By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO August 23, 2005 Several charges were withdrawn Monday against Phil Nicoletti, the suspended Director of Operations and Deputy Commissioner of the Sullivan County Department of Public Works.
At a brief hearing held at the Sullivan County Courthouse yesterday, Sullivan County Attorney Sam Yasgur decided against pursuing allegations that Nicoletti improperly used county equipment or instructed other county employees to do so, and with intimidating potential witnesses.
Nicoletti is still accused of entering the county personnel offices on two occasions and taking a number of documents related to a countywide survey and notes of interviews regarding a complaint lodged against the department by former DPW employee James Donelli -- and of attempting to coerce Sullivan County Legislator Kathleen LaBuda into saving his job.
Yasgur did not respond to calls for comment.
It is not clear whether the county is still using Nicolettis alleged purchase of two power washers and parts washers or the hostile work environment he allegedly fostered as a basis to suspend him further. Nicoletti was placed on administrative leave on February 25, after admitting to several of the charges against him, as has been stated by Yasgur.
Nicolettis attorney, Jonathan Lovett, said, It doesnt surprise me [that some of the charges were withdrawn]. The case was weak to begin with, and its not getting any stronger.
He said the charges involving the use of county equipment were withdrawn because for 25-30 years it was common practice for DPW employees to borrow county equipment. (Nicoletti was originally charged with ordering county employees to work on his sons dirt bike on county time.)
The hearing will resume on September 28 at 9 a.m.
The hearing for suspended Director of Parks, Recreation and Beautification Richard Caraluzzo will begin this Wednesday morning at the courthouse. Both men are alleged to have entered the personnel office in the early morning hours on two occasions, along with former DPW Commissioner Peter Lilholt, Chief Fiscal Administrative Officer Amy Winters, and, in one instance, Sullivan County Airport engineer Robert Trotta.
In late May, both Caraluzzo and Nicoletti were suspended without pay for 30 days. They are currently being paid while they await the outcome of the administrative hearings, as required by New York State Civil Service Law. Nicolettis annual salary is $75,606 and Caraluzzos is $58,934.
Winters, who earns $58,503 a year, has been on paid administrative leave since April 18.
No action has been taken against Trotta.