Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Things were happier back in August when Village of Monticello Trustee Carmen Rue, far left, and Village Manager John LiGreci, far right, joined County Legislators Ira Steingart, second from left, and Alan Sorensen to celebrate Monticello’s history.
Monticello manager fired after aborted Concord meeting
MONTICELLO A tense emergency meeting of the Monticello Village Board Friday morning ended with the termination of Village Manager John LiGreci.
“You’re fired!” said Trustee Carmen Rue after the 3-2 vote which followed a half-hour’s executive session.
Rue, Mayor Gordon Jenkins and Trustee Larissa Bennett voted to fire LiGreci, while Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins and Trustee James Matthews voted against the measure.
Friday’s action capped months of acrimony between LiGreci and Jenkins and Rue. Though no official reason for LiGreci’s termination was given at the meeting, a letter Rue sent to the board two months ago alleges that the now-ex-manager essentially failed to do his job and demonstrated “untrustworthiness and fiscal incompetence,” among a host of issues.
“The administration was horrible,” Rue said in an interview after Friday’s meeting, adding that subsequently uncashed, expired checks to the village were found in LiGreci’s office at village hall.
Jenkins evidently agreed, though he declined to comment afterwards, saying only that he plans to work with the board to find a replacement (who will become the 11th village manager in as many years).
Bennett was the swing vote, afterwards saying only that "although it was a tough decision, it had relevance. I wish Mr. LiGreci much success in future endeavors."
Hutchins and Matthews were obviously upset by the situation both before and after the vote, arguing with Rue and Jenkins about comments and the agenda.
Afterwards, Hutchins chose not to discuss his reasons for voting against LiGreci’s firing, but Matthews was open about it.
“I really don’t know what it’s all about,” Matthews stated on Saturday. “I thought he was doing a good job.”
He found LiGreci cooperative and professional albeit stuck in the middle of a divided board.
“When you’re dealing with a whole lot of different bosses, it’s tough,” Matthews acknowledged. “But he would listen if you really came and talked with him. I think he was a pretty good guy myself.”
Matthews hoped the board in the future will work more “together on things.”
LiGreci admitted there had been “some infighting going on between the mayor, myself and Mrs. Rue.”
He termed it “interference … circumventing my authority,” in that board members would insist on being present at meetings where he felt he had the authority to make decisions himself, in particular zoning and water issues.
“I’m the guy who has to put it together and bring it to the board,” LiGreci said, arguing that it would be impractical for him to constantly involve board members throughout a normal workday. “We’d never get anything done!”
The 61-year-old LiGreci, who first joined the village in 2009 as Village Clerk Edith Schop’s replacement, became Village Manager John Barbarite’s replacement when he retired last year. LiGreci was earning $69,000 a year.
LiGreci said he wasn’t surprised by the firing, alleging “micromanaging” going on for months, and he said he already has “two great offers” for new jobs, though he declined to elaborate.
Jenkins automatically became the manager on Friday and will remain so until a replacement is named.
What triggered vote?
Though talk of firing LiGreci has been an open rumor in Monticello for months, Friday’s emergency meeting was called after issues boiled over on Thursday.
According to several sources, Concord EPT officials had stopped by at LiGreci’s invitation to discuss an agreement granting them village water services for their planned mega-resort and racino near the old Concord Hotel site in Kiamesha Lake.
Worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the proposed agreement had been given to the board but not voted upon.
Jenkins and Rue were inside village hall for a separate matter on Thursday and were surprised to discover the EPT officials there. Turns out the officials were also surprised.
“We had thought we would be meeting with the village and the board to explain our options” regarding the water services, said Empire Resorts Executive Vice President Charlie Degliomini. (Empire, which owns and operates the Monticello Casino and Raceway, is partnering with EPT on the project.)
“They clearly weren’t prepared to have a meeting, and we left,” Degliomini explained, though he added that EPT plans to continue working with the village to secure the needed water.
Both Degliomini and LiGreci said there wasn’t an expectation that the agreement would be enacted that day.
“It wasn’t to sign any contract,” said LiGreci. “I’m supposed to meet people. I’m supposed to negotiate.”
Nevertheless, Rue confirmed that Jenkins was infuriated by the lack of prior communication on what would have been an important discussion and thus called Friday’s meeting to fire LiGreci.
“It was embarrassing,” she said, equally upset about Thursday’s encounter.