Schenectady County

Store moves to sue Schenectady over closure

The city may have to pay for 41 days of lost business incurred after a city employee allegedly told

The city may have to pay for 41 days of lost business incurred after a city employee allegedly told Funn Electronics to close.

Store clerk Rose Samru spent several hours in the city’s law department Friday working on a notice of claim in which she demands compensation.

She said she’s unsure how much she lost.

“My customers are scattered. I’m still losing customers because they thought I was closed for good,” she said. She is the sole employee of the Albany Street business, which is owned by her son.

Samru closed her doors after an encounter with the city’s code enforcement liaison, who allegedly told her not to reopen until she paid for a secondhand dealer’s permit. Samru does not purchase or sell secondhand goods, so she refused to buy the permit.

Instead, she attempted to appeal the decision to the city’s code enforcement office, but because she does not own the building or the business, Building Inspector Keith Lamp refused to talk to her, according to Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden. Her son, who owns the business and the building, may have moved out of the city and has directed Samru to handle business affairs.

When the issue finally came to Van Norden’s attention, he determined within hours that the business should not have been closed.

Now Van Norden is trying to sort out what went wrong. The crux of the issue is that the city employee never filed paperwork regarding the alleged closure order.

It’s possible the employee told Samru she should “probably” close. The order could also have been termed as a “friendly suggestion,” Van Norden said.

Also, Samru is Guyanese; there may have been a language barrier. But she clearly believed she had been told to close, and she obediently remained closed for six weeks while she tried to appeal to the code enforcement department.

Now Samru wants to be compensated for her lost business; city officials appeared sympathetic, although no one has yet characterized the situation as a mistake.

“We’re concerned about this,” Van Norden said. “If Mr. Lamp’s office is making representations they shouldn’t be making, if they’re making verbal orders they shouldn’t be making, we’ll figure it out.”

He has already told the code enforcers that they must inform the law department before running any sweeps, so that an attorney can be on call. He wants to know about closure orders and other issues right away, rather than six weeks later.

“I said, ‘If you’re going to be doing this stuff, you will tell us about it,’” Van Norden said.

“I’m concerned with whether or not there was any legal basis in the city code for anyone to direct them to or suggest them to do anything.”

And while he’s still trying to sort out exactly what Samru was told to do, he said he believes she was trying to follow the orders correctly.

“We’re grateful they honored whatever instructions or suggestions they were given,” he said. “We’ll sort it out. If it means this business needs to be compensated for shutting down, if a legal or illegal order has been issued, if the department has got it wrong, we’ll fix it.”

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