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Lack of disclosure prompts review with Weichbrodt beach house

By: 
JENNIFER MALONEY
Publication: 
NEWSDAY
Islip Town Council woman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt address audience
Jan
31
2011

Islip Town is considering adding to its disclosure requirements after the husband of a town councilwoman failed to state their relationship when he appeared before the town's assessment review board - whose members the councilwoman helps appoint.

Randall Weichbrodt, who is married to Republican Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt, spoke at a May 18 grievance hearing, requesting a lower assessment on two properties: the couple's home in East Islip and their Fire Island beach house, which was under construction but had been evaluated as a finished home.

A member of the assessment review board said that the councilwoman put the panel in an "awkward position," and that Randall Weichbrodt should have stated their relationship.

"She's going to vote on whether we get appointed or not," said assessment review board member Joseph McNulty III, a Republican, who added that he did not at first recognize the councilwoman's husband. "Everyone was very uncomfortable with that."

The Weichbrodts obtained a $25,000 reduction on the beach house assessment after the town tax assessor made a correction to the roll.

Bergin Weichbrodt cited her right as a resident to grieve her assessment and said everyone on the board should have known her husband: "We have the same last name."

The councilwoman, widely known as Trish Bergin from her work as a television news anchor, was listed on the applications as Patricia Weichbrodt.

State law requires applicants appearing before town boards to disclose their relationship to any town employee - though the law does not specifically mention assessment review boards. While Islip's planning and zoning boards require applicants to submit such a disclosure form, its assessment review board does not.

"The application and the procedure to correct the misclassification did not provide for, nor did it suggest, such disclosure was necessary," Randall Weichbrodt said in a statement.

Town spokeswoman Amy Basta said the town is considering including a disclosure form in the grievance application.

Islip's protocol for a grievance posing a conflict of interest - moving it to State Supreme Court - was not used in the Weichbrodts' case because they withdrew both applications after tax assessor Ronald Devine corrected the beach house assessment.

As a town board member, Bergin Weichbrodt also casts a vote on the appointment of the tax assessor.

Devine said he attended the May 18 hearing in which the assessment review board advised Randall Weichbrodt to ask Devine for a follow-up inspection. Devine said that when the councilwoman came two days later to his office to purchase a tax map, he told her an inspector would visit her beach house that day.

Bergin Weichbrodt said she could not recall discussing the issue with Devine.

The inspector, a civil service employee, confirmed the house did not yet have electricity, water or a septic system.

"I think any resident of the Town of Islip who is wrongly taxed by thousands of dollars would want to correct the problem," Bergin Weichbrodt said.

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