Dan Hust | Democrat
MONTICELLO VILLAGE TRUSTEE Scott Schoonmaker throws up his hands in anger and frustration during Monday’s heated village board meeting.
Barbarite's fate still up in air in Village
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Monday’s Monticello Village Board meeting was a study in contrasts.
Mayor Gordon Jenkins railed against those who come simply to criticize the village administration then agreed with the rest of the board that only vicious personal attacks would be banned during public comment periods.
Village residents passionately encouraged everyone to stop fighting and work together to improve Monticello then devolved into angry recriminations against each other and the board as the meeting progressed.
The climax came when Trustee Scott Schoonmaker, despite his belief that Village Manager John Barbarite is a hard worker, called for Barbarite’s firing then rescinded his motion after a half-hour executive session with fellow board members.
The whiplash effect was palpable in a room filled to overflowing with village residents, seemingly evenly split on Barbarite’s performance.
Even Schoonmaker noted it.
“I’ve seen nothing but chaos, animosity, fighting,” he remarked of board meeting after board meeting. “... I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve had enough.”
And so he called for Barbarite’s termination, saying that “there isn’t one village employee who’s happy with John.”
“The only way we are going to get rid of the problem is to get rid of the source,” he told a crowd already starting to alternately shout at and applaud him. “... I do not think he’s the right man for the job now.”
He waved another lawsuit filed against the village, though he belatedly realized it did not directly have to do with Barbarite. This one, village officials later said, was from landlord Ray Lustig, who is suing the village for $1 million over being prohibited from speaking at a public comment session by Jenkins.
Trustee Carmen Rue seconded Schoonmaker’s motion to fire Barbarite, and it seemed all but certain that Trustee Victor Marinello would join them to oust the controversial village manager.
Even Jenkins, who has been Barbarite’s strongest ally, seemed certain that was a given.
“It’s nice to be the new village manager,” he said, laughing sarcastically at the fact that if Barbarite is suddenly terminated, the mayor will become the next village manager (and be paid for it, too).
But the meeting subsequently fell into chaos, with audience members yelling, arguing and levelling accusations at both Schoonmaker and Barbarite.
“We can fire you!” Monticello native Bess Davis shouted at Schoonmaker.
“Do me a favor!” the frustrated trustee replied.
Jenkins ultimately called for an executive session to “really think about what we are doing.” He warned that this “attack game” would end up shutting down village services for as much as six weeks, since he was unprepared to take over Barbarite’s duties at a moment’s notice.
But then Schoonmaker left the room, and the war of words continued, with Barbarite silently listening.
“John is the best manager we’ve ever had,” Davis stated angrily. “... Why get rid of quality?”
“If they’re not happy,” the mayor’s partner, Rochelle Massey, said of village employees, “we can go get plenty of people to work here.”
Schoonmaker returned a few minutes later to agree that an executive session was needed. The board unanimously approved and spent half an hour in an apparently frank discussion.
“Believe me, we went at it,” Schoonmaker said when the board returned. “... We are going to discuss this more and figure out where we’re going.”
“Animals ‘go at it,’” Trustee TC Hutchins corrected. “As professionals, we discussed the issues we needed to discuss.”
And, said Jenkins, “I won’t be the village manager tomorrow.”
Schoonmaker rescinded his motion to fire Barbarite, and the board again broke for an executive session, which ended the meeting.
Later in the week, Schoonmaker confirmed he’s set a timeline by which change must occur, else he once again calls for Barbarite’s ouster.
“It’s not about his work ethic,” the trustee explained. “The man is there 55 hours a week.”
But since what he calls a “dysfunctional” and “stagnant” board cannot be deposed, Schoonmaker feels this is “the next best thing.”
“I really agonized over the decision,” he acknowledged. “But right now we are in a very, very critical stage.”
He does feel that Barbarite can lack compassion in the carrying out of his duties, but he does not believe there is one person “creating trouble.” Instead, he deems it a personality conflict with board members that will only be overcome by removing Barbarite.
“We have to be willing to listen to and respect each other’s opinions,” he explained.
And the public, he hoped, would “respect me for doing what I think is right.”
Barbarite, however, said Schoonmaker is operating under misinformation spread by those who want him out of office for personal, and nefarious, reasons.
“It’s a volatile situation here,” the manager remarked.
He planned to have a meeting with Schoonmaker about the matter on Wednesday.
While Barbarite was out of the office and unavailable for comment yesterday morning, Schoonmaker said that the two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Barbarite did not change his mind and that the timeline (which he declined to disclose) stands.
“I believe that everybody deserves a second chance,” he said. “But this is the last chance for the board to work together.
“... I’m going to give it every possible opportunity to work, but this is the last shot.”