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Plumbers' lawsuit against Batavia over plumbing inspector, board members is dismissed

By Howard B. Owens

A lawsuit filed by a group of local plumbers against the City of Batavia over an alleged lack of a qualified person in the plumbing inspector role and the make up of the plumbing board was dismissed Aug. 8 by county Judge Robert C. Noonan.

The decision was made public today.

Noonan ruled that the plaintiffs failed to present any facts that could be used at trial to support their claims and that the city had demonstrated it has made every effort to comply with New York's General City Law.

City Manager Jason Molino said the dismissal substantiates what officials have been saying all along.

"We're happy to see the court agreed that the city has made its best effort, done its due diligence, to do what's best for the taxpayers," Molino said.

The attorney for the plumbers, Brian Degnan, could not be reached for comment. We also tried contacting the plumber who has been most outspoken on the issue, Barbara Toal, and were unsuccessful.

Molino said the city's efforts to bring fairness and impartiality to the plumbing board and the exam process have been successful.

In the past year, the city has gained six new licensed plumbers, he noted.

One of the controversies that arose last year about the plumbers is that the licensing exam had some poorly constructed questions and the grading wasn't being applied fairly. Three people who had taken the test and given failing grades were re-graded by Assistant City Manager Sally Kuzon and all three passed (Correction: two of the three were passed by the plumbing board.)

As part of the lawsuit, the plumbers challenged Sally Kuzon's qualifications to grade the test and to sit on the plumbing board. In addition to being the assistant city manager, she is director of the Public Works Department.

The suit also challenged Code Enforcement Officer and Superintendent of Water/Wastewater Matt Worth's appointment under an emergency declaration as plumbing inspector to the plumbing board, and the qualifications of Bill Hays as a journeyman plumber to sit on the plumbing board.

Noonan ruled that all three people were qualified for their positions under the guidelines of state law and that the city had made every effort to find a qualified master plumber willing to give up his or her business in order to become a plumbing inspector.  

The ruling states that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the city had disregarded its statutory duties under General City Law.

The suit was brought by Mark Walton, Peter Dellapenna, Kenneth Toal, Ryan Toal, Henry H. Cook, Ryan Cook, Christopher Cook, Ronald Toal, Paul Salway, Larry Toal, Barbara Toal, Walter Szczesny and Carl McQuillen.

For previous coverage of plumbing board issues, click here.

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