Tuesday, October 22, 2013

NYS Administrative Judges Accuse Department of Consumer Affairs' Commissioner Jonathan Mintz of Pressuring Them To Fine Small Bussinesses



Second judge claims pressure for fining small businesses

Susan Edelman, NYPOST

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A second administrative law judge has come forward with a suit claiming she was strong-armed into slapping small businesses with hefty fines for alleged violations of city rules.
In a case filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, Judge Susan Kassapian says her bosses in the city Department of Consumer Affairs would “illegally pressure” her and other judges to rule against businesses appealing their violations.
“Some of these fines wind up crushing the small businesses — they’re draconian fines in light of the small infractions,” said Kassapian’s lawyer, Stewart Karlin.
Kassapian’s suit comes on the heels of a case brought in July by the city’s longest-serving administrative law judge, Michelle Mirro, who also says the city coerced her into imposing maximum fines on small-business violations.
The city has reaped a fortune off penalties paid by small businesses.
Consumer Affairs issued 24,176 fines in the 2012 fiscal year, compared to 9,719 a decade earlier — a nearly threefold increase, records show. During that time, revenue from fines jumped from $4 million to $14 million.
The Health Department reaped $52 million in fines in 2012, more than six times the $8.2 million it collected in 2002.
Kassapian’s suit, filed Friday, accuses the city of retaliating against her for complaining that officials wrongly interfered with her rulings. It says Mayor Bloomberg’s DCA commissioner, Jonathan Mintz, condoned the unethical practices.
Her suit cites several examples in which she was “forced” to rule against small businesses in favor of the DCA:
  • She wanted to dismiss charges that a jewelry store did not keep book records of secondhand purchases and sales because the business was following an NYPD directive to record such purchases on an online system.
  • She recommended dismissing a charge against a parking company for failing to protect bike-parking spaces with a barrier.
  • She recommended dismissing a charge of unlicensed sidewalk activity by a Houston Street pub.
  • She wanted to reduce a funeral home’s fine for not displaying prices on caskets.
  • She recommended dismissing a charge of unlicensed sales on a stand outside a flower shop.
Kassapian’s suit is “flatly without merit,” a DCA spokesman said.

EXCLUSIVE: Consumer Affairs judge Michele Mirro claims she was pressured to find merchants guilty

Michele Mirro, a judge at the city's Department of Consumer Affairs, has been reversed by superiors in numerous cases where she recommended a 'not guilty' decision or a lower fine, according to her lawsuit in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Jonathan Mintz

Comments (11) An administrative law judge at the city's Department of Consumer Affairs claims she was punished for resisting pressure from agency officials to find merchants guilty of violations and impose the maximum fines.
Michele Mirro, the longest-tenured judge at the agency, has been reversed by superiors in numerous cases where she recommended a "not guilty" decision or a lower fine, according to her lawsuit filed Monday in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Mirro accuses superiors at DCA of forcing her to change her verdict in favor of the agency, or to raise the fine in many cases.

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"She is not allowed to be a judge," Mirro's lawyer Stewart Karlin told the Daily News. "Her basic function as a judge is being trampled on."

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