Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
January 22, 2010 Issue
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Ira Cohen to Monticello: 'No thanks' to Village Attorney position

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — County Treasurer Ira Cohen has taken his name out of the running as a replacement for Monticello’s official village attorney.
On Friday, at a special meeting called to pay the village’s bills, Cohen withdrew his name from consideration.
“My appearance here Monday night was in good faith,” he told the village board, referencing the regular October 5 meeting where he was almost named as Attorney Jacob Billig’s replacement. “I came here thinking the time was right.”
Instead, Cohen found himself the latest in a line of casualties in the fractious politics of the county’s most populous village.
“I had some thought that we could hash out those questions, those differences, those concerns, and come to a working relationship,” he told the board. “It’s apparent to me, unfortunately, since Monday night that that is probably not going to happen. I’m sorry about that.”
He noted that board members who may have had issues with his candidacy for the attorney’s position never brought their concerns to him.
“I think it’s too bad, because I think I could have helped, and I think we could have worked well together,” he said.
“I want to stay friends with all of you,” Cohen remarked, hoping the cordial, professional relationship he’s enjoyed with them as the county’s treasurer will continue.
Cohen is running unopposed this November to serve another four years as county treasurer.
In the meantime, the debate continues over whether Billig is still the village attorney or not.
Mayor Gordon Jenkins said Billig was fired at last Monday’s meeting, citing dissatisfaction with Billig’s attendance at board meetings.
Though the village code indicates the mayor has the power to fire the village attorney with or without cause, Trustee Carmen Rue and Billig himself have argued that Jenkins acted beyond his scope of duties.
“The position is not vacant, a condition that the mayor sought to force when he could not get his hand-picked selection rubber-stamped by the board,” Rue stated in her blog at
Jenkins has not yet named – and the board has not been willing to agree to – a successor, though Deputy Village Attorney Robert Gaiman continues in his role and can serve as the temporary or permanent Village Attorney.
Billig said last week that he expects and even hopes the board will appoint his replacement soon, noting that other obligations and commitments have made his schedule very busy (though he added that his meeting attendance has been strong and regular).
The next board meeting is set for Monday, October 19, at 7 p.m. at the village hall in Monticello.

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