Today’s news:

This is yet another example of the misuse of power by a city agency.

The it-would-be-funny-if-it-didn’t-really-happen tale of the threat made to Douglaston homeowner Arthur “Tip” Sempliner demonstrates just how easy it is to get stung by the city’s mind-boggling bureaucracy.

Tip is a member of the TimesLedger Newspapers family. In addition to his work as an inventor, Tip’s cartoons appear each week in the papers.

He recently received a registered letter from the city Department of Health ordering him to appear at an administrative hearing to answer questions about a beehive on his property. The letter warned that he could face a fine of up to $2,000 for not providing water for his honey bees.

Tip was stunned by the letter and understandably so. He thought he was doing everything by the book. Tip had allowed Jon Pettingill to start a bee hive on his property near Little Neck Bay. Pettingill took a beekeeping course, registered with the city and filed all of the necessary paperwork in May 2010. Four weeks ago, an inspector showed up.

And then came the threatening letter.

According to Tip, he placed a container of fresh water just 2 feet from the hive. But the bees do not drink the water, he says, because they prefer the salt water in nearby Little Neck Bay, just a stone’s throw from his house.

And if the bees prefer, they can drink fresh water from one of the five ponds in Udalls Cove, also close by.

One does not need a master’s in government administration to see that the DOH’s handling of the case of the missing bee hive bottle is beyond heavy-handed. Tip makes a good case that there is enough water nearby to quench the thirst of even the thirstiest swarm.

But even if that were not the case, the threat of a $2,000 fine is ridiculous. DOH must have far more important things to worry about.

Tip has handled this matter with the same quirky humor that has made his cartoons a reader favorite. But we’re not laughing. The power of city agencies to summon citizens to an administrative hearing and levy fines is serious. Under no circumstances should that power be used to raise revenue.

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