By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO October 21, 2005 The civil hearing on Phil Nicoletti, the criminally charged and suspended Deputy Commissioner of the Sullivan County Department of Public Works (DPW), concluded yesterday.
The civil hearing for suspended Director of Parks, Recreation and Beautification Richard Caraluzzo reached some of its last moments as well, after four months of accusations, mudslinging and arguing.
Theres one more civil hearing to go, scheduled for Wednesday.
The criminal phase for Nicoletti and retired DPW Commissioner Peter Lilholt, will resume next month in Sullivan County Criminal Court. Both are accused of a number of felonies and misdemeanors related to the theft of county property.
Yesterday, at the Sullivan County Government Center Hearing Room, Jonathan Lovett, the attorney for three of the DPW officials currently on leave (including Amy Winters), brought in star witnesses once again, such as Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham, former Sullivan County Manager Dan Briggs, Legislature Majority Leader Kathleen LaBuda, acting County Manager Richard LaCondre and others.
But it was Lovetts abrasiveness toward many of the witnesses which captured most of the morning.
Lovett particularly went after LaBuda, attempting to corner her into various statements about the meeting she had in Bloomingburg earlier this year with the four accused.
Lovett did not stop with LaBuda, however. He was unrelenting against Personnel Commissioner Pamela Rourke, Lilholts attorney Mike McGuire (who was previously the attorney for the other three DPW employees), and at times against Sullivan County Attorney Sam Yasgur, who was much more restrained than in past hearings.
Lovetts style from the beginning has been tough, with his questions often quick and loud. During his first questioning of Lilholt, labor relations consultant Michael Wittenberg (who is overseeing the hearings) admitted the questioning confused even himself.
At the end of the day, not much more was gained about how the four allegedly conspired to enter the personnel office on two occasions and confiscate confidential documents. Their meeting with LaBuda clearly seemed to be an attempt to save their jobs, while also threatening to go to the media with possibly damaging information on other county employees, including her brother.
The hearing did conclude with one apparent certainty. The new commissioner of the DPW, Robert Meyer, will be the one who decides the fate of the careers of Caraluzzo and Nicoletti, once Wittenberg makes his recommendation and releases his record.
A final hearing will take place October 26 at 9 a.m. at the Sullivan County Government Center Hearing Room in Monticello.
There has been no word on the future of Winters, who has been on paid leave since April but has not been formally charged in the case.
Another definite conclusion is that employees of the DPW will no longer be allowed to borrow and return tools for personal use or loans, as was done in the past. Briggs notified the department in April about the change in policy. Meyer sent out a memo in writing notifying the department of the permanence of that decision this past August.
In addition, DPW employees will no longer be able to use county equipment on their lunch breaks or after hours for personal use.