The Riverhead Town attorney’s office now says Councilwoman Jodi Giglio does not have to pay another $1,500 in fees to get a building permit for a second-story addition to her Baiting Hollow home, contradicting an earlier stance taken by the town building department.
The move comes after Ms. Giglio, who’s claiming that “political rivals” in the town dragged out the process when they realized she was getting close to obtaining permits, hired an attorney to investigate the situation.
Over several years, Ms. Giglio and her husband, Mike, had built the second-story addition, a finished basement, an inground pool, a hot tub and a deck. All had gone without certificates of occupancy until recently.
On June 20 of this year, the Giglios were issued COs for the basement, first applied for in 2009, and the pool, first applied for in 1999. But a letter dated June 20 from building inspector Richard Podlas said a Sept. 29, 2009, building permit for the second story had expired in 2010 and the Giglios would have to pay a $1,500 renewal fee before the CO could be issued for that addition. The letter was sent again July 11, according to the town.
Ms. Giglio said last Wednesday that she had not received either copy of the letter. She claimed she had paid the $1,500 building fee in 2009 and should not be required to pay it again. The fee represents a triple fee, a penalty the town previously imposed on applicants who had built structures without a permit.
Complicating matters was an Oct. 20, 2012, letter from Mr. Podlas saying Ms. Giglio owed a $403 permit fee for the pool and a $1,160 fee for the basement. The letter stated that these fees would be added to the Giglios’ “open permit” for the addition, “which Leroy Barnes put hold on, so therefore this permit does not have to be renewed, even though it expired.”
The wording of the letter brought charges from political rivals that Ms. Giglio was being given a waiver.
“It sounds like, from the way that reads, that by putting a hold on it, whatever that means, it allowed her to get a favor that otherwise would be unavailable to the public, and it seems like, although it’s not abundantly clear, it allowed her to avoid having to renew the permit again and pay the fee again,” said Anthony Coates, who is challenging Ms. Giglio in a Republican primary this September.
Supervisor Sean Walter, who also originally thought the letter from Mr. Podlas meant the fee was being waived, said Friday that the entire Giglio building permit file was being turned over to the town attorney’s office. On Tuesday, he said he wasn’t commenting on the case anymore.
“It’s up to the town attorney’s office,” Mr. Walter said.
Mr. Barnes, the former building department coordinator referred to in the October 2012 letter, said on Friday that he had held up all other permits until a building permit was obtained for the basement. He pointed out another 2009 letter in the file, on which he had written by hand, “On hold. Finished basement no permit.”
Deputy town attorney Bill Duffy said Tuesday that he is recommending the building department not require the $1,500 fee because the Giglios paid it in 2009 and the town “never released the permit, so you can’t claim it expired.”
Ms. Giglio charged on Tuesday that politics were involved in her not getting the permits, citing Mr. Walter’s claim that “Giglio’s toast,” made at a fundraiser for Mr. Coates.
“This is dirty politics and has been dragged out for political purposes,” she said in a statement to the News-Review. “When my political rivals realized I was closing out the matter with the building department, things were suddenly held up in the building department and additional things were requested.”
When asked for comment Tuesday, Mr. Walter laughed but declined comment on that claim.
However, Mr. Coates, when asked for comment, said the issue arose long before this year.
“This issue has gone on for 14 years,” he said. “She arranged for tax abatements, permits and everything else for the Summerwind project [of which she is an owner] during this same time and ignored her personal property until I asked a question. She likes to blame other people for her problems. She’s blamed her husband, me, the supervisor, the media, her attorney, her architect and the building department, when the fault lies directly with her. None of this exonerates her from 14 years of willful neglect in a tax avoidance scam.”
The additions to the home, except for the pool, were not reflected in the town’s tax assessment records from 2003 to 2013, meaning that the Giglios were not taxed on the improvements. Ms. Giglio has said she will pay the taxes due on those improvements.
Ms. Giglio also questioned how Mr. Coates had obtained so much information about her building permits since he had never filed a Freedom of Information request with the town to see the file.
Mr. Coates said he has never seen the file and had only asked questions of Republican leaders in response to rumors that the building permits were lacking.
“And all of a sudden a chain of events began,” he said.
“I raised the issue and, boy, did they step over themselves trying to cover up the situation,” he said. “I haven’t said a word about what’s in the file. I’ve reacted to her statements and to what’s been in the press.”