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JUDGE BLASTS OFFICIALS IN HAMBURG OVER
GARBAGE DISPUTE

A judge Tuesday reaffirmed his temporary ban on Hamburg's clear-plastic garbage bag law and threatened village officials with jail time if they again try to use what he called "cutesy" means to circumvent his ruling.

State Supreme Court Justice Frank A. Sedita Jr. ordered Village Administrator Donald Fontaine and Public Works Superintendent Gerald Knoll to appear before him Jan. 18 so he can tell them in person what his order means and that their failure to obey it could cost them 30 days in jail.

The judge last week issued a temporary restraining order against the village law, which a homeowner has challenged as unconstitutional. Village officials contend the law requiring all residents to put their trash in clear bags is simply a means to ensure that residents do not throw out recyclables.

Sedita issued the jail threat to village officials after Marla DePan Brown, the lawyer for homeowner John Dobrzenski, told him that soon after he issued his temporary restraining order, a special village crew picked up Dobrzenski's garbage at his East Union Street home and told him they were taking it somewhere but refused to disclose where.

DePan Brown said she believed village crews took the garbage to inspect it for recyclable materials, in violation of the judge's order.

Village Attorney Robert G. Walsh said village officials may have misconstrued Sedita's Dec. 13 order allowing Dobrzenski and nine other property owners to ignore the clear-plastic bag mandate.

Sedita, who refused to lift the restraining order, said the actions of village officials played "a large part in defeating your case today." He then ordered Walsh to bring Fontaine and Knoll to court next month and said the two should "expect the very worst" for further violations of his order.

Sedita noted that the village has not presented any evidence that the use of other garbage bags will cost the village an excessive amount of extra money for recycling. He suggested the village could simply charge citizens higher fees for using opaque garbage bags.

DePan Brown told the judge assertions by village officials that Dobrzenski is against the village's recycling effort are untrue. She said Dobrzenski, the lead plaintiff in the case, "wishes to support recycling" but also feels he has privacy rights, she said.

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