By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO With District Attorney Jim Farrell in the audience at Tuesday’s village board meeting, Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins accused the DA of “misusing his powers.”
“Jim Farrell doesn’t respect black leadership; he doesn’t respect this board,” Jenkins asserted, negatively comparing Farrell to the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his investigations into the Civil Rights movement.
Farrell is involved in village affairs on several levels: convening a grand jury to investigate the village’s actions pertaining to a potential police officer applicant, prosecuting Jenkins for allegedly striking a Monticello officer unintentionally, supporting the police union in its suit to nullify the new police commission, and demanding an acting village justice recuse himself from cases involving Sullivan County Legal Aid.
Jenkins said he’d never seen a DA attend village board meetings like Farrell does, saying the DA is simply trying to divide the community.
“Farrell is involved in politics with many in this village,” Jenkins accused.
Farrell made no response, but later in the meeting, Monticello police officer and union president John Riegler told Jenkins he was “disappointed in the comments you made here.”
“The DA didn’t create your legal problems. You did,” Riegler said to the mayor. “... To turn this into some sort of race war, this is embarrassing.”
“You cannot say anything you want in this village,” an infuriated Jenkins shot back. “... There’s guidelines. You are a public official.”
Jenkins turned to both Village Attorney Dennis Lynch and Police Chief Rob Mir, calling for “some sort of a gag order” on village employees speaking ill of their leaders.
Riegler said he was entitled to speak as union president, and Mir indicated he would not stand in Riegler’s way. Lynch, however, told Jenkins he’d look into the mayor’s request.
No action on indemnification
The mayor’s comments about the DA were precipitated by a public hearing minutes before, where nary a supportive word was spoken about a proposed update to the village’s indemnification law.
“I think this is an ill-conceived idea,” stated resident Leo Glass.
“There is no need,” agreed resident Tom Mack. “I’m just wondering: where did this come from? The individual who thought about this is not considering the taxpayers.”
The proposal would have the village pay for the legal costs of employees defending themselves in criminal, not just civil, cases, with the village being reimbursed if the employee is found guilty.
“You are responsible for your actions,” Mack told the board. “... People, it’s time to stop playing games with the taxpayers!”
Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins agreed.
“What we have in place now has been working,” he affirmed, saying village officials shouldn’t hide behind their titles. “I’m not in favor of changing anything in the law right now.”
“I can never vote for this,” added Trustee Carmen Rue, calling the proposal “bizarre.” “... We don’t want people who’ll steal or are criminals [working] in the village.”
The board took no action that evening.