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FORMER VILLAGE OF Monticello Deputy Manager John Barbarite, Village Manager Ray Nargizian and Village Mayor Jim Barnicle, from right.

Barbarite fired, claims he was railroaded

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — February 29, 2008 — John Barbarite doesn’t yet know why he was fired Monday night.
But the now-former Village of Monticello Deputy Manager is apparently not legally entitled to that information.
According to Village Attorney Danielle Jose, Barbarite is not a Civil Service employee, does not belong to a union and has no employment contract with Monticello that would stipulate his being informed of the reasons.
But he most certainly is no longer in the village’s employ, thanks to a 3-2 vote by the village board earlier this week, terminating him immediately.
The move, however, has drawn the battle lines along familiar ground, with Barbarite and Trustees Scott Schoonmaker and Gordon Jenkins expressing outrage, while Mayor Jim Barnicle, Manager Ray Nargizian and Trustees Victor Marinello and Brian VanDermark are either answering back or staying silent.
Barbarite said he was expecting to be made Sanitation and Highway Superintendent on March 1, even though he didn’t want to leave his already yearlong stint as the village’s second-highest appointed official.
But Monday night, the board unexpectedly entered into an executive session where he was apparently the focus, and when they came out of that private meeting, there came the 3-2 vote.
“No one told me [I was fired] until I went into work Tuesday morning,” recalled Barbarite. “Ray said to me, ‘I’m sorry things turned out like they did.’”
Barbarite asked if he was fired, and Nargizian confirmed he was. Though the reasons were not specified, Barbarite said Nargizian promised to send him a letter fully explaining the situation.
As of press time, Barbarite did not have that letter in hand, nor had anyone else made it clear what prompted the change.
But Barbarite’s pretty sure he knows why.
“It’s a railroad act,” he said, explaining that his crackdowns on code violators and lawbreakers – including ones involving property owned by Nargizian – put so much pressure on Nargizian and Barnicle that they collaborated to get rid of him.
“It’s all in retaliation,” he remarked, recalling issues where Nargizian allegedly told him he wasn’t being business-friendly. “Ray was out to get me.”
At first, said Barbarite, a compromise was struck, whereby he would take a $16,000 pay increase to lead the village’s 17-man highway and sanitation department, effectively taking him out of his role in supporting and enhancing the Building Department (which has been and remains overseen by Code Enforcement Officer Sue Flora).
But then an accusation surfaced charging Barbarite with using a racial slur in his dealings as deputy village manager. He alleged Nargizian promised to “make it go away” if he lightened up on his aggressive code enforcement policies, but in the meantime the village board decided to have Jose investigate both Barbarite and Nargizian.
Though Barbarite said Jose never questioned him about any racial slur, Jose confirmed this week that she was transcribing a taped statement from an individual who was making such a charge.
Village board members have yet to see that transcription, she added, though the matter has been discussed with them.
Whether it played a part in Barbarite’s firing could not be learned, and Nargizian could not be reached for comment.
“Some other things have come to light,” Barnicle said. “All the information that was at our disposal was weighed, and the decision that was made was in the best interest of the village.”
“Keep in mind, I supported John Barbarite [when first hired by the village],” pointed out Marinello. “[Firing him] was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
“… John did an outstanding job, but the village residents have to be treated with respect and talked to with respect,” he continued, saying he initially didn’t want to fire Barbarite but was eventually left with no other recourse. “I had to do what I felt was right.”
Marinello wished Barbarite well, saying, “I have absolutely no animosity towards him personally.”
“His work ethic has been nothing but extraordinary,” agreed VanDermark. “Overall, he has done a pretty good job.”
But what VanDermark discovered was enough, in his mind, to warrant Barbarite’s immediate termination.
“If the residents knew the intimate details of the situation,” he remarked, “I think they’d be quite happy with how we handled it.”
There are at least two trustees, however, that aren’t at all happy.
“I truly, honestly feel firing John was a bunch of male bovine excrement,” remarked Schoonmaker. “… He may have been a little stern in enforcement and abrupt in dealing with people, but he was doing his job.”
Schoonmaker promised he would follow up on the alleged racial slur and ensure an appropriate response if it were found to be true, but in the meantime, “nobody knows what’s true.”
Though he agreed stating a cause for termination wasn’t legally necessary in this instance, “it’s a mere fact of courtesy and ethics to tell a man why.”
As for the fact that Barbarite has been supporting Jenkins in his bid to unseat Barnicle as mayor in Monticello’s March 18 elections, Schoonmaker said that so long as it is not on village time, “everybody has the right to campaign and vote for anyone they want to.”
Jenkins, however, said Barbarite never signed any of his petitions nor campaigned for him on village time, instead blaming Barnicle for using this alleged slur to garner the black vote.
“Ray and Jim play politics too,” said Jenkins. “Jim will do anything for a vote at this time. They’re desperate, and I think it’s an insult to the taxpayers and the public.”
As for Barbarite, Jenkins felt he was a victim of Nargizian’s insistence that he “look the other way” on certain buildings.
“He has his own agenda, and he’s using the village,” Jenkins said of Nargizian, whom he originally helped hire. “Some say John’s too tough, but I think some of those landlords should be arrested and put in jail.”
Calling Barbarite “tough, fair and good,” Jenkins said his firing “is a big loss to the village.
“John’s getting a raw deal here,” he concluded. “The only thing he’s doing is protecting the village.”
Barnicle, Marinello and VanDermark denounced Jenkins’ accusations of politicking, saying that if that were the case, such a vote would never have happened before the elections, but after them.
“I have absolutely no personal gain from this,” Barnicle said, echoing a similar statement made by VanDermark, who is also running for re-election. “I don’t do things for the Village of Monticello based on me getting re-elected.”
As for Barbarite, “John brought a wealth of knowledge, …but as time wore on and the evaluation of his performance, we were brought to this juncture of determining whether to keep him or terminate his employment,” Barnicle explained.
Barbarite said he isn’t buying that.
“The mayor became a puppet,” he said, “and now, quite frankly, he’s going to be very embarrassed.”
Saying he knows any accusations against him are false, Barbarite remarked that “I’d be crazy not to consider litigation.”
He remains proud of his successes in cleaning up Monticello, though at 62, he’s now planning a trip to the unemployment office.
“I don’t think there’s many jobs out there for a deputy village manager,” he remarked.
As for village government, Barnicle said, “We’re going back to the one-manager system.”
“We gave it a try… but [the two-manager system] didn’t work out unfortunately,” added Marinello, who expressed disappointment in how it came to an end.
Barnicle said CEO Flora would not be left without support, however.
“We will shore up her department,” he explained, using the savings from not filling Barbarite’s $45,000/year position (though it won’t be officially abolished), “and we will continue our diligent oversight of all buildings and codes.”
As for the highway superintendent’s position, retiring Supt. Alan Reynolds was replaced yesterday morning by highway employee Stanley Calhoun in a 3-1 village board vote.
Schoonmaker, who said he did not know about the meeting, was not present, and Jenkins angrily dissented over the process, but Barnicle, Marinello and VanDermark’s three assents were enough to proceed.

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