Judge sides with Marbletown Democrats over use of government building for party meetings

Daily Freeman-4 months before

In a six-page decision dated Sept. 10, Justice Richard Mott agreed with the party and its chairman, Philip Ryan, that Marbletown Supervisor Richard Parete blocked the meetings from being held in the former Rosendale Elementary School because of personal disagreements with party leaders.

six-page decision “The supervisor’s ... reasons for restricting the [meeting...], to wit his disagreement with the committee’s decision to expel disloyal members, renders it an unconstitutional limitation on the latter’s exercise of its First Amendment rights,” Mott wrote.

The former school, at 1915 Lucas Ave. Extension, has been a government office building shared by the towns of Rosendale and Marbletown since 2016. The Marbletown Democratic Committee began using it as a meeting place that year.

The building is known as the Rondout Municipal Center. It's owned by the Rondout Valley school district and leased to the two towns.

Parete in May said there is a provision of state Education Law requiring a public vote to allow political gatherings on properties owned by school districts. Mott noted in his ruling, however, that the building no longer is used as a school.

“When the district leased the premises for town governmental offices and other uses and precluded its use as a K through 12 school, it no longer operated as a school, thereby ceding authority to the lessees as to other uses,” Mott wrote.

Parete said Monday that he and the town are considering an appeal of Mott's ruling because they didn't get a chance to defend themselves.

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