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Village Board
In Danger?

By Ed Townsend
LIBERTY — December 27, 2002 – Could the mayor and trustees of the Village of Liberty be arrested on misdemeanor charges?
The village’s attorney says no. But one of its trustees disagrees.
Village Trustee William "Ruby" Smith told the board (with only Acting Mayor Stephen Lavelle and Trustee Thomas Caskey present) Monday night that their effort to consolidate and appoint one director of Public Works/Chief Water Plant Operator and Facilities Manager/ Chief Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator and add additional responsibilites to three working supervisors had transpired without the approval of the new jobs and job descriptions by Sullivan County Personnel Director Pam Rourke.
At a special meeting of the board December 9, Mayor Edward Pankonin, Lavelle and Trustee Thomas Sprague approved Resolution No. 107-2002, which reads that "the Board of Trustees of the Village of Liberty approves the creation of a new position entitled Director of Public Works/Chief Water Plant Operator." Smith opposed the resolution.
At the same meeting, Mayor Pankonin explained that the current DPW supervisor, Richie Davis, would be retiring from the village as of December 31.
The mayor explained prior to the introduction of the resolution that the board was considering combining the DPW Supervisor and the Chief Water Plant Operator positions into one position so that it would be more effective and cost-efficient.
Also approved that night was Resolution No. 108-2002, creating the job title of Facilities Manager/Chief Wasterwater Plant Operator.
Appointed to the new position of Director of Public Works/Chief Water Plant Operator was Keith Herbert, while Russell Ahrens assumed the job title of Facilities Manager/Chief Wastewater Plant Operator. Each will receive an additional $4,000 to their annual salary.
The Working Supervisor of the Public Works Department is Peter Parks; the Working Supervisor of the Water Department is Richard Winters; and the Working Supervisor of the Wastewater Department is Charlie Tyler.
Mayor Pankonin pointed out that with these changes and new job titles there would be a savings of approximately 60 percent off the current Director of Public Works salary.
At the December 23 meeting, Trustee Smith said he had stated at the December 9 meeting that, since the current DPW supervisor would be paid by the village until October 2003, the savings would not be immediate. Smith also said that he was opposed to the entire resolution and that he had never been included in any discussions on the changes.
"I have been left out totally on this project, and we should be working together," Smith said.
Smith, the only Democrat on the board, strongly indicated that this was situation was politically motivated, that "it was a done deal, and we never discussed these changes as the entire board."
Smith noted at Monday night’s meeting that the head of the Sullivan County Personnel Department could file charges with the district attorney's office, who then would arrest the board on two misdemeanor charges. The two potential charges were never explained.
Acting Mayor Lavelle at Monday night’s meeting said that Village Attorney Zachary Kelson had reviewed the personnel changes and indicated there were no violations.
After the meeting, Smith said that in principle, if this resulted in a consolidation and reduction of salaries and a savings to the taxpayers, this he could support.
Smith also questioned why Herbert was appointed to the Director of Public Works position. Lavelle said Herbert had gotten the job done when he was in charge of the water department.
In other business Monday night, questions were asked about the potential new slaughterhouse near the village sewer plant and what effect it would have on Liberty. Smith said that he and Trustee Sprague were opposed to the project. It was urged that additional research be done on this project.
Frank DeMayo addressed the board about the Calpine power plant project, saying that this would be good for this area and that they were interested in a couple of places in Liberty after having been rejected in Monticello. DeMayo noted that he saw their plant in Orange County, and it was very clean and would help support the tax base in Liberty.

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