By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Monticello’s village board agreed Tuesday night to launch an investigation into the police department’s handling of the July 3 arrest of Mayor Gordon Jenkins.
Implying the mayor was inappropriately arrested instead of being treated as the victim of threats and aggression, the resolution calls for “village special counsel” to “commence an immediate investigation into civil rights violations that have occurred and to contact the Department of Justice for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and also to investigate a threat made by the individual who was arrested by the police that he was ‘working with the police to take the mayor down.’”
The resolution was approved by Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins and trustees Larissa Bennett and James Matthews.
Mayor Jenkins abstained, as did Trustee Carmen Rue. (Though Rue did not speak at length about the matter at that meeting, she details her feelings about the resolution on her website, carmenrue.com.)
Village attorney Dennis Lynch told the board his firm will not do the investigation or charge additional fees to the village for it.
Instead, he said, the consultant to the newly-formed police commission, Preston Felton, will handle the investigation.
Officer John Riegler, president of the PBA (the police union), said this week that only the district attorney, not the board, has the authority to investigate this case, as it has not yet been resolved in court.
"I believe the police officers who responded to the incident acted in a professional and diligent manner and did absolutely nothing wrong," said Acting Police Chief Mark Johnstone. "I believe any investigation by whoever would show that."
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A non-fatal shooting the night before on Summit Avenue prompted Hutchins to call for a stationary patrol there.
“That’s what the problem is we have no police presence,” he argued.
Police Sgt. William Goble, however, said the force regularly patrols there but simply can’t be in all locations every minute of the day.
Nevertheless, he assured the board he himself has foot-patrolled the area between Monticello and Holmes streets, which Code Enforcement Officer James Snowden called a “hotspot.”
Hutchins and Jenkins, however, felt stationing a patrol car in that area rather than making the rounds on patrol would cut down on crime, and Hutchins directed Village Manager John LiGreci to require such of the police department.
LiGreci then gave that order to Goble, effective immediately and “till further notice.”
The critical glare on the department did not abate, as first Rochelle Massey (the mayor’s partner) alleged that officers are telling suspects the names of complaining callers, and then Tom Mack (the mayor’s brother-in-law) complained that the police aren’t giving village leaders enough respect.
“I’m tired of picking up a paper where our police officials are writing letters to the editor,” Mack stated, urging the just-approved investigation to include officers who are “making negative statements” about village leaders.
He also urged the village to move forward with selecting a provisional chief to lead the police department until a permanent one can be appointed.
Hutchins agreed, saying the mayor has several potential candidates, as does Felton.
LiGreci indicated an appointment will be forthcoming shortly.
Seeking ways to reduce the $3 million village hall renovation/ expansion project, the board informally agreed Tuesday to remove a proposed second-floor addition to the Division of Public Works.
“That will save $350,000 right off the bat,” assessed Jenkins.
LiGreci said a 4,000-square-foot pole barn for the division is still part of the plans.
The board also discussed paring down bathrooms, holding cells and a police workout room. They plan at least another meeting with engineer John Fuller before finalizing the plans.
Jenkins said he’s eager to reduce the currently-estimated $162,275-a-year payment for the work, which would stretch out over 30 years.
“I still have to pay these taxes when it’s done and over,” he pointed out.
A raft of amendments to the village’s zoning law is being proposed, including lessening the restrictions on apartments on the floors above Broadway stores, encouraging what Lynch called “entrepreneur lofts.”
The proposed changes are available for review at the village hall, and a public hearing has been set for August 21 at 7 p.m.
The proposals have already earned praise, however, as Partnership for Economic Development President Allan Scott told the board the changes “will inevitably create a stronger economy and village.”
“Encouraging good tax ratables is very critical,” agreed Lynch.
Apollo to be annexed
A sliver of property in the Town of Thompson along Rose Valley Road is being annexed into the village, in order to allow the developer of the former Apollo Mall to deal solely with the village on his plans to bring a supermarket and truck stop to that location.
The board unanimously agreed to the annexation, pending the receipt of a satisfactory map indicating the changes.
Applicants must pay
The board unanimously endorsed Lynch’s proposal to enact a Taxpayers Protection Act, which would require applicants seeking permits or approvals from the village to pay for “any and all specific and non-general costs or expenses incurred by the village in reviewing” those applications.
Applicants would not, however, have to pay for any expenses incurred solely for the “convenience of a board in fulfillment of its own decision-making responsibilities.”
The fees would be capped at no more than five percent of the estimated increase in fair market value resulting from the applicant’s proposal.
While the fees can be appealed to the village and challenged in court, the village can suspend processing of the application until the dispute is settled.
The board also agreed to consolidate the two August meetings into one, with the board meeting now set for August 21 at 7 p.m.