Ned Lang’s response to Town of Tusten attorney Clemente
I wanted to take a few minutes to thank Mr. Mayer of The River Reporter for recording and reporting my comments at a recent town board meeting concerning the actions of the Town of Tusten attorney Jeffrey Clemente and the Town of Tusten itself. You were dead on in recording the statements concerning Clemente and the Town of Tusten and as usual, Clemente is dead wrong.
Now let’s look at the facts. On June 20, 2011, I was served with a notice of violation by the code enforcement officer Igor Smetaniuk for the Town of Tusten, regarding a sign that I had attached to one of my apartment buildings regarding gas drilling. I explained to Igor that I would take down the sign as long as the 20 other signs around town that were also non-conforming, with an opposing message, be removed also. Igor explained to me that the town was only interested in my sign and would be following through with prosecution. Soon after this incident, Smetaniuk was relieved of his duties as the town’s code enforcement officer as he was not a U.S. citizen and therefore could not hold a position in any form of government. I was arraigned in Tusten town court in August 2011, facing criminal and civil penalties.
Immediately after my arraignment, Clemente had an inappropriate, unethical, ex parte conversation with the judge in the library parking lot adjacent to the town hall. Clemente suggested to Judge Rufrano that I be penalized with a fine of $2,000 a day for each of the 48 days that the sign was displayed on the building. That’s right—a $96,000 fine. As a result of this conversation, Judge Rufrano had to recuse himself from my case, which Judge Nuttycomb also did, and the case was moved to the Village of Bloomingburg by Judge Labuda. I also have an affidavit sworn to and signed by our former supervisor, Peg Harrison, confirming that Clemente did offer to the board this exact same penalty, as his feelings are, and I quote, “Mr. Lang has lots of money and can afford to pay such a fine.”
On July 19, 2012 the Town of Tusten code enforcement officer Gary Amberbach came to my office and served me with five additional violations concerning graphics on a licensed motor vehicle, construction equipment stored on commercial property, an unlawful election sign and two other bogus violations concerning portable and political signage. I was arraigned again in the Town of Cochecton court as both of our judges properly recused themselves, and I was facing criminal charges and civil fines similar to the ones described above, as a result of the Town of Tusten’s continued selective and discriminatory enforcement of the zoning law. In order to properly defend myself, I hired an outstanding attorney, who is well versed in the defense of individuals who choose to express their First Amendment rights and in confronting towns that have passed laws that violate one of the foremost rights that each American has, which is our First Amendment right. In fact, in this attorney’s opinion, which he placed before both courts, numerous provisions of the signage laws contained within our zoning laws are blatantly unconstitutional and should be removed.
In conclusion, Clemente did choose to continue to pursue two separate actions in two separate courts over the course of the last year and a half, executing a specific and vindictive agenda against me in the most malicious and irresponsible way. Recently, the Town of Tusten was forced to drop the prosecution of both cases against me because in the first instance the code enforcement officer was not a U.S. Citizen and in the second case, because Clemente allowed the town to enact new zoning without any description of penalties for the violation of the zoning laws. Clemente states in his editorial letter to the editor that, “It is irresponsible for this newspaper to be quoting law from an individual, who is a septic pumper with a high school diploma, stating conclusions of law such as conflict of interest and selective enforcement when he is not schooled in law, nor has the expertise or legal knowledge upon which to base legal conclusions that he constantly asserts.”
I believe it is Clemente who should reevaluate his understanding and expertise of our legal system, as he has been dead wrong in the prosecution of me over the past 18 months, and has now exposed this township and some of the town’s officials to substantial liability. It was at the direction of Clemente that I was illegally arraigned and prosecuted when he knew that the town had no case against me, yet he persisted to prosecute and to bill the town, in order to execute his own vendetta and agenda. Even a septic pumper with a high school education has more common sense and knowledge of the law than Clemente when it comes to these two cases.
I have asked the town board to review all of Clemente’s billings concerning the aforementioned cases and to ask Clemente for full reimbursement to the town for all his billings. Additionally, I have also incurred many thousands of dollars in legal expenses to defend my predominant right as an American, and I would suggest that the town also forward these costs to Clemente for reimbursement as he is the one who is solely responsible for such a terrible waste of time and money.
Town of Tusten, NY