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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 28, 2010

Is idle Berne  business in further jeopardy?

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The town shut down Patrick Hannan’s auto-repair shop on Main Street a month ago, and about a dozen people are still out of work. But acquiring a certificate of occupancy and correcting life-safety hazards in the garage are not the only obstacles between Hannan and his business.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles will seek to revoke his permit to operate a repair shop because he was arrested last March by the Albany County Sheriff’s Department for possession of a forged town building permit.

Hannan says the document was never forged, and all court records of the hearing after his arrest were sealed, but both Hannan and the city of Albany have said that his charge of second-degree possession of a forged instrument was brought down to disorderly conduct.

Lisa Mann, Hannan’s girlfriend who owns the property at 65 Main Street, obtained an authentic building permit in November of 2005 that allowed her to build a garage, which was completed early in 2006. It did not, however, allow for operating it as a business, which required an entirely new document, leading to the alleged forgery and the subsequent arrest.

Peter Schaming, Berne’s building administrator and one of its two code enforcement officers, said last month that Mann “never had a certificate of occupancy to open the building for business.”

Peter Bucci, a DMV spokesman, told The Enterprise that the department is waiting for a court date to be scheduled.

“We will be seeking to have his permit revoked,” Bucci said. “He has to have his day in court. These things tend to drag on, but I imagine it won’t be long until the hearing is at least scheduled, and then it’s just a waiting game until the hearing takes place.”

According to an arrest report from the sheriff’s department, Hannan was arrested on March 9, 2009, in Voorheesville “for possessing a forged town of Berne building and zoning permit which was submitted to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles with a facility-repair application,” the arrest report reads. Hannan was arraigned that same day at the Albany City Court by Judge William Carter.

While The Enterprise was denied access to further information on Hannan’s case by the city court, Senior Investigator Shawn Springs of the sheriff’s department provided some insight this week on the arrest.

“I’ve got to tell you, if we made an arrest for a forged instrument, then there had to be a forged instrument,” Spring said. “It’s not like an assault case, where one person can say, ‘They assaulted me,’ and you can just take their word. This is a case that requires actual evidence, so, if we arrested someone based on a charge that requires an instrument, then that forged instrument has to be part of that case. There wouldn’t be any other reason for an arrest to be made.”

Hannan’s garage was shut down in December by the town’s building department because neither Hannan nor Mann had a certificate of occupancy, or CO. The situation came into the public eye at the December town board meeting, when Mann told the councilmen that she felt Hannan was being singled out by Joseph Whipple, the town’s other code enforcement officer. Then-Supervisor Kevin Crosier told her that there were life-safety hazards in the building that needed to be corrected, and that she needed a certificate of occupancy.

“When you don’t have a CO, you’re really not supposed to occupy a building; that’s the New York State Code,” Crosier said.

Hannan, sitting in the audience, told the board that there are many people in town without a certificate of occupancy, and that this was a personal issue between Whipple and himself. Whipple has flatly denied that there is anything personal between them, but has declined to comment any further on the matter.

Hannan said he did not know until this week that the DMV had plans to take him to court.

“If they take it from me, they take it from me,” Hannan said of his permit. “My sign is down anyways. My main concern is my paving business.” He and Mann have yet to receive a list of the hazards present in the garage, Hannan went on.

“How can I fix things when you don’t give me a list of what to fix?” asked Hannan this week. “There’re a lot of people still in this town that don’t have COs. They’re singling me out, that’s all.”

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