Vince Tria drops lawsuit against town; cancels Vail-Leavitt events

07/28/2011 5:33 PM |

Former downtown Business Improvement District president Vince Tria on Thursday officially withdrew a lawsuit he filed in March against members of the Riverhead Town Board, in which he sought $10 million in damages resulting from his being removed from the non-paying BID president job in 2010.

Mr. Tria, who also is treasurer of the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall nonprofit theater, has also officially withdrawn that organization’s applications to hold outdoor events in downtown Riveread at the same time as events planned by the BID.

Mr. Tria, who owns the Riverhead-based WRIV 1390 AM radio station was an assistant to former Democratic Supervisor Phil Cardinale, was removed as BID president in early 2010 by the newly elected Republican majority.

He also claimed in the suit the town was retaliating against him for “whistleblowing activities.”

The suit named Supervisor Sean Walter and Council members Jim Wooten, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen individually, but not Councilman John Dunleavy, who was absent when the board voted to remove Mr. Tria as BID president.

“I felt that I was in the right, and that the way they went about it was wrong and not legal,” Mr. Tria said. “However, I felt that if I put the town through a lot of spending, what do I really win?

“What I really wanted was for someone to apologize and say they were wrong. But I didn’t really see a big gain in the end, so I spared everyone the aggravation.”

He first filed a notice of claim in March 2010, which reserved his ability to file the lawsuit for a year, but didn’t file the lawsuit until nearly a year later, just making the deadline by which he had to do so.

He also didn’t serve the  people he sued with the lawsuit until late June, also narrowly making that deadline, town officials said.

In addition, Mr. Gabrielsen and Mr. Wooten said they were never directly served with a summons. According to Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz, the failure to serve those councilmen by the deadline to do so means they can no longer be included in the lawsuit.

Ms. Giglio said she spoke with Mr. Tria recently and urged him to withdraw the lawsuit.

“I told him, ‘You’re going to be spending a lot of money and the town is going to have to pay a lot of money to defend itself,” she said. Mr. Tria eventually agreed to drop the lawsuit, she said.

Deputy Town Attorney Dan McCormick confirmed that Mr. Tria filed the necessary paperwork to withdraw the suit on Thursday.

As for the Vail-Leavitt events, that organization filed special event permits for July 16 and Aug. 6, two dates on which the BID also planned events.

While BID members had publicly discussed their events earlier in the year, they hadn’t formally filed any applications until after Vail-Leavitt filed its applications. Nonetheless, the Town Board approved the BID events.

The BID’s July 16 oldies concert has already taken place, and Vail-Leavitt did have an event inside the music hall at the same time, but held no outside event.

On Aug. 6, the BID is planning a Mardi Gras festival, while Vail-Leavitt also had planned a “tribute to New Orleans.” That proposal has now been withdrawn.

The Vail-Leavitt applications were for outdoor events in the downtown Riverfront area, as were the BID’s events.

Vail-Leavitt president Bob Barta told the News-Review earlier this year that the Vail-Leavitt was hoping to piggy-back off the BID event by having an indoor fundraising event at the same time, and using perhaps one outdoor band to draw attention to their indoor event.

Mr. Tria said that strategy didn’t work.

“The July 16 fundraiser was a bust,” he said. “Why would someone want to pay $20 when they can get music for free?”

Because of this, he said, Vail-Leavitt withdrew its Aug. 6 application.

The BID events have not charged admission.

Mr. Barta did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Vail-Leavitt had in past years sponsored the annual Riverhead Blues Festival in mid-July, but opted not to have the event this year following a struggle for control of the festival with the Chamber of Commerce and BID in 2010.

tgannon@timesreview.com