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Dec 16, 2014 5:30 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Ice Cream Cone Sign Saga Ends With $250 Fine

Dec 22, 2014 10:58 AM

After spending four and a half years and more than $23,000 on attorney fees, Westhampton Beach Village finally wrapped up its prosecution of a Main Street business owner who displayed an illegal ice cream cone sign outside her shop in 2010.

The drawn-out legal battle ended with Elyse Richman, owner of Shock Ice Cream, being found guilty of violating the village’s sign ordinance by displaying a 6-foot-tall ice cream cone outside her store without a permit. Ms. Richman was issued a $250 fine, which she has since paid.

It began on July 28, 2010, when village code enforcement officer Bridgette Napoli spotted the oversized ice cream cone outside Shock Ice Cream, photographed it and issued a summons to Ms. Richman, who also owns the apparel stores Shock and Kids Shock, also on Main Street. A few days later, Ms. Richman reported to Village Police that the statue had been stolen; it has never been recovered, though she has since acquired a smaller replacement.

She contested the violation, saying that because the original cone was removed within a 10-day grace period sometimes offered to business owners, allowing them to remedy violations, she should not have been cited.

Ms. Richman went before then-acting Westhampton Beach Village Justice J. Lee Snead in April 2012. Though Justice Snead found that Ms. Richman had violated the village code, he dismissed the case “in the interest of justice,” without giving further explanation.

The Village Board then instructed special prosecutor Hermon “Bo” Bishop to challenge Justice Snead’s ruling in State Appeals Court. Mr. Bishop's replacement, Anthony Rattoballi, then prosecuted Ms. Richman this year. After spending $23,440 on attorney fees, the village won its appeal, and Ms. Richman was brought into village court once again, appearing before Westhampton Beach Village Justice Francis Fineo for a September 10 bench trial. On November 11, Justice Fineo issued a ruling finding her guilty and, on December 10, fined her $250, the lowest amount allowable under the village’s recently changed code. That same change removed the misdemeanor charge that once came with an ordinance violation.

Ms. Richman said she would have liked to have had a jury trial, which she was no longer entitled to because she faced only a violation rather than a misdemeanor, though she noted that she was happy not to have a misdemeanor on her record.

“Well, I think the last judge dismissed it, and it should have been left alone at that point—and for the village to spend $20,000 to appeal, it is a misuse of power,” she said. “There’s a lot more that they could have done with that money rather than trying to collect $250.”

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By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Dec 17, 14 7:41 AM
Why no one with a right mind would ever want to open a business in WHB. Maybe the 20k could be used to fix up the corner of Old Riverhead Road and Montauk Hwy.
By The Real World (368), southampton on Dec 17, 14 10:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
What a waste of resources! That $20k could have gone for something useful - like padding the new Mayors salary even more! Typical Worsthampton Beach.... Kudos to the business owners who put up with these morons who are always trying to screw them over.
By G (342), Southampton on Dec 17, 14 3:07 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Village Really Won this one didn't they. Why did they feel the need to pursue this case , was it Personal or Principle. Let me tell you a story of my Welcome Into This Village, 30 Years Ago ( yes 30 years , that went fast ), I opened my Shock Store with my partner ( Jeff Disick ) , we named the store Shock because he had Diabetes and he would always go into Shock , we put up our Shock Sign and opened Memorial Day weekend , issued a summons , we didn't know we needed a permit, went to court ...more
By Shock (48), on Dec 18, 14 7:57 AM
The fact is Shock violated the law refused to pay her fine from the beginning hoping it would just go away and cost the village 20,000 and still has to pay the 250.00 she refused to pay in the beginning. Laws are there for a reason and the sign ordinance is there to help keep the aesthetics of the village buisness area looking good. Imagine if everyone threw up whatever they wanted it would look horrible, just as horrible as the empty buisnesses and all the real estate offices on main st. Every ...more
By Hollywood (86), Westhampton Beach on Dec 18, 14 11:53 AM
Fact Check this case before you make a incorrect comment
Note : you get a summons and appear in court for the judge to decide the case either dismiss or a fine Shock went through 3 judges before the 3 rd judge made a decision to dismiss case , NO Fine . The village continued this ridiculous pursuit after spending 23,440 the 4th judge issued a fine 250.00
The Village Won , really ?
By Shock (48), on Dec 18, 14 12:22 PM
Fact check you violated the law / ordinance you were found guilty and fined. For the record that means you were guilty from the start to the end whether it went through one judge or four. You caused the delay instead of accepting the fact that you were guilty as it was founded to be in the end. Those are the facts.
By Hollywood (86), Westhampton Beach on Dec 18, 14 3:08 PM