By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO January 3, 2003 Even though her position is no longer officially funded, Board of Elections Democratic Senior Clerk Mary Jo Oppenheim was at work yesterday in the Government Center in Monticello.
In the 2003 Sullivan County Budget, legislators cut several positions to save money. Among the cuts were the two senior clerks in the Board of Elections office, Republican Debra Gabriel and Oppenheim.
Infuriated by the cuts, Sullivan County Democratic Elections Commissioner Tim Hill commenced a lawsuit against the county to stop the cuts. Last Friday, December 27, Hill and his attorney, Perry Meltzer, were seeking a temporary injunction to prevent the county from laying off Gabriel and Oppenheim. While the injunction was denied, the case will move forward and be heard on January 17.
During his remarks to County Court Judge Burton Ledina, Meltzer mentioned the clerks would still be at their jobs after January 1. It was agreed upon by both Meltzer and County Attorney Ira Cohen that the positions were not eliminated, but they would no longer be funded. Meltzer mentioned if they were not paid when the first checks of the year come out, action would be taken.
A new year in the Government Center started yesterday, and Oppenheim was, indeed, at work. (Gabriel had resigned her position at the end of last year to take a job as the Town of Bethel Tax Collector.)
Oppenheim offered no comment, but her boss did.
I personally got no letter that she is no longer an employee of the county, Hill remarked. I was only informed of a budget modification. As far as I know, she is still here.
Hill responded when asked about whether or not Oppenheim would be paid: Im not worried about pay. Employees get paid here every two weeks. I have nothing to do with pay.
We will go ahead unless someone does something different, Hill continued. I did not do this in the dark of night. There was not a political deal done in some back room. Shes right here, out in the open.
Cohen has advised all county officials not to publicly comment on the situation. When asked, Cohen was not aware Oppenheim was working in the building. In fact, outside of the Board of Elections, most were unaware of her presence.
It shows that Mr. Hill was disingenuous with his statements, Cohen stated in response to Hills remarks. Judge Ledina denied the injunction. He received notice. In fact, a copy of the letter from the personnel director was attached to his court papers.
Cohen was asked what, if any, action would be taken by the county.
There is nothing to do, Cohen replied. It is a public building. She has a right to be here.
The case will be heard on Friday, January 17. No judge has been assigned to the case yet.