Former Business Improvement District management association president Vince Tria has filed a lawsuit against Riverhead Town Board members seeking $10 million in damages resulting from his removal last year as BID president.
Mr. Tria, who owns the WRIV radio station in Riverhead and was an assistant to former Democratic Supervisor Phil Cardinale, was removed as the unpaid BID president in early 2010 by the newly elected Republican majority, and he claims the town is retaliating against him for “whistleblowing activities.”
Mr. Tria had filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, in March 2010 making similar claims and seeking the same $10 million in damages, but he hadn’t filed suit until now. The two-page summons was served to town officials Tuesday, although it says it was filed March 1.
Mr. Tria names as defendants Supervisor Sean Walter and Council members Jim Wooten, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen, both individually and as members of the Town Board.
Councilman John Dunleavy, who was absent from the 2010 vote in which the board replaced Mr. Tria as a BID board member, was not named in the lawsuit.
“This is an action for declaratory relief and recovery of monetary damages by reason of defendants’ wrongful termination of plaintiff as president of the BID in violation of required procedure and in retaliation for whistleblowing activities and exercise of his constitutional rights,” the summons states. “Defendants have failed to comply with proper procedure and due process and their intent was to chill plaintiff’s exercise of his federal and state constitutional rights. Plaintiff seeks recovery of damages for defamation and infliction of emotional distress.”
Mr. Tria, who seeks $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages, Mr. did not returned phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.
Mr. Walter was not amused by news of the lawsuit.
“This is nothing more than a political stunt,” he said. “He filed the lawsuit on March 1 and he had 120 days to serve it. Yesterday was the last day. He tried to drag this as far into the election season as he could to help Phil Cardinale and now, if he doesn’t serve the notice, his lawsuit will become null and void.”
Mr. Walter said Mr. Tria waited until the last minute to file the lawsuit, as he had a year to do so after filing the notice of claim, and he waited until the last minute to serve.
“It will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars to defend this frivolous lawsuit,” Mr. Walter said.