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IMAGINE the plight of Robert Conboy, the Hertel Avenue homeowner who returned from three months of mental treatment to find his house had been demolished and his belongings bulldozed. Welcome home, Robert.

And instead of saying "Oops, sorry" the city wants about $4,000 from him to pay for the demolition job.

City Hall can cook up excuses. Conboy's residence was not in line for a Good Housekeeping award. But there are procedures to follow for demolition of derelict buildings and, in this case, city officials messed up. A warning letter was postmarked the day the house was taken down.

Conboy's lawyer says his client has grounds to sue. Whether he does or not, the Masiello administration had better take a long look at its procedures. Officials knew Conboy had medical problems. It was city Housing Court that sent him for the psychiatric evaluation. Instead of assisting him, instead of exhibiting any compassion, the city took down his house and destroyed what he owned. Now you see it, now you don't.

Officials say the house was a potential fire hazard, filled with garbage and past fixing. No matter how bad it was, the man was entitled, at the very least, to proper notification and some time to clear out his possessions.

Much of what was inside was undoubtedly worthless. But Conboy claims he lost $7,000 in cash and some family photographs, along with his clothes and other essentials. Even when a demolition is done without an owner's consent, some responsible party should be found to go through what's inside and preserve what's important. If the law doesn't provide for that, it ought to be rewritten.

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