TC Hutchins, left, John LiGreci, center, and Kariem McCline were all named in an indictment that was unsealed on Friday, in regards to an emerging corruption scandal in the Village of Monticello. The trio will be back in court on Wednesday, November 14.
Indictments handed down in Monticello
Story by Dan Hust
MONTICELLO According to an indictment unsealed Friday in Sullivan County Court, a new case of corruption may be emerging in Monticello.
Monticello Village Trustee TC Hutchins, ex-Village Manager John LiGreci and village resident Kariem McCline were arrested Friday and arraigned in front of Judge Frank LaBuda.
According to the court documents and Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell who has been conducting a grand jury investigation for several months the three allegedly were trying to secure McCline a full-time police officer’s job with the village via false and intimidating means.
Hutchins, who was stripped of his deputy mayor title by Mayor Gordon Jenkins on Friday, and LiGreci stand accused of two counts of felony coercion and two counts of misdemeanor official misconduct.
LiGreci additionally has been charged with two more counts of misdemeanor official misconduct and one count of felony falsifying business records.
The grand jury’s indictment alleges that the two ramrodded through an effort to hire McCline, Hutchins’ friend, as a village police officer.
McCline had been arrested twice as a youthful offender and once as a juvenile, according to Farrell, for drug and driving offenses.
McCline allegedly did not provide this information to the village during the required application and background investigation allegedly denying any arrests when directly asked for which he’s facing a felony count of offering a false instrument for filing and a misdemeanor count of falsifying business records.
Farrell and the indictment also allege that Hutchins and LiGreci worked together to coerce then-Police Chief Doug Solomon to halt the background investigation or else face “discipline.”
“He was compelled to stop it under threat,” said Farrell.
On October 4, 2011 six days after the investigation is alleged to have been halted McCline was offered conditional employment with the village.
Ultimately, McCline never served as a police officer in Monticello, said current Police Chief Rob Mir.
“He was hired on paper,” Mir related, stating that Sullivan County Personnel Officer Carolyn Hill disqualified him.
Hill confirmed that McCline was removed from the Civil Service list earlier this year, but she said she was not authorized to explain why.
Meanwhile, McCline threatened to file a civil rights lawsuit against the village, and the intimidation tactics continued, said Farrell.
The indictment alleges that just this past August, Hutchins and LiGreci ordered then-Acting Police Chief Mark Johnstone to answer six questions related to the background investigation on McCline.
“The defendants were seeking to aid him [McCline] in his threatened litigation,” charged Farrell.
The indictment alleges that Johnstone, too, was threatened with “discipline” if he did not answer the questions, in addition to being accused of “illegal conduct” by LiGreci, even though Johnstone had a right to refuse to answer those questions.
LiGreci alone stands accused of illegally hiring a psychologist to conduct a third examination on McCline at a cost of $2,700, unauthorized by the village board (the board has to sign off on any expenditures over $1,000).
That psychologist’s $400-an-hour charge was far higher than the village’s usual provider, who charges $250 an hour, according to the indictment.
The grand jury also alleges that LiGreci attempted to hide the expenditure by inserting parts of it into the police department’s repairs budget line and training budget line.
LiGreci is additionally accused of providing McCline with confidential police department memos and other documents relating to the grand jury’s investigation, against the advice of current Chief Mir.
McCline himself is also facing two counts of felony offering a false instrument for filing and two felony counts of making an apparently sworn false statement for allegedly lying on a pistol permit application to the county in 2009.
According to the indictment, McCline allegedly falsely stated including under oath that he had never been arrested, despite his juvenile and youth offender record for possessing and selling narcotics and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
McCline, Hutchins and LiGreci were sent to Sullivan County Jail on Friday in lieu of $5,000 bail each, though Farrell had asked that Hutchins’ and LiGreci’s bail be set at $10,000 apiece.
“These are allegations, and they are serious,” Farrell said afterwards. “There was a continual drumbeat to hire this fellow.”
Monticello’s police union president, John Riegler, called for the dissolution of the controversial village police commission and Hutchins’ resignation.
“Public officials who violate laws must be held accountable,” Riegler stated. “At the same time, those public officials should be treated differently. They should be held to a higher standard than the average civilian and as such, should be treated by this measure accordingly. Simply put, they should know better.
“Now let us hope, with the help of our illustrious District Attorney, that the judicial system does its work and all who have been indicted will be processed to the fullest extent of the law.”
McCline’s attorney, Tim Havas, said yesterday that he hopes village politics and people’s feelings thereto do not affect the proceedings.
“It’s still very early on in the process,” Havas explained. “A lot has to be sorted out before we really know what’s happened here.”
Hutchins and LiGreci did not return calls for comment. The trio is due back in court tomorrow (Wednesday) at 9:30 a.m.
Mayor Jenkins, too, could not be reached for comment, as he reportedly is travelling in China this week.