Eli Ruiz | Democrat
A man who identified himself only as “Mr. Burns” speaks in support of embattled Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins during Tuesday's Village Board meeting. Burns told the Democrat that Trustee Carmen Rue was sabotaging Jenkins' second term as mayor because she wants the job herself. Rue denies the allegation.
Jenkins: ‘I’m staying’
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO December 6, 2013 Rather than resign as acting village manager at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled board meeting, as had been expected, Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins instead read a prepared statement apologizing for his conduct after his arrest on November 16, and later survived an attempt by the board to remove him.
Jenkins had pled not guilty to allegedly driving while intoxicated (DWI) and other charges. In his statement, he placed most of the blame for his actions on the village police department for detaining him that evening, as he claimed, “in an inhumane manner.”
The mayor’s statement was in response to four separate videos posted to You Tube last weekend by Village Trustee Carmen Rue. The videos portray Jenkins in the police station after his arrest, lashing out against police officers with threats of retribution and racial epithets. Rue obtained the videos through a Freedom of Information (FOIL) request. All four videos have garnered more than 100,000 views combined as of this writing.
Jenkins began his statement on Tuesday by calling the release of the videos “a highly unusual act” by the Sullivan County District Attorney’s office.
The mayor continued, “I continue to believe that if any police officer observed me in a state of what he or she believed was inebriation, that officer had a responsibility to approach me, or any person in a similar situation at the scene of the traffic accident, and offer me a ride to wherever I was going. Assuming I was inebriated, such a response would have protected public safety. This never happened.”
Jenkins drew police attention shortly after arriving on the scene of a two-car motor vehicle accident on Broadway in the village the evening of November 16. Fire personnel on the scene noticed Jenkins was “out of sorts” and alerted police.
Shortly after leaving the scene of the accident that evening, Jenkins was pulled over by village police for failure to keep right and unreasonable speed, leading to the DWI charge. Jenkins refused to cooperate with arresting officers and damaged police property, leading to additional charges against him.
“Like those employed by other jurisdictions, our police officers must obey the Constitution and before questioning a detainee, accord his [sic] or her the right to confer with legal counsel,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins’ statement drew applause from the mostly supportive crowd, and despite increasing pressure from various groups, including the Monticello Police Benevolent Association (PBA), to step down as not just acting village manager, but also as mayor, Jenkins said, “I remain committed to serving our community and to continue our progress both in respecting the right of other [sic] and helping to actualize their potential.”
Earlier in the meeting, Trustee Rue requested for the addition of discussion on the village manager position to the evening’s agenda. Once the time came for a vote on removing Jenkins as such, though, only one other board member, Larissa Bennett, would side with Rue. Trustees Rochelle Massey, Jenkins’ girlfriend, and Rev. James Mathews rejected the motion to depose Jenkins.
Longtime Monticello resident Vincent Locascio said after the meeting, “I came here in 1947 and I’ve seen a lot of governments go up and down, but this is the most troublesome government that I’ve ever seen.”
Asked if he believed Jenkins should step down, Locascio said, “He’s got no choice now. His reputation is so tarnished by what’s happened, it would be a miracle for him to get it back. And now the whole world is watching because it was even on Bill O’Reilly… we look like a bunch of gutless pigs over here that can’t straighten out our own government.’
A Jenkins supporter who identified himself as simply Mr. Burns, said, “I can remember when Carmen [Rue] was running [for a village board seat] . . . I voted for her. Back then she walked around with Gordon, and she praised Gordon. Now that she’s got her foot in the door she’s turned her back on him and is backstabbing him. She clearly wants to be mayor… that’s the bottom line.”
Rue responded in an interview with the Democrat.
“In 2008 when Gordon was a Republican I ran with him. He was a different man back then and was on my [party] line,” she said. “He has demonstrated over and over that he is a criminal, and now he has demonstrated that he is a racist as well. He brings his uneducated and uninformed supporters to the meetings just to distract from his crimes.”
Asked if she had aspirations to run for mayor of Monticello, Rue offered, “No. I’ve never once mentioned that I wanted to run for mayor. It needs to be understood that we are dealing with very serious matters here and that’s why I called for him to step down as manager. Part of his job as CEO of the village is dealing with village employees. The village police are village employees and there is no way that he can now fulfill his job as acting manager because he has now lost the confidence of the police. His supporters attacked and slandered my family at Tuesday’s board meeting and I can promise that I will take action for that. I will not allow these people to distract from the mayor’s crimes.
Jenkins' statement and apology
December 3, 2013
In a highly unusual act, the Sullivan County District Attorney's Office released many hours of video tapes of my recent incarceration while charges against me are pending.
There is much that can be said about the video and the associated events. This is not the time for a full discussion of all the issues raised. Legal proceedings are pending.
However, I do want to state the following:
1) I continue to believe that if any police officer observed me in a state of what he or she believed was inebriation, that officer had a responsibility to approach me or any person in a similar situation at the scene of the traffic accident and offer me a ride to wherever I was going. Assuming I was inebriated, such a response would have protected public safety. This never happened.
2) Like those employed by other jurisdictions, our police officers must obey the Constitution and before questioning a detainee, accord his or her the right to confer with legal counsel.
In this case, the video makes clear that I asked repeatedly for legal counsel and was not afforded that right. I was not promptly arraigned and was held in what I regard as an inhumane manner. I implore our police officers to ensure compliance with Miranda Rights and to treat all arrestees with basic respect.
3) Despite my evident frustration with what I believe was selective and targeted police conduct against me, and the violation of my rights, I agree with those who have condemned my choice of language.
I do believe that some of the response I have received as Mayor, has been discriminatory and that our Village's accomplishments have been obscured by a focus on my activities or alleged activities. At the same time, I understand that letting anger get the better of me was a poor choice and apologize to those who are understandably offended with my choice of words and the manner in which I expressed my outrage and anger.
I also recognize that the selected segments of police video portray me as if I am possessed of a deep-seated racial animosity toward some of those involved in this incident. I am not and have spent my career working closely with people of all races and backgrounds. While I am and remain upset by how I was treated, I apologize for my profanity and my use of racial epithets. I understand that many cannot or do not discriminate between the use of such words by a person deeply upset or provoked, as I was, and the use of those words without provocation.
I spent more than three years serving out country before being honorably discharged from the Army and another 29 years as a corrections officer in our state. As noted, I worked with many fine members of law enforcement and respect police officers who properly perform their duties and applaud their commitment to our community. I also agree that name-calling is not the most constructive way to resolve serious issues of intolerance and bigotry. I regret that my words may distract some from the issues we all need to address: insuring that all people are treated with dignity, especially those cuffed to walls and powerless to stand up for themselves. I remain committed to serving our community and to continue our progress both in respecting the right of others and helping all to actualize their potential.