By ASHLEY HELMS
Litigation between longtime Village of Mamaroneck activist Stuart Tiekert and members of village government has progressed; Village Manager Richard Slingerland and Mayor Norman Rosenblum were deposed on Nov. 25 and Nov. 26, respectively.
Also in the court room at 169 Mt. Pleasant Avenue was attorney Terry Granger, who represented Rosenblum and Slingerland, and Tiekert’s attorney, Debra Cohen.
Tiekert said he will be deposed in early January.
In his lawsuit, filed Nov. 7, 2012, Tiekert alleges Rosen-blum, a Republican, tried to suppress his First Amendment rights at a July 16, 2012, Board of Trustees meeting when the mayor directed a police officer to remove Tiekert from the podium when he was speaking during a public comment period.
Tiekert is suing Slingerland and Rosenblum and the Village of Mamaroneck regarding ownership of Pine Street.
During “Communications to the Board,” Tiekert, a former village Democratic Committee chairman, took to the podium to discuss a notice of claim he filed with the village at a previous meeting. The village attorney said the board would not comment on the issue publically as it was the subject of ongoing litigation. Though he said he did not expect the board to comment, Tiekert said he would continue with his comments on the matter because that portion of the meeting was set aside for public comment.
As Tiekert persisted, Rosen-blum called the police officer on duty in the room to escort Tiekert out. Instead, Tiekert returned to his seat in the gallery before the officer could get to him.
The incident was, at the time, the latest in a series of battles Tiekert had with the village dating back to 2007.
The contention between the village and Tiekert centered on Pine Street, where Tiekert has attempted to curb development on a Pine Street property adjacent to his home on Beach Avenue over flood concerns. He also disputed the ownership of Pine Street, a portion of which the village charged Tiekert’s condominium association a $1 annual fee for parking use since 2007.
“When the Pine Street issue first started, we complained about flooding. They went through our building apartment file and [issued the condominium association] a violation because parking encroaches slightly into the right-of-way,” Tiekert said, in reference to the $1 annual fee.
Regarding his current lawsuit against Rosenblum and Slingerland, Tiekert said it falls under the category of strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP, intended to “chill” public comment by citizens at municipal meetings. SLAPP is very effective in doing so, he said, because residents will be too intimidated to speak if they think they might end up in litigation.
“Same thing takes places when people get up and speak and get abused by people on the dais. People are nervous to speak,” Tiekert said.
Mayor Rosenblum said the lawsuit could go to trial, and if it does, the information collected during the depositions can be used as a basis for questions posed during the trial. Questions asked during the deposition phase can be about a wide variety of topics, and most of what he was asked about during his deposition was not on the topic of the lawsuit, Rosenblum said.
Regarding what specifically he was asked about, the mayor said he was unable to comment on an ongoing legal case.
Similarly, Slingerland said that, due to advice from legal council, he is unable to comment on Tiekert’s lawsuit against the village.
Tiekert is seeking punitive damages against Rosenblum and Slingerland, an injunction stopping village officials for interfering with his free speech and a declaration that Pine Street is not owned by the village.
Cohen, Tiekert’s attorney, is no stranger to village affairs. She is also the attorney for David and Kinuyo Witt, who sued the village after they were flooded out of their First Street home, and the Shore Acres Property Association, a consistent opponent of Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club and Hampshire Country Club.