Media Source: Newsday
A Sea Cliff village code provision that allows the building inspector to enter residents' properties without consent or warrant 'is unconstitutional on its face,' the State Supreme Court in Mineola found.
The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by village resident Anthony Losquadro, who said his civil rights were violated in November 2010 when buildings superintendent Andrew Lawrence entered his yard to examine a shed and dog run.
The village code's right-of-entry provision unconstitutionally 'authorizes unconsented and warrantless inspections of residential real property without regard to an emergency situation,' acting Supreme Court Justice Steven Jaeger said in the July 18 partial judgment.
The decision serves as a reminder to officials 'not to infringe on residents' and taxpayers' rights,' Losquadro said Monday. 'A lot of local governments put these laws on the books, knowing that . . . most people aren't going to take the time to challenge them, but they just came across the wrong guy.'
Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy said the village is still studying the judgment and has not decided its next move.
The village was in the process of reviewing its code book before the lawsuit, and the provision could potentially be modified, Kennedy said.
'It's the last thing in the world that we wanted: anything that was unconstitutional on our books,' he said, adding that constitutionality issues should be taken up with the state attorney general's office, which approves local laws. Lawrence could not be reached for comment.
Judgment on whether Lawrence had consent to enter Losquadro's property -- which Kennedy called 'the real case' -- is still pending.
Losquadro's lawyer, A. Thomas Levin of Garden City, said the matter would probably go to trial.
According to court documents, Lawrence said Losquadro's housekeeper said he could enter; she said she gave no such permission. Kennedy said the village had de facto consent. Losquadro in 2010 was told he needed a permit to build his tool shed and received a stop-work order, documents show. He said he has paid $2,750 in fines and applied for a permit for the shed.
Losquadro, 47, earlier this year publicly assailed the village for raising taxes. He ran for trustee in March but lost his bid.