in Riverhead.
“I’d like to thank Mr. Haefeli for his past years of service,” Ms. Moore said during the meeting. “It’s clear to anyone that’s worked with him that he brought dedication and commitment to his role of village attorney.”
Mr. Haefeli, who has operated his own firm, the Law Offices of Richard T. Haefeli on Main Street in Westhampton Beach since 1982, did not attend last week’s meeting, held at Village Hall.
He also did not return calls this week seeking comment on the mayor’s decision not to reappoint him.
Ms. Moore’s decision—which was one of a slew of appointments made last week—marks the first time that the village has opted to bring on an entire firm rather than a single attorney to advise the Village Board and its lowers boards, including the planning, zoning board of appeals and architectural review. Ms. Moore noted that the full services of the firm will be available to the village, but the two primary partners—Stephen Angel and Anthony Pasca—will attend meetings and act as the primary counselors.
The firm will be held on the same $63,000 retainer, which will be paid out in monthly increments. However, Ms. Moore noted that the village also will retain the services of Mr. Haefeli for the ongoing litigation that he is handling for the village, including those related to ongoing attempts to demolish the former Guldi home on Griffing Avenue that was severely damaged in a fire. She said Mr. Haefeli will continue to receive his normal rate of $200 per hour, which he was paid in addition to his annual retainer for legal services beyond advising the village’s various boards.
Ms. Moore said representatives of Esseks, Hefter and Angel came highly recommended because of their experience working with land use and zoning laws.
Aside from Mr. Haefeli, Ms. Moore kept the remainder of the staff she inherited last month intact.
Elizabeth Lindtvit will keep the position of village clerk-treasurer, as well as her $85,500 salary, and Jeannine Conte will retain the position of deputy treasurer, which comes with a salary of $63,000. Anthony Rattoballi will remain the village’s special district attorney, earning $150 per hour.
Ms. Moore’s other new appointee is Ralph Neubauer, whom she appointed to the Planning Board. Mr. Neubauer had served as chairman of that board until he asked not to be reappointed in 2010. He, along with the other new appointees, will be paid a $1,500 stipend and serve five-year terms ending on May 31, 2019.
Architecture Review Board member Andrea Kaloustian and Zoning Board of Appeals member Joseph Musnicki were reappointed to their respective positions. Meanwhile, Gregory Minasian was reappointed chairman of the Architecture Review Board and Gerard Piering was reappointed chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals; both will be paid a $3,000 stipend.
The mayor held over a decision on Victor Levy, the chairman of the village’s Planning Board, but did not reappoint him last week because she did not have an opportunity to sit down with him to discuss the position, she explained.
“Over the last few weeks I’ve had a chance to meet with almost everyone,” Ms. Moore said on Tuesday. “I was comfortable reappointing the people whose terms were up and, with respect to Victory Levy, it was just a scheduling thing. I’m planning to meet with him this afternoon.”
Also last week, board members adopted two changes to village law, both aimed at removing the threat of jail time for minor code violations.
The board passed resolutions to remove the misdemeanor classification from violations of the code related to the municipality’s sign ordinance and its garbage, rubbish and refuse ordinance. Previously, a violation of either section of the code could result in six months in jail, although there is no evidence that anyone was ever jailed for such a violation.
First-time offenders will soon be fined between $250 and $1,000, instead of the current maximum fine of $350, while repeat offenders could be charged between $500 and $1,500, instead of the current $700 fine.