Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

November 18, 2009

COURTS: Mongielo wants sign case taken out of town

By Joyce Miles<br><a href="mailto:joyce.miles@lockportjournal.com">E-mail Joyce</a>

TOWN OF LOCKPORT — David Mongielo wants his zoning violations case litigated somewhere other than Lockport Town Court.

Mongielo, the owner of an auto service shop on Robinson Road, faces three charges of violating a section of the town zoning ordinance that says the message on an electronic sign may not change more than once every 10 minutes.

His company, Mongielo’s Tires & Service, also is cited three times, for alleged violations on specific dates this past February, March and April, according to Building Inspector Brian Belson.

Mongielo appeared in town court without an attorney Tuesday night for a pre-trial conference, and asked Justice Raymond E. Schilling for a change of venue for his upcoming trial.

“I think we can all understand why,” Mongielo said after his meeting with Schilling, referring vaguely to political influences in the town that might prevent him from receiving a fair trial. Schilling received the town Republican committee’s backing in his unopposed bid for re-election, while Mongielo ran as the Democratic candidate for town supervisor. He lost after a noisy campaign in which he complained the GOP committee is elitist and squelches dissenting opinions about the town’s well-being.

Schilling ordered a change-of-venue hearing be held Dec. 8. Newly appointed town prosecutor Bradley Marble is expected to oppose the request.

Mongielo said he asked for a change of venue on the advice of “several” attorneys and local political observers. He declined to elaborate why he thinks he wouldn’t get a fair trial in town court. It will be a non-jury trial wherever it’s held.

Separately, Belson said Mongielo is charged with violating the zoning ordinance on three occasions, but claims his office has documented more than three alleged instances. Whether additional charges are filed depends on the outcome of the current case, he said.

“I’m hoping he stops. That would put an end to this whole thing,” Belson said.

The zoning charges involve Mongielo’s use of the video feature on his LED business sign. In a prior conversation with the Union-Sun & Journal, his attorney, Jeffery Palumbo, questioned whether the ordinance can fairly be applied to Mongielo’s sign. The ordinance makes no mention of “video” and does not define the technical characteristics of a “message.” That’s a problem, he said, because video messages and text messages are not composed the same way technologically, and the ordinance appears to have only text messages in mind.

Contact reporter Joyce Miles at 439-9222, ext. 6245.