Illegal dump site owner mulls taking legal action
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO October 8, 2013 Six arrests have been confirmed by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials in connection with the illegal dumping of asbestos-laced debris from the old Village of Monticello Justice Court structure, on which demolition began last Wednesday.
The old courthouse parcel has been touted for months by Village of Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins as the future site of a proposed youth center for the village.
While the demolition continued early last week, contractors retained by Jenkins for a lowball bid of $5,000 were captured, in photos taken by a Democrat reporter, illegally dumping the structure’s subsequent debris on a 9.8-acre parcel of land off of Ripple Road in the village.
Local contractor Marciano “Mike” Soto was awarded the demolition and debris removal job for the aforementioned $5,000 fee; without proper Village Board approval.
It has further been alleged that Jenkins himself authorized the illegal disposal of the debris.
Last week Village Trustee Carmen Rue told the Democrat that she had been approached by concerned Village Department of Public Works (DPW) employees who affirmed to her that they had been asked to dump the debris on the Ripple Road Site.
“They said that [Jenkins] asked them to do it and that they refused,” said Rue, further alleging that upon the DEP rebuff, Jenkins then turned to Soto to do the “dirty” work.
“Soto told me himself that Gordon wanted to save the village some money and that he could just dump it whenever,” she added. “This is wrong, and the mayor never once approached the board’s with any proposal, or even a proper resolution on the bid.”
Though Rue had allegedly been told by Soto that the parcel in question belonged to him, a Democrat investigation has uncovered the 9.8 acre parcel’s true owner: Priya Lalljee of Lalljee Services, LLC. out of Monroe.
In a brief telephone interview Sunday evening, he did verify ownership of the property. Asked if he knew of the events that unfolded at the site last week, Lalljee said, “Yes, I filed a complaint regarding the matter.”
As to whether he had prior knowledge of the plan to unload the 18 piles of demolition debris that subsequently made it to the site, Lalljee said, “No I did not… I’m meeting with my lawyer tomorrow and seek to prosecute all parties involved to the fullest extent of the law.” Lalljee withheld further comment pending the meeting with his attorney.
According to DEC spokesperson Wendy Rosenbach, the six demolition workmen were attested last Thursday, October 3.
“The actual complaint was filed on October 2 and the tickets and arrests took place on the 3rd,” said Rosenbach. Rosenbach declined to offer further comment.
Arrested were Soto, 60, Sam Kearney, 49, Lewis Kearney, 72, Chris Stawarz, 34, William Moore, 34, and James Rauch, 22.
Soto and Sam Kearney have been charged with unlawful disposal of solid waste in excess of 70 yards and two counts each of operating a solid waste management facility without a permit.
Both men face up to one year in jail fines that range from $3,700 to $35,500 upon conviction. The duo have been charged with unlawful disposal of solid waste and a fine of $3,000 to $30,000 on each count of operating a solid waste facility sans a permit.
Lewis, Moore, Rauch, Stawarz and the elder Kerney were charged with unlawful disposal of solid waste in excess of 70 yards; with Stawarz additionally charged with transporting waste uncovered, a violation that carries a fine of $1,500 to $15,000.
Work at the old courthouse site has been halted pending the investigation, leaving an unsightly, large debris pile adjacent to Village Hall.
Several calls to Jenkins who has been out of town since the arrests were made on Thursday for comment were not returned.