Eli Ruiz | Democrat
Village of Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins and Trustee Rochelle Massey leave Wednesday’s tumultuous meeting.
Monticello meeting accentuates feud
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO October 11, 2013 An emergency Village of Monticello Board meeting on Wednesday, called just 90 minutes before its 1 p.m. start, degenerated into a ugly shouting match, complete with threats of litigation from Mayor Gordon Jenkins.
The purpose of the meeting was to mull bids from two environmental firms, one of which will be tasked with drafting a “variance permit,” the first step in removing the unsightly asbestos-laced debris pile from the old Village Courthouse that has been sitting next to the old Monticello Firehouse since the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) halted the demolition project last Thursday. The New York State Department of Labor is requiring the village to obtain the special permit.
The long-standing feud between the mayor and Trustee Carmen Rue only worsened as Jenkins, just returned from a weeklong Georgia vacation, lambasted Rue for her allegations last week that Jenkins ordered the dumping of the 18 debris piles left on a 9.8 acre parcel off Ripple Road in the Town of Thompson.
Six people have thus far been arrested in connection with the ongoing investigation into the illegal dumping incident.
Jenkins attacked Rue: “Some people like Mrs. Rue sit there and cause a lot of false lies,” he said. “You can’t hurt me as the mayor or the manager.”
Since the firing of John LiGreci, Jenkins has been acting village manager.
“What you’re doing is you’re hurting the kids and the taxpayers in this village. I want to move forward and get things done,” Jenkins told Rue.
Jenkins then addressed the contractor, Marciano “Mike” Soto, he hired to tear down the old Village Justice Courthouse, and subsequently dispose of the resulting debris for $5,000. Soto was among the six arrested October 3.
“This gentleman who took that building down, he was volunteering… he was helping us because the man likes kids,” Jenkins noted.
“Carmen has to stop dividing this village,” added Jenkins, to which Rue replied, “You have to stop doing illegal things and come back to this board and do the proper resolution.”
The hasty demolition was ordered by Jenkins, reportedly sans a proper board resolution, in order to make way for a recreation center the mayor has been touting for several years now.
Village Engineer John Fuller joined the meeting via speaker phone and answered questions from the board, Village Code Enforcement Officer James Snowden and reporters.
Fuller explained that about 18 months prior, the village had done an assessment on the old courthouse structure, finding only a small fraction of less hazardous “non-friable” asbestos, but admitted that once the structure was razed the entire debris pile could be considered asbestos contaminated.
“It’s called a variance but it’s actually a permit, and that permit has to be obtained in order to handle the material going forward,” explained Fuller.
The board would subsequently vote unanimously minus an absent Larissa Bennett to hire a firm called Hudson Valley Environmental out of Monroe to draft the required permit for $2,200. The bid from another company, called Quest, was closer to $3,000 according to Fuller.
In answer to Rue’s question, Fuller said, “We have to secure the permit in order to remove the debris. The second step is actually hiring a certified contractor who is licensed to remove the debris… we can’t even touch the debris without obtaining the permit first.”
Snowden asked Fuller, “John, for the record, did we follow all protocol, every procedure as far as tearing down this building?
After a long pause, Fuller replied, “Um, I guess I’m not sure what you’re asking there.”
Snowden clarified, “I mean, we did everything in our power possible to follow the procedures. Am I correct?”
Fuller answered, “The asbestos wasn’t dealt with and that would be an issue. I wasn’t actually involved in the actual wording of the contract for the contractor.”
Rue asked Fuller some questions.
“I have in writing from [Fuller] that says he’s supposed to come with the proposals when we are ready to tear down that building… I have it in writing,” she said.
Snowden loudly interrupted, “Where is it in writing? Where is it in writing?
“It’s all here,” countered an unflappable Rue as she held up a binder of documents.
When Rue began reading some email correspondence between herself and Fuller, Jenkins immediately cut her off with, “James [Snowden] we’re gonna just go… we need this variance.”
“I make a motion, the lowest bid to get the variance,” followed Massey immediately.
Regardless, Fuller revealed that he had no knowledge that the old structure had begun being demolished last Wednesday, that an asbestos abatement specialist should have been hired before the demo even began.
Fuller also said that he’s never once been shown a board resolution in relation to the demolition of the old structure.
When journalists asked Jenkins if the demolition had been authorized with a proper resolution, he continually sidestepped the question with, “I’ve been talking about this for two years… I said last Tuesday that I was taking the building down.”
After Fuller confirmed to reporters that an abatement specialist was indeed required, Jenkins began to fumble his words.
“You’re harping on this, but um, all you do, all you do is you take the tile off and that’s it,” he said.
“It wasn’t done,” said a reporter.
“OK so if it wasn’t… um OK it wasn’t done,” replied Jenkins.
“That’s on the contractor,” said Trustee Rochelle Massey.
Jenkins would later similarly say, “Even if the contractor was illegally dumping, that’s on the contractor. Why would I know where the guy took the garbage out. That’s not my job to follow him. Maybe Mrs. Rue would follow him, but not me.”
As the meeting drew to a close Massey complained about media coverage of the mayor, who is her boyfriend. She yelled at a reporter, “Don’t take a picture of me!”
“This is a public meeting,” offered another journalist, to which Massey responded, “Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha,” while she mimed a puppet with her hand.
The meeting then completely broke down and Jenkins and Massey stormed out of the meeting room.
As reporters followed the couple to Village Hall’s first floor, one journalist attempted to ask Jenkins a question.
“No! Nobody wanna talk to you,” screamed Massey.
Addressing a Democrat reporter, Jenkins noted, “You wrote the lies that Carmen said… you keep with your lying and you’ll see what you’re gonna get.”
Later, well after the meeting was over, Jenkins escorted Village DPW head Jim Steinberg upstairs to the meeting room. Asked if he or any of his workers had been approached by the mayor and asked to illegally dump the asbestos-laced debris, he said vehemently, “No! Never happened! Why don’t you publish that?
Asked the same question last week, Steinberg offered, “No comment.”
“I may have been the only one insulted here today, but I will always stand my ground,” said Rue. “You can put a gun to my head but I work for the people of this village and I will always do right by them.”