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Northport School Board Approves LIPA Lawsuit

The district and the town filed separate lawsuits Tuesday to stop tax certiorari proceedings.

Calling requesting a 90% reduction "crazy" and "completely excessive," counsel John Gross was on hand Monday as the Northport Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the district's filing of a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Long Island Power Authority to stop it. 

The suit is in addition to one that the will file Tuesday. Coverage of a press release today at Town Hall will be posted on Patch later today.

Gross, of Hauppauge-based law firm Ingerman Smith, said the decision to file the lawsuit was reached because, although the courts have indicated in the past that districts do not have legal standing to file such lawsuits, Northport’s lawsuit is based on promises LIPA made to the Town of Huntington and the district, via written correspondence, that it would not seek a tax certiorari before 2013.

Once a promise is made, Gross said the district is allowed to seek “equitable relief” from enforcement of that promise.

Since two municipalities are affected by the certiorari, Gross said there are different claims that each can make. However, he declined to cite specifics.

Resident Joseph Sabia, who is running for one of the four open Board seats on May 17, asked if LIPA was open to negotiation. Gross said that the Town of Huntington had reached out to the power authority, but had been rejected. He added that Ingerman Smith had shared ideas with the town’s legal counsel and were satisfied with the town’s plan.

Gross conceded that there was a possibility that LIPA could pursue further litigation in 2013, but said that to do nothing now would not be in the best interests of the district.

One audience member asked about Ingerman Smith’s legal fees, which are not included in the firm’s retainer. Gross said the hourly rate is $185.  “I assure you that we constantly report to the board,” Gross said, adding that if it became counter-productive to pursue the lawsuit, the firm would advise the board accordingly.

Trustee Jennifer Thompson, who is seeking re-election, confirmed that the board would be watchful on the public’s behalf. “I trust that we will be diligent regarding legal fees.”

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