By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO November 12, 2002 Last month, Village of Monticello Police Chief Michael Brennan and Head of Detectives Michael Bunce retired in the midst of controversy. The two were being investigated by the state Attorney Generals office for possible wrongdoings involving the alleged use of public equipment for their private process-serving business.
Rather than face charges or allow the investigation to proceed, the two opted for retirement.
The village board accepted their retirements at a subsequent meeting, thanked them for their many years of service, and wished them well. Doug Solomon was then promoted to Chief. The village board was hopeful they could put all the controversy behind them, ease the bad feelings in the police department and move on.
They were wrong. Rumors started circulating around the village about a large payout package for the two officers. Many village residents were upset about this and voiced their concerns to the village board at their meeting on Monday, November 4.
I heard a strange rumor concerning the officers payout, remarked Town of Thompson attorney William Rosen. The chief and the officer had to resign. It is incumbent upon the board to protect the purse strings. Deny their payments. There will be a lawsuit. They should only get what they are entitled to.
The emphasis of blame has been put on the whistleblowers. You should be thankful for them, commented former Town of Thompson Supervisor John Barbarite. Those officers did notify the board and management. You ignored the facts. The village has been poorly served.
There were certain activities going on, responded board member Scott Schoonmaker. The Attorney Generals Office told us not to do or say anything until the investigation was over. We couldnt hamper the investigation.
Barbarite accused the village of not having a system in place to account for time. Schoonmaker responded that they were addressing accountability and said policies were in place to account for time.
After comments went back and forth, Village Board Member David Rosenberg addressed the audience.
I dont even know where to start, Rosenberg said. I do not understand the need to extract a pound of flesh from these men. They did not steal from the taxpayers that was made crystal clear to us.
With that, Rosenberg pulled out a stock the kind that people were kept in as a form of public punishment in the 1700s.
Maybe we should just go back to flogging people, Rosenberg continued. This whole thing went back two and a half years. For two years, there was no problem.
Rosenberg and former Mayor Bob Friedland began arguing back and forth, with both sides hurling personal insults. Before it got completely out of hand, Mayor Gary Sommers closed the floor to public comment. After that, a small group of citizens left. Before doing so, Barbarite accused the board of being a dictatorship. And Betty Friedland stated she and her husband would sue Rosenberg.
The rest of the meeting went smoothly. But the subject was broached again two days later at the first of the weekly lunches amongst Sommers, Village Manager Richard Sush, and Solomon held at The Feast on Broadway. While Solomon and Sush were late tending to village business, Sommers addressed the situation.
They are getting what their contract calls for. To say they are getting a sweetheart deal is ridiculous, Sommers stated. Somehow, some residents got hold of an internal memo containing information on specific personnel. There was no FOIL request. I have asked the manager for an internal investigation to find out how this information is being released. Once we find the source, whatever charges need to be filed under the code of ethics we will do so.
We are taking this seriously and need to have this leak plugged, Sommers continued. I have no problem releasing information as long as it goes through the manager and it is properly reviewed for legal reasons.
Soon thereafter, the chief and the manager joined the mayor for lunch. While the crowd talking to them was small, the trio will continue to have lunch each week.
This Wednesday, the three will lunch at Gagers at noon. The mayor has invited Sullivan County District 9 Legislator Jim Carnell Jr. to join them. Carnell has tentatively agreed, depending upon his schedule.