LOCKPORT – The attorney for Town of Lockport auto shop owner David J. Mongielo told a skeptical judge Thursday that the long-running prosecution of Mongielo over a violation of the town’s sign ordinance is rooted in “a political cadre” headed by State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane.
The statement came as attorney Frank T. Housh argued an appeal to try to block a 10-day jail sentence for Mongielo, a former GOP committeeman, later a Conservative, who has run unsuccessfully for town supervisor twice.
“Today is the first time I heard George Maziarz’ name [in connection with the case], and you’d think if there was a conspiracy I would have heard about it,” said Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III, one of the few Democrats holding office in the county.
Murphy said he will issue a decision on Mongielo’s appeal at 3 p.m. July 11. He told Housh: “I want your client prepared to start serving his sentence that day, if that is the court’s order.”
Housh, while objecting to the judge’s use of the word “conspiracy,” insisted that Mongielo is being done in by a Republican faction beholden to Maziarz for their jobs and offices.
Among them, according to Housh, would be Town Justice Leonard G. Tilney Jr., a twice-elected Republican who sentenced Mongielo to 10 days in jail Jan. 21 for violating a conditional discharge he was given for his first sign violation in 2010.
At the same time, Tilney, who said, “I don’t owe the Republican Party anything,” dismissed a 2011 violation for which Mongielo had been expecting to have a jury trial.
Murphy asked several times why Mongielo was complaining about having charges dismissed. The answer appeared to be that the move deprived Mongielo of a platform.
“My client was anxious to have a public forum to persuade a jury that the poorly crafted sign ordinance was not violated,” Housh said. He argued that Tilney exceeded his authority by throwing out the charge on the grounds of “judicial economy,” because the conditional discharge violation, of which Mongielo was convicted, was based on exactly the same evidence.
Housh said the sole witness against Mongielo was town GOP Chairman Donald J. Jablonski, who took a video in 2011 of the LED signboard in front of Mongielo’s Robinson Road business. Jablonski is also chairman of the town Zoning Board of Appeals.
The sign, which at the time was advertising a fundraiser for an injured sheriff’s deputy, was flashing different images every few seconds.
That’s illegal in the Town of Lockport, which bars signs that change “format” more than once every 10 minutes.
Town Prosecutor Bradley D. Marble said that while it’s true no one but Mongielo has been prosecuted over the law, that’s because anyone else who was warned about it has complied. He said a podiatrist on Robinson Road, who has a digital clock on his sign, was grandfathered because the sign predated the adoption of the law.
“Mr. Mongielo doesn’t cease that activity unless he has a pending criminal charge. That’s the only time Mr. Mongielo obeys the law,” Marble said.