Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins, left, and then Deputy Mayor Larissa Bennett, in foreground, during a walking tour of the village late last year
Bennett fired by Jenkins
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO January 10, 2014 About a year after being named Mayor Gordon Jenkins’ deputy, Monticello Trustee Larissa Bennett was unceremoniously relieved by Jenkins of those duties Monday. The firing came via a letter from Jenkins on village letterhead.
The curt, one-paragraph note was addressed to Bennett and dated December 17 the Village Board’s last meeting of the year; a meeting Bennett was unable to attend due to severe winter weather.
Jenkins wrote, “This letter is to inform you that I will be removing you from the position of Deputy Village Mayor effective immediately. I will be leaving the position vacant and not filling it with anyone at this time. Thank you for your time and service in the position.”
Bennett claims that upon being served the notice of termination, Jenkins refered to her as “a disgrace to the black community in the Village of Monticello.” Jenkins denies the allegation.
Bennett believes that Jenkins removed her as deputy mayor as retribution for her having sided with Trustee Carmen Rue in an attempt to have the Mayor removed in his capacity as acting village manager during the board’s December 3 meeting.
Incidentally, Bennett again sided with Rue at Tuesday’s meeting in another attempt to remove Jenkins as village manager. But as with the December 3 attempt, Trustee James Mathews, a Jenkins supporter, and Trustee Rochelle Massey, Jenkins’ self appointed village trustee and longtime live-in girlfriend, voted against the motion.
Jenkins’ “no” vote on the motion provided the tie-breaker, thus preserving the mayor’s dual roles in the village.
When asked in an interview with the Democrat his motivations for removing Bennett as deputy mayor, Jenkins offered, “She’s just not reliable. She’s never in the village and does nothing for the people of the village. She should actually resign [as trustee] and let someone with the time do the job. She has absolutely no commitment to this village. I respect the fact that she has a job and other responsibilities but she really needs to choose one or the other.”
Added Jenkins, “Why am I available 24 hours in this village? It has nothing to do with any vendettas against her. It’s simply the fact that she’s unavailable and has no time to perform her responsibilities to the village. People call her and she never responds. These jobs [village trustee and deputy mayor] are important and you need a certain level of responsibility and commitment to do them.’
Bennett, though, disagrees with the mayor’s assessment: “I’ve missed all of two meetings in the calendar year 2013,” she said. “It just has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t bow down to his every request, and as far as me being ‘unavailable,’ that’s just not true. I have two cell phones. One for my full-time job, and the other for personal and village matters. I receive calls and text messages consistently and respond to all of them. As village manager he [Jenkins] has the obligation to inform the board members of everything that’s going on in relation to the village, not just the board members that he sees on a daily basis and who agree with and side with his every request. So when he says that I am unavailable he’s wrong. What I am, though, is uninformed by the mayor regarding village matters.’
As for Rue, she called the Bennett firing “illegal.” “It’s illegal because anything that’s done as far as appointments and removals has to be done in public,” she said. “The mayor said nothing [in public]. He just gave her this letter. And also, he cannot legally remove her until April 1 when we have our reorganizational meeting… his letter, to me, is garbage.”
Asked if she will continue her push to remove Jenkins as acting village manager at future board meetings, Rue said, “Absolutely.”