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Dan Hust | Democrat

VILLAGE OF MONTICELLO Justice Josephine Finn gives the oath of office to Trustee Victor Marinello – just re-elected to a third term - at Monday's village board meeting.

Barbarite named Monticello manager

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — April 11, 2008 — The old 3-2 vote repeated itself several times over Monday evening, as the newly seated Monticello Village Board’s anticipated consensus splintered on several controversial matters.
In fact, Ex-Deputy Village Manager John Barbarite almost didn’t gain the village manager position, as Mayor Gordon Jenkins’ promise to put him in that role generated dissent on the board and in the standing-room-only audience.
“This position should not be political,” remarked just-elected board member Carmen Rue, who has supported Barbarite in the past. “Some want to rush into hiring without advertising, interviewing, defining a job description, saying what we require and what we will not tolerate in a manager – not to mention salary, vacation, sick leave, benefits or anything else.
“I say give equal opportunity consideration to all applicants, not just this one man,” she continued, accusing Barbarite of pressuring the board to give him the seat. “Hiring a hand-picked man, handing him this important job on a silver plate, is bad policy.”
“A coronation is not yet in order,” seconded Rue’s husband, Tom, who was sitting in the packed meeting room. “…Let John apply like anyone else.”
The Rues’ remarks angered Jenkins, who said it was no secret that Barbarite was his choice for village manager. He accused Carmen Rue of seeking political favors (a charge she denied) and vowed to name names to embarrass her, if necessary.
But he didn’t, instead telling the crowd, “I would like to just move on.”
Still, the issue persisted, with landlord Ray Lustig calling Barbarite’s appointment a political favor and just-re-elected Trustee Victor Marinello refusing to support any nominee for manager until a standard hiring and interview process is complete.
Trustee Scott Schoonmaker – whose seat was not up for grabs in the March 18 elections that redefined village leadership – successfully pushed for the matter to be tabled until an executive session later in the evening.
“Please give us a chance to get reorganized,” he pleaded with an audience already sniping with each other about the new board.
Claiming there are “no personal agendas on this board,” Schoonmaker ultimately voted with Jenkins and Theodore “TC” Hutchins – just appointed to the board that evening to fill Jenkins’ unexpired trustee term – to name Barbarite village manager at a salary of $70,000, slightly under the rate his predecessor, Ray Nargizian, earned.
Rue and Marinello dissented, as they also did with votes to name a village attorney and deputy attorney. Nevertheless, William Frank and Karen Alt of the Greenwald Law Offices will fill those roles, respectively.
So what happened with Barbarite?
Depends on who you talk to.
The mayor’s of the mind that Marinello and Rue are playing political games, claiming both agreed with him prior to the meeting that Barbarite was the right choice.
“I’ve seen what John Barbarite can do,” explained Jenkins. “I couldn’t ask for a better man… and I have 100 percent confidence in him.”
Rue said she never promised Jenkins or Barbarite that she’d name Barbarite village manager, saying the voters chose her “because they believe in my principles.”
She worried the whole matter will simply divide residents even further – not to mention the board.
Schoonmaker seconded Jenkins’ assertion that Marinello was initially in favor of Barbarite but agreed that Rue had never indicated she would pick Barbarite. He was critical of Monday night’s executive session, where any remaining camaraderie disappeared amidst yelling and screaming.
“I don’t believe the two who voted against John had in good conscience the best interests of the village in mind,” Schoonmaker alleged.
He felt putting Barbarite in charge of the village’s day-to-day activities avoided needless difficulties, including a repeat of last year’s mayor-as-manager controversy.
Plus, he’s confident of Barbarite’s abilities.
“John’s past performance shows me he knows what he’s doing,” Schoonmaker remarked.
Calling Schoonmaker’s assertions “ridiculous,” Marinello said the controversy wasn’t about Barbarite but due process.
“They tried to put a village manager in without a contract, salary or benefits package,” Marinello said. “It was a rush job.”
He countered that such a move could create, rather than mitigate, needless difficulties.
“It’s more irresponsible by hastily making a decision” than spending time interviewing candidates, he explained.
While he admitted he likes the fact that Barbarite is working without a contract – and can thus be fired without extended wrangling – Marinello promised to work with Barbarite for the good of the village.
Ironically, Barbarite himself said he too is no fan of contracts, though he would like to see a process created whereby village employees up for termination are given clear reasons for such a move.
Barbarite said he was surprised by Rue’s dissent, but he added his job now is to carry out board policy and make suggestions where desired.
“I am not a sixth member of the board,” he explained. “I am not there to play one board member off the other.”
He felt there was never a question of his ability to do the work, just an entanglement in “raw politics.”
He agreed that the village needs a day-to-day leader who is already familiar with its workings, rather than waiting months to hire someone who might not even be from the area.
In that spirit, he said he’s focusing on improving the Ted Stroebele Recreation Center for senior citizens, enhancing recreational opportunities for local youth, and streamlining the building code – all with the aid of the current crop of village employees.
“I don’t see any need for a deputy village manager,” he remarked. “We’ve got some wonderful staff working here.”
As for concerns that he will make life miserable for those who got him fired as deputy village manager in February, Barbarite said he’s not even planning to sue the ex-village officials who ensured his departure.
“If I was seeking vengeance or retribution, I’d be involved in five or six lawsuits by now,” he explained. “It’s time to put all this nonsense back and move forward.”

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