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Ned Lang’s response to Town of Tusten attorney Clemente

January 16, 2013

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.”