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Dan Hust | Democrat

Monticello Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins, left, shakes Village Justice Josephine Finn’s hand after being sworn in to another term on the village board Monday evening.

‘New order’ evident in Monticello

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — April 9, 2010 — Utilizing their newfound majority, Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins and Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins made a variety of changes at Monday’s reorganizational meeting of the village board.
“There are new rules and procedures going on here now,” said Hutchins. “There’s an order that needs to be going on in the village that hasn’t been going on.”
Though Hutchins was speaking about the calling of special meetings, his words applied to most of the items on that evening’s agenda.
For the first time, the rash of 3-2 votes were in Hutchins’ and Jenkins’ favor, as newly elected board member Rev. James Matthews voted with them every time.
Trustees Victor Marinello and Carmen Rue did agree with the other three from time to time, but for the following votes – including simply accepting the agenda – their disagreement was often sharp:
Return of Barbarite
John Barbarite, like Ray Nargizian before him, was returned for a second time to the village manager position.
His contract, which Marinello and Rue said they did not see beforehand, pays him about $12,000 less than Nargizian was getting, for a total of $60,000 including benefits.
He’ll also get less days off than Nargizian, and if fired by the board (at whose pleasure he serves), he will not be entitled to any salary or benefits beyond his termination date.
However, a deputy village manager is expected to be hired after a public hearing at the next meeting (April 20 at 7 p.m.). Village Clerk John LiGreci and Jenkins confirmed it’s likely to be filled by LiGreci, whose pay may equal Barbarite’s. (And a new village clerk will be named to replace LiGreci.)
Barbarite – who will work 30 hours a week and is foregoing $14,000 in health benefits for a $3,500 payout – said he’s reversed his stance on the need for a deputy because “the village has slid so far back in the last year,” necessitating someone to help him resolve critical and immediate issues.
As for why he himself is jumping back into Monticello government, Barbarite said he’s eager to once again make a difference.
“I think I would rather be more aggravated on the inside dealing with problems than sitting at home watching TV and wondering about those problems,” he explained after the meeting.
Out of county law firm
The law firm of Drake, Loeb, Heller, Kennedy, Gogerty, Gaba and Rodd was named “special counsel” to the village.
Though the intent seemed there, the board could not appoint them as village attorney because such an attorney is required by village law to reside within Sullivan County.
This firm is based in Orange County’s New Windsor, which after the meeting Jenkins said is an asset.
“We wanted someone who wasn’t so tied in with the village,” he explained, “someone who could be impartial.”
He promised the village would save money, but Rue and Marinello doubted it, noting the prior village attorney was paid $40,000 a year, along with $12,500 for the deputy village attorney.
This new firm specializes in municipal representation. In return for a $175 hourly fee ($90 for paralegals), the firm’s various attorneys will provide unlimited legal assistance to the village board, planning board and zoning board, including most of the duties typically carried out by the village attorney (a position that will remain vacant for 2010).
They’ll also prosecute traffic tickets and code violations on the village’s behalf.
For litigation within New York, their fee rises to $190 per hour ($100 for paralegals), and $200 for federal cases ($90 for paralegals).
Forty cents per mile will be charged for travel expenses, along with the usual array of fees for photocopies, faxes and postage.
The contract states the firm serves at the pleasure of the mayor.
Rue protested the vote but was cut off by Jenkins.
“With all due respect, Carmen, we have people waiting here for the meeting to end,” he stated.
“You know, she’s absolutely right,” replied Marinello. “You don’t make your own rules, Mr. Mayor. This may have been discussed with other board members, but it wasn’t discussed with me.”
Marinello and Rue deemed the hiring “illegal,” but one of the firm’s attorneys, Dominic Cordisco, took his seat near the board after the vote.
“I’m very pleased to be here,” he told the board.
The issue of residency may be resolved soon, as the board agreed to hold a public hearing at the next meeting to discuss changing residency requirements for the village attorney, among other village officials.
Board procedures
The board’s procedural rules were also changed, including the meeting dates, which are now the first and third Tuesdays of the month – not on Mondays, but still at 7 p.m. at the village hall.
It was noted that such meetings will conflict with the Town of Thompson Board meetings, but it was also acknowledged that few people try to attend both.
Special meetings – which at one point last year were being called weekly – can no longer be held simply by assent of three board members.
Instead, requests for special meetings must be routed through the mayor or the deputy mayor, who then has the option to call the meeting.
“This is wrong,” Rue protested, citing a 1954 village referendum and subsequent law. “... Anybody on this board can call a special meeting.”
Marinello and Rue worried that Jenkins and Hutchins would use the power to prohibit special meetings they don’t want.
Upon being pressed, Cordisco, the new attorney, admitted it’s akin to a veto power by the mayor, “which is in line with the fact that the mayor sets the agenda.”
“Honestly, why would I say no to special meetings?” Jenkins remarked after the meeting. “I’m not going to tell a board member we can’t have a special meeting.”
The mayor has a similar power with putting items on the agenda for regular meetings, though if board members get those items to the village clerk at least a week before the meeting, the new rules stipulate they must be placed on the agenda.
And Jenkins and Barbarite have the sole ability to contact the village’s legal firm at any time for advice. Department heads must go through the manager, while other board members must route their requests in writing through the mayor, who can choose whether or not to forward it on to the attorneys.
Another new rule prohibits interrupting a fellow board member, “unless it is to call the member to order.”
Marinello doubted the new procedures would be followed fairly.
“If they don’t like it, it doesn’t get on the agenda,” he predicted after the meeting. “... People might as well not vote for anybody else. They should just vote for the mayor!”
New engineer/planner
A new village engineer and planner was hired: the Newton, New Jersey firm of Dykstra Associates, which will help finalize the village’s rezoning and assist it in every other planning and engineering request.
The firm’s Robert Tessier will provide planning services at a rate of $110 per hour, while Dykstra’s John Petroccione will be the engineer for $120 per hour.
A staff member will be provided for 16 hours a week for the next 10 weeks to aid in writing, administering and seeking out community grants. The fee will be $1,000 a week, with a cap of $10,000 that can be extended by the board.
Marinello and Rue worried Dykstra might be redoing zoning work already completed, as did some in the audience, but Tessier promised the village will quickly come to appreciate the services his firm is providing.
Ethics meeting
A public hearing will be held on a Code of Ethics amendment proposal on May 4 at 7 p.m.
Rue moved to table setting that hearing but found support only from Marinello. The two then voted against having the hearing.
After the meeting, Jenkins was matter-of-fact about the split votes.
“It’s something new,” he said, “and they just have to deal with it.”

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