Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

Claim check stirs tensions on Monticello board

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — February 9, 2010 — Last Monday’s Monticello Village Board meeting got off to a rocky start when Mayor Gordon Jenkins brought up a year-old damages claim.
In January 2009, village employee Bonnie Carnell’s car was damaged by snow falling off the roof of the village government complex, resulting in $1,760.18 of repairs, according to a memo released by Jenkins last Monday.
When the village’s insurance carrier refused to pay the claim, Carnell’s own insurer paid everything but her $500 deductible, according to the memo. (Village Manager Ray Nargizian later said Monticello’s insurance company considered it an act of nature.)
Late last year, Carnell submitted a new claim to the village, requesting Monticello reimburse her that $500.
Last month, trustees unanimously agreed to order all bills paid, which included Carnell’s claim.
On Monday, Jenkins said that decision was in error and that he would not sign the check.
“I refused to sign this check because it was earmarked for payment of a claim which was previously denied, and I was not aware there was any new information which would change that determination,” he read from a prepared statement.
Jenkins added that the matter had gone to arbitration, with the arbitrator ruling in favor of Monticello’s insurer. Plus, he said, the time limit had passed on Carnell’s ability to file a new claim.
Jenkins said he had denied payment in mid-January after conducting an investigation, but Nargizian was instructed by three board members (ostensibly, Carmen Rue, Scott Schoonmaker and Victor Marinello, though he did not offer specific names) to make the payment to Carnell.
On Monday, Jenkins again moved to have the payment denied, accusing the three board members of engaging in illegal conduct.
“The board and Ray had no business paying this $500,” Jenkins remarked. “... It was more a gift than anything.”
Jenkins’ motion failed to win support from anyone other than himself and Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins.
Rue pointed out that this issue should have been brought up at the January meeting, but Hutchins claimed it was an oversight, not caught until later in the month.
Village Attorney Robert Gaiman acknowledged he had yet to investigate the issue, but when pressed by Hutchins, he indicated agreement with the mayor’s position.
“Technically, if there is no valid claim against the village, I don’t think the village can pay a claim,” Gaiman said.
However, he added that procedurally the check had been processed appropriately. Whether or not the board should have cut the check is a policy decision he was unwilling to comment upon.
Complicating the issue is that Carnell’s car was allegedly parked in a no-parking zone, though Nargizian later said Carnell stated it was not a no-parking zone at the time the damage occurred. And in the past, the village had paid for damages in at least two similar situations with other employees.
In those two cases, however, the village’s insurance carrier had agreed to pay the claims.
Jenkins felt the $500 sent to Carnell should be returned, but again, that won support only from Hutchins.
“I feel this is just a prejudicial matter against an employee,” observed Schoonmaker. “... I think it should be paid.”
Schoonmaker admitted he had not initially understood the payment was for damages to a car not owned by the village, but he felt the payment was in keeping with past practice.
“It’s a closed issue,” Nargizian said on Tuesday.
He said the check has been paid and had no sympathy for Jenkins’ and Hutchins’ complaints.
“If they didn’t read it [the details of the check payment in January], don’t come back now and call foul,” he remarked.

top of page  |  home  |  archives