Mangino v. Inc. Vill. of Patchogue

Decision Date23 September 2010
Docket NumberNo. 06-CV-5716 (JFB) (AKT),06-CV-5716 (JFB) (AKT)
Citation739 F.Supp.2d 205
PartiesJohn MANGINO and Elaine Mangino, Plaintiffs, v. INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF PATCHOGUE, Fire Marshall John P. Poulos, Code Enforcement Officer James Nudo, Patchogue Fire Department, Fire Chief Joseph Wagoner, Unidentified Employees and Agents of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue and Unidentified Employees and Agents of the Patchogue Fire Department, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York

Robert A. Siegel, Esq., New York, NY, for Plaintiffs.

Brian S. Sokoloff of Sokoloff Stern LLP, Westbury, NY, for the Village Defendants.

Jeffrey B. Siler, of Siler & Ingber, LLP, Garden City, NY, for the Fire Department Defendants.


JOSEPH F. BIANCO, District Judge:

On October 23, 2006, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiffs John Mangino ("Mr. Mangino") and Elaine Mangino ("Ms. Mangino") (together "plaintiffs") brought this action against defendants Incorporated Village of Patchogue ("the Village" or "Patchogue"), Fire Marshall John P. Poulos ("Poulos"), Code Enforcement Officer James Nudo ("Nudo"), the Patchogue Fire Department 1 ("the Fire Department"), Fire Chief Joseph Wagner ("Wagner"), Unidentified Employees and Agents of the Incorporated Village of Patchogue and Unidentified Employees and Agents of the Patchogue Fire Department,2 (collectively "defendants"), alleging that defendants violated plaintiffs' rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs also allege claims for conspiracy under § 1983 against the Fire Department defendants and claims for municipal liability against the Fire Department and the Village. The Fire Department defendants and the Village defendants now move, separately, for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motions are granted in part and denied in part. In particular, the Court grants the Fire Department defendants' motion forsummary judgment in its entirety. The Court denies the Village defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to plaintiffs' malicious abuse of process claim, Fourth Amendment unreasonable search claim as pertaining to the basement at 21 Church Street, and municipal liability. The Court grants the Village defendants' motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims.

I. Facts

The Court has taken the facts set forth below from the parties' depositions, affidavits, and exhibits, and from the parties' respective Rule 56.1 statements of facts. Upon consideration of a motion for summary judgment, the Court shall construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Capobianco v. City of N.Y., 422 F.3d 47, 50 n. 1 (2d Cir.2005). Unless otherwise noted, where a party's 56.1 statement is cited, that fact is undisputed or the opposing party has pointed to no evidence in the record to contradict it.

A. Background

As of October 2007, plaintiff John Mangino was the owner of 21 Church Street in Patchogue, New York. (Pl. Vill. 56.1 ¶ 1.) 3 Mr. Mangino and his wife, plaintiff Elaine Mangino, purchased 21 Church Street some time between 2001 and 2003. ( Id. ¶ 2.) There were eight tenants living at 21 Church Street when plaintiffs acquired the property. ( Id. ¶ 12.) Mr. Mangino became the sole owner of 21 Church Street on September 6, 2005. ( Id. ¶ 3.) Mr. Mangino never resided at 21 Church Street or in the Village of Patchogue. ( Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) 4 21 Church Street was a three-story, wood-framed, eight-family apartment house that was built in approximately 1900. ( Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) There were three apartments on the first floor, four apartments/boarding rooms on the second floor, and one apartment on the third floor. ( Id. ¶ 13.) The boarding rooms on the second floor shared one bathroom. ( Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Apartments 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 used the main lobby door as an entrance to the apartment building. ( Id. ¶ 17.) The building also had a basement that was used for storage. ( Id. ¶¶ 17-18.) Plaintiffs charged some tenants an additional fee in order to use the basement for personal storage. ( Id. ¶ 20.) Mr. Mangino also maintained a double-locked private room in the basement with security equipment set up in the room, as well as other personal items. ( Id. ¶ 19.) The tenants could not access this room.

B. The Rental Permit Law

In 1997, the Village of Patchogue Board of Trustees enacted Local Law No. 8 to add Chapter 56 of the Village Code to regulate rental dwelling units. ( Id. ¶ 22.) The stated purpose of the law is that the "public health, safety, welfare, and good order governance of the Village of Patchogue will be enhanced by the enactment of Chapter 56." ( Id. ¶ 23.) The Rental Permit Law applies to "all Rental Dwelling Units located within the Village of Patchogue." ( Id. ¶ 25.) According to the terms of the Rental Permit Law:

It shall be unlawful and a violation of this Article and an offense within the meaning of the Penal Law of the State of New York for any person or entity who owns a Dwelling Unit in the Village of Patchogue to use, establish, maintain, operate, let, lease, rent or suffer or permit the occupancy and use thereof as a Rental Occupancy by someone other than the owner or his immediate family, without first having obtained a valid Rental Occupancy Permit therefor. Failure or refusal to procure a Rental Occupancy Permit hereunder shall be deemed a violation.

