Citing defamation, Monticello treasurer plans to resign
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Accusations are flying in Monticello over the pending resignation of Village Treasurer Heather Berg.
Last week, Berg gave Mayor Gordon Jenkins a letter stating she would resign by February 1.
“I am not able to perform my work duties consistently and successfully when forced to work in an environment where accusations are thrown at the defamation of my character and principles in a field and industry where claims of illegality and distrust do not mix within the scope of the work required of me,” she wrote in a letter dated Dec. 3.
The letter followed both a November 27 code violation from Building Inspector James Snowden and a November 29 memo to Berg from Trustee Carmen Rue.
Snowden cited Berg’s village property for having a hot water heater, counter-vanity and debris in front of her home, requiring the items to be removed within three business days.
In a December 4 memo to the village board, Berg stated she had received the violation notice on that third business day, giving her no time to correct the issue (although she stated she was already in the process of removing the debris).
She accused Snowden of arbitrarily setting the date of remediation, of specifically targeting her home for action, and for issuing the violation in retaliation for having “moved money” in the village’s budget from his line to the manager’s line.
She went on to allege that the Building Dept. charges property owners inconsistent fees, accusing Snowden of discrimination and favoritism.
In a letter to the village board dated Dec. 7, Snowden responded to the charges, promising to pursue legal action.
He accused Berg of transferring money from the Building Dept.’s secretarial position (vacant at that point) to the settlement with fired Village Manager John LiGreci, without board approval.
Snowden denied targeting Berg, saying he had noticed the debris in her yard while combing the village for violations and had unsuccessfully tried to contact her husband to resolve the matter first.
Wondering if Berg was asking him to “overlook” the matter, Snowden insisted he’d give his own mother a violation, if warranted.
As for the inconsistent fees, he argued that Berg did not understand how his department works and does not have the authority to question him (though he did acknowledge that at least one bill required adjustment).
Snowden urged the board to investigate Berg’s actions, stating that “I always believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire!”
Berg’s resignation letter did not specifically mention Trustee Rue’s Nov. 29 memo to her. However, Berg handwrote responses in Rue’s memo to the trustee’s concerns over the transfer of money from the Building Dept.’s secretarial position.
“You told the mayor that the board moved the money,” Rue wrote of a meeting that Berg had with Jenkins. “I never remember moving money from that line.”
“If you weren’t present,” replied Berg, writing between Rue’s paragraphs, “how would you know what was said? The Building Dept. doesn’t have a line for secretary.”
Rue accused Berg of speaking “very disrespectfully to me, screaming and shouting” during a subsequent private meeting. She reminded Berg that funds cannot be transferred without board approval.
“The money was never moved,” Berg replied in the margins, saying that the funds for the Building Dept. secretary were already under the Village Manager’s budget line.
Rue also argued that a $100,000 savings account amounts to an illegal “slush fund” and that Berg was trying to keep it secret, but Berg replied that the board gets a full accounting of that fund every month.
Berg did not return a call or email from the Democrat for comment.
Mayor Jenkins told the Democrat he’s asked Berg to reconsider, claiming that, save for Rue, the rest of the village board “is comfortable with her.”
“I didn’t accept her resignation,” he said. “She’s more than qualified and knows her job.”
However, he discounted her allegations of discrimination by the Building Dept.
“I don’t think she’s being discriminated against,” Jenkins stated. “I think we’ve settled the differences and can all just move on.”