Greenport targets building inspector, administrator


BY JULIE LANE |STAFF WRITER

Greenport building inspector Eileen Wingate and village administrator David Abatelli came under fire at Monday night's Village Board work session.

Board members charged Ms. Wingate with failing to provide thorough and specific reports and Mr. Abatelli with failing to inform them of code violations.

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips requested that Ms. Wingate's job description be rewritten and wanted the building inspector's working space be moved to a seat where the public wouldn't be able to interrupt her, as they can now in the trailer behind Village Hall.

"It's time to stop the round robin," a chain of interested parties coming in to bend her ear. "It's time to come up with a plan of action," Ms. Phillips said.

Board members complained, not for the first time, about Ms. Wingate's written reports, which they described as lacking specifics.

In several cases, Ms. Wingate said in a later interview that she had asked Village Board members to tell her how to proceed with specific reports, but they never responded.

"Without direction, I can't anticipate what they want," she said. "I treat everybody the same."

Ms. Phillips' remarks came after a complaint from resident John Saladino about what he perceived as inconsistent code enforcement in the village and a charge from Trustee Chris Kempner that Mr. Abatelli was failing to provide sufficient information to board members about situations handled by the building department and code enforcement officers.

Ms. Kempner said she sees a lack of consistency in enforcing village codes and charged that personal relationships between code enforcement officers and the owners of properties in both commercial and residential districts are a factor.

Ms. Kempner blamed Mr. Abatelli for failing to inform board members about a recent incident that she said involved the eviction of tenants from a house across from Village Hall at 239 Third St. The village didn't evict the tenants, Mr. Abatelli said, as Ms. Kempner had suggested. He explained that there had been a puff-back at the house and he was called in by the fire department to deal with a lack of heat and smoke detectors in the building.

Ray Dickhoff, owner of the property, brought in workers to fix the furnace and install batteries in smoke detectors, but there are still furnace problems, Mr. Abatelli said.

To maintain the property as habitable, Mr. Dickhoff was ordered to make additional repairs, but he balked and told his tenants to leave, Ms. Wingate said. Village code enforcement officer Linda Ortiz, who speaks Spanish, informed the Latino tenants they have rights and didn't have to accept eviction, Mr. Abatelli said.

Mr. Dickhoff denied that scenario but refused further comment.

"What I saw was deplorable," Ms. Wingate said about the property. She said she was glad the tenants had left because "it was an accident waiting to happen."

She said Mr. Dickhoff had complained to her that the tenants had failed to maintain the property.

"You can't rent to 27 Guatemalans and expect them to take care of your property," Ms. Wingate said. "The house is a gut rehab," she said.

jlane@timesreview.com