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To Court or Not?

By Dan Hust
BETHEL — September 7, 2004 – The Town of Bethel’s litigation against Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson is back on hold – for now.
According to a letter faxed to the involved parties by town attorney Rob McEwan on August 31, the town is asking Judge Nicholas Clemente to hold off on making a decision on the matter until the town board has a chance to meet this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the senior center in Kauneonga Lake.
“It may well be that the plaintiffs’ pending application will become moot,” McEwan wrote.
Supervisor Vicky Vassmer-Simpson sounded even more confident when contacted Friday.
“I think this will all work out very soon,” she said.
She declined to give specifics, including as to why Abramson and Howard received a “notice of discontinuance” on August 24 – in effect, dropping the town’s threat of litigation against the couple if their Woodstock “reunion” concert series of August 20-22 failed to meet all the town’s standards listed in its special use permit granted to the duo.
Two days later, on August 26, the town board was discussing the litigation as if it was still pending, with Councilman Harold Russell halting any action to drop the matter after complaining about excessive noise, illegal camping and drug use.
The board went into executive session and emerged with a plan to wait until they could talk with the planning board before making a decision.
Evidently, no board members were aware that this notice of discontinuance had been sent out two days prior by their own attorney, and when it was discovered on August 27, McEwan quickly faxed a request to Judge Clemente to withdraw the notice.
In response, Howard and Abramson’s attorney, Russell Schindler of Kingston, wrote a letter on August 30 asking the judge not to honor McEwan’s request to withdraw, saying the town had yet to provide a reason for wanting to continue the litigation – other than the town board has yet to decide on the matter.
“It appears that the attorney for the town is merely pursuing vexatious litigation at this time,” Schindler wrote.
In yet another faxed letter, McEwan responded that the law allows no reason to be given if it is determined the town is not acting prejudicially.
And, he added, Howard and Abramson may not have standing to challenge the withdrawal “given that all of the defendants are in default.”
Schindler responded, “Apparently, his intent is to take a default judgment should the notice of discontinuance be withdrawn. If that does not constitute prejudice, I can’t imagine what else would.”
When contacted Friday, Abramson said she still did not know why the town would want to pursue litigation against her, producing a statement from Zoot of Woodstock Stage and Screen attesting to the fact that noise levels were unusually low for an event of this type.
She also reiterated that cars had gotten stuck in the mud on her property, necessitating the overnight stay of many attendees.
“There is an issue here to be discussed, so make up your mind: what is it?” she said, speaking of the town board. “Either we’re in default of the permit agreement, or we’re not.”

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