Couple Claim NY Town Executed Vendetta

     CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) – The Long Island town of Huntington harassed a couple to retaliate for their opposition to a proposed housing project, the couple claims in court.
     Jennifer and John LaVertu sued the Town of Huntington, in Federal Court.
     Huntington, pop. 19,500, is in western Long Island, near Long Island Sound, between Oyster Bay and Smithtown.
     The LaVertus say in the lawsuit that they became concerned about violence in town after a shooting in March 2010.
     That’s when they started to scrutinize plans for a housing project called “Avalon Bay.” They claim the development was illegally zoned. They say they were “concerned that it lacked merit and was detrimental to the interests of the town.”
     The couple says they posted a “well researched and informative” video on YouTube about the town’s “disastrous revitalization and development programs.”
     The town struck back with its own video on YouTube and Facebook, “in a clear signal that they were going to go after plaintiffs head on,” the lawsuit states.
     The LaVertus claim the town then “ruthlessly and erroneously” targeted their home with baseless summonses, “with the clear intention of deterring their free speech activities.”
     “Appallingly, the town then went after plaintiffs’ livelihood, targeting Mr. LaVertu’s plumbing license with an eye towards putting him out of business,” the couple add.
     A spokesman for Huntington said the town had no comment on the lawsuit.
     One summons issued against the LaVertus’ home focused on a stone retaining wall that separates their home from their neighbors, according to the lawsuit.
     “Only plaintiffs received a summons for the wall, and not their neighbor,” though the neighbor put up the wall, the lawsuit states.
     The LaVertus say the town dropped the charges after they proved that the wall belonged to their neighbor-who was not summonsed.
     Then Huntington cited them, falsely, for not having a certificate of occupancy for their home, the LaVertus says.
     They claim that town officials were caught on tape declaring that they were going to “come after plaintiffs,” and “start neutralizing it before it becomes an issue.”
     “These types of threats have no place in today’s America, and represent the most disgusting and heinous abuse of government power to violate citizens’ rights pursuant to the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution,” the complaint states.
     “Naturally, the plaintiffs are terrified of the town and its threats to destroy their lives.”
     Then Huntington targeted Mr. LaVertu’s plumbing license, falsely claiming that he had not secured proper permits to work on two jobs, the complaint states.
     The couple seeks costs and damages for retaliation and violations of the First Amendment, equal protection and due process.
     They are represented by Steven A. Morelli, of Garden City.

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