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Dan Hust | Democrat

FIRED MONTICELLO DEPUTY Village Manager John Barbarite reads statement defending himself at Monday’s village board meeting.

Focus on Barbarite

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 14, 2008 — Angry words continued to fly on Monday over former Monticello Deputy Manager John Barbarite’s firing two weeks ago.
The regular village board meeting was moved from the village hall to the Ted Stroebele Recreation Center to accommodate a crowd of around 100 people, leading to accusations that village leaders had orchestrated a “lynch mob” to vilify Barbarite.
But Barbarite himself had a chance to speak during the public comment portion, and judging by the applause, about half of the audience sided with him.
Of course, that didn’t include the other half, several of whom publicly praised the board for getting rid of Barbarite, fired in a 3-2 vote at the end of February in part because of an alleged racial slur a county worker said the deputy village manager made after inspecting a Cottage Street house.
With a lie detector test in hand showing “indications of truthfulness,” Barbarite read a prepared statement to the board and audience criticizing Mayor Jim Barnicle, trustees Victor Marinello and Brian VanDermark, Village Manager Ray Nargizian and Village Attorney Danielle Jose for their roles in his termination.
“My firing was a strictly political maneuver… to enhance Mayor Barnicle’s re-election chances,” Barbarite said, referencing the upcoming March 18 village elections.
He requested Barnicle, Nargizian, Jose and his accuser, Sullivan County Department of Family Services Housing Inspector Vincent Meyer, testify under oath to Barbarite’s attorney, David Gove of the Greenwald Law Offices, or take a lie detector test.
Barbarite himself took one via Sullivan County Polygraph, Inc. in Wurtsboro on March 5, and polygraphist Don Trotta provided a sworn statement saying the test indicated Barbarite was telling the truth when he responded “no” to the question: “Did you use the term ‘Spic’ when speaking about Spanish people?”
When asked after the meeting if that changed anything as it pertains to the village’s investigation of Barbarite, Jose said no, adding that Village Building Inspector Sue Flora corroborated Meyer’s accusations against Barbarite and had, in fact, first brought the matter to village leaders’ attention.
Barbarite, however, disputed that, saying Flora told village board members in a January executive session that she never heard Barbarite make a racial slur.
Also saying Jose never subpoenaed Flora to testify, Barbarite found the investigation flawed, stating Jose “never once asked me if I ever made the racial slur, nor did she subpoena or put me under oath to testify.”
Though initially held to the standard five-minute comment limit by Barnicle, Barbarite got a chance to finish his comments Monday night when the crowd loudly protested Barnicle’s action.
“What was the motive of the people who voted to fire me?” Barbarite asked. “I believe Mayor Barnicle acceded to the demands of his campaign advisors. Ray Nargizian did it in retaliation for being treated like everyone else in the village when it came to the code violations at his buildings. Danielle Jose assisted the mayor and the manager by this slipshod investigation so as to be reappointed as village attorney if the mayor wins re-election.”
He concluded by stating he had had lunch with Meyer at least twice since the allegations were made, claiming that was proof that Meyer did not feel Barbarite is a racist.
Among those who spoke critically of Barbarite was Ray Lustig, owner of 27 North Street, an apartment building known as “The Birdhouse” and shut down by village officials last summer for 40 alleged code violations.
Lustig, who unsuccessfully sued the village over the matter, told the board during public comment that his and his tenants’ due process rights were trampled.
“Sixteen tenants of mine were thrown out of their residences in one day,” he said, adding he was not promptly told why or what remedies he could make.
When Village Trustee Scott Schoonmaker asked Lustig, “How many violations did your building have before John came over and inspected it?” Lustig replied, “None.”
Another resident, Susan Taylor, added that all Supreme Court Judge Robert Sackett had said was that the village has a right to shutter buildings it deems unsafe – not ruling that the alleged violations were true in any way.
“I’m not against Mr. Barbarite,” she said, but she did feel the village was unfairly targeting low-income renters “because they don’t want these types living in the village.”
Nearly half a dozen other landlords took similar stances, accusing Barbarite of abusing his powers to punish property owners and renters who didn’t fit his personal standards, resulting in a loss of housing, trust, finances and investment opportunities.
But such speakers were often jeered by those in the crowd who felt they were nothing more than slumlords who had been asked to attend the meeting by village leaders seeking to justify Barbarite’s termination.
Trustee Gordon Jenkins, who is running against Barnicle for mayor in a campaign publicly supported by Barbarite, offered a solution that seemed agreeable to everyone: have the state inspect the buildings Barbarite found fault with so as to ensure impartiality and fairness.
Human Rights Commission member Carolyn Massey attempted to bridge the tense gap, noting, “It’s obvious there are some serious issues going on in the village.”
She revealed that Nargizian was also under investigation for alleged racism at the same time as Barbarite but that the commission had never heard back on that matter.
Regardless, she said the issue continues to cause needless division in the community, to which Barnicle assented.
“It’s time to bury the hatchet and move forward,” he said.
That won’t happen until after Tuesday’s elections, and even then, the matter is expected to end up in court later this year.

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