Rental Permit Law § 56-4(A). A property owner who desires to rent out a dwelling unit is thus required to obtain a rental occupancy permit from the Village Building Department. Rental Permit Law § 56-5(B).

C. Village Housing Inspector James Nudo

Defendant James Nudo was employed as the Housing Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer for the Village of Patchogue from 1992 until 2006. (Pl. Vill. 56.1 ¶¶ 33-34.) Nudo's job required him to perform field inspections of houses and enforce the Village Code. ( Id. ¶ 35.) Nudo was also required to investigate complaints and issue summonses for noncompliance with the Village Code; Nudo had the authority to determine whether to issue a summons in a given situation. ( Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) Nudo's primary job, as Village Housing Inspector, was to perform rental inspections. ( Id. ¶ 37.)

A Village Housing Inspector has discretion to issue tickets to a landlord for failing to secure a rental occupancy permit. (Vill. 56.1 ¶ 117.) The decision of whether to issue a summons is based upon the number and seriousness of the offense(s). ( Id. ¶ 118.) Moreover, each day that a property is in violation of the Village Code is a separate violation. ( Id. ¶¶ 120-21.)

D. Plaintiffs' Rental Permit History and January 2005 Tickets

Plaintiffs applied for a two-year rental permit when they purchased 21 Church Street. (Pl. Vill. 56.1 ¶ 38.) When plaintiffs submitted their application, in or about 2002, Nudo conducted a rental occupancy permit inspection, during which he took notes regarding his observations at the premises. ( Id. ¶¶ 39-41.) Both plaintiffs and the Village defendants acknowledge that the inspection by defendant Nudo was tense, but the precise details of any exchanges between the parties are disputed. ( Compare Vill. 56.1 ¶¶ 42-45 with Pl. 56.1 ¶¶ 42-45.) Due to their disagreements, Nudo left 21 Church Street without finishing the inspection. (Vill. 56.1 ¶ 56.) Housing Inspector William Powell went to 21 Church Street to finish the rental occupancy permit inspection. ( Id. ¶ 47.) Plaintiffs were not issued any violations or tickets at that time. ( Id. ¶ 49.)

On February 2, 2002, Mrs. Mangino was issued a rental occupancy permit for 21 Church Street. ( Id. ¶ 50.) Plaintiffs paid a $200 flat fee for a two-year eight-unit dwelling rental occupancy permit for the property. ( Id. ¶ 51.) This permit expired in approximately 2004. ( Id. ¶ 52.) Plaintiffs refused to renew their rental occupancy permit for 21 Church Street. ( Id. ¶ 53.) As of October 2007, Mr. Mangino still did not have a valid rental occupancy permit for 21 Church Street. ( Id. ¶ 54.)

Plaintiffs' rental occupancy permit expired in or around February 2004. (Vill. 56.1 ¶ 60.) Mr. Mangino was aware that the Village Code required that the owner of a dwelling unit obtain a rental occupancy permit prior to renting the dwelling, and the Village mailed a rental occupancy permit renewal application for 21 Church Street prior to January 2005. ( Id. ¶¶ 61-62.) Plaintiffs did not renew their rental occupancy permit. According to plaintiffs, they did not do so because the Village "raised the rental permit fee five to ten times over the previous levels, charged non-owner occupied houses different than owner occupied houses, [and] effectuated other questionable practices." (Pl. Vill. 56.1 ¶ 64.)

According to Nudo's testimony, while driving around the Village in January 2005, he drove by 21 Church Street and saw some broken or missing screens and a rip in the screen door. ( Id. ¶ 65.) Nudo testified that he thereafter checked the property files to see when 21 Church Street was due for a rental occupancy permit inspection. ( Id. ¶ 66.) Nudo noticed, and Mr. Mangino concedes, that as of January 2005, 21 Church Street did not have a valid rental occupancy permit. ( Id. ¶¶ 68, 70.) On January 12, 2005, Nudo issued appearance tickets to plaintiffs for their failure to apply for or secure a rental permit for 21 Church Street as required by the Village Code. (Vill. 56.1 ¶ 72.) Each plaintiff received a summons because, as co-owners of the property, each was responsible for obtaining a rental occupancy permit. ( Id. ¶ 73.)

After being issued these summonses in January 2005 for failure to obtain a rental permit, plaintiffs challenged the summonses in court. They challenged both the individual summonses and the validity of the rental permit law, as well as the manner of service of the tickets by the Village defendants. (Pl. Vill. 56.1 ¶ 81.) While their challenge to the tickets was ongoing, plaintiffs...

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