Mayor Jenkins, Trustee Rue trade accusations
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO October 15, 2013 In an exclusive telephone interview with the Democrat last Monday night from the state of Georgia, where he’d been on vacation since the previous Thursday, Village of Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins responded to allegations that he ordered the illegal dumping of the debris from the old Village of Monticello Justice Court on a parcel of land in the Town of Thompson.
The mayor first unleashed an angry rant in reaction to the article about the illegal dumping that appeared in the Friday, Oct. 4 Democrat. He noted that he’d hired civil rights attorney Michael Sussman of Sussman and Watkins out of Goshen and was contemplating legal action.
After calming down, though, Jenkins answered questions and had plenty to say about Village of Monticello Trustee Carmen Rue, with whom he’s feuded for most of his two terms in office.
Jenkins was concerned about people’s perception of the timing of his vacation. Jenkins left for Georgia on October 3, the very same day Department of Environmental Conservation officials arrested local contractor Marciano “Mike” Soto and five of his workmen for dumping 18 loads of asbestos-laced debris on a 9.8-acre parcel off Ripple Road in the Town of Thompson.
It was from the demolition of the old courthouse on Pleasant St., near City Hall, which began Oct. 2.
“People think I ran off because of what happened,” said Jenkins. “Like I’m hiding or something. That’s not me. I speak the truth. I’m an honest man and I always speak the truth.”
Asked if he knew of or requested that Soto arrange for the illegal dumping of the old courthouse debris, the mayor offered, “Absolutely not. How could people think I’m so stupid? Why would I want to do something like that? Of course I try to be fiscally responsible for the people of this village. That’s part of my job, but would I do something like the lies that are in the paper? Absolutely not! People are entitled to their opinions, but this is outright character assassination and defamation… I’m seriously considering suing.”
For several years now Jenkins has been touting a youth/recreational center that he says he’s determined to have built. The now razed old Village Court on Pleasant Street was to be rebuilt as the mayor’s proposed youth center, at a projected cost of $600,000.
Asked how this project will actually be financed, the mayor said, “We gotta get it bonded. If it’s the last thing I do, I will get this project bonded. I’m just trying to help our youth, and a lot of people don’t seem to realize the importance of this project to the youth in this village. People like Carmen [Rue] want to divide and destroy this village. I’m working hard to get things done here and that’s what I’ll continue to do. I say it all the time: I speak the truth. I said I was going to get this done and I will. We need to stop being divided in this village, get together and get something done for our youth… I’ve been talking about this for a good three years now.”
Regarding Rue’s allegations that Jenkins and Village Code Enforcement Officer James Snowden took it upon themselves to tear down the old Village Courthouse without a proper board resolution, Jenkins said, “That’s another Rue lie. We do everything by the book. Like I said, I’ve been talking about taking down this eyesore for years now.”.
Asked again if an official resolution was ever brought before the board in regard to the demolition of the courthouse, Jenkins said, “I said at last Tuesday’s board meeting that I was taking the building down that week. Why didn’t anyone say anything then?” Asked if he could produce the actual resolution, he said simply, “Sure.”
To his detractors, Jenkins responded, “Like I said before, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but people like Carmen Rue are poison. She drove out our last treasurer [Heather Berg], and now she’s trying the same with our current treasurer [Lilu Li]. She [Rue] says I imported her from China as a favor to my Chinese ‘business connections.’ The woman can’t make up her mind. Before she was for the mayor form of government and against the mayor/manager form. Now she’s switched and wants the mayor/manager form [of government]. I swear that woman has Alzheimer’s. She goes against everything positive the board tried to get done in this village.”
Jenkins went on to challenge Rue to a public debate. “She can bring her husband [Village Historian Tom Rue] too,” said the mayor. “I’m elected by the people and I have a fiduciary responsibility to do what’s right by the people. What I say is always the truth. You can look at the meeting minutes. I always stand by what I say.”
In a Thursday interview with the Democrat, Rue responded to the Jenkins interview. “As far as my position on the village form of government, I’ve done a lot of studying on this subject, especially the mayor/manager form of government, and as broke as this village is at this time, there is no way that I can support this acting manager form of government, and who in their right mind could?” said Rue.
“I will always say I want to give the people of this village the right to a referendum on the subject,” she continued. “What we need in this village right now is a strong mayoral government, something that we do not currently have. With all that’s going on right now, how can you even begin to trust this administration? They don’t even bring proper resolutions to this village elected board. There is no trust. For instance, as far as the illegal demolition of the old courthouse, there was no proper resolution ever brought before our elected board. No proper procurement process. Nothing.”
Regarding the mayor’s claims that Rue has called new Village Treasurer Lilu Li “an import from China”: “I never said that,” claimed Rue. “It has never been anything personal with Ms. Li. It was a matter of actually legally changing the residency law to extend to Orange County. That is something I cannot and will not support. I represent the people of this village, the county seat. As far as the mayor’s allegations that I’ve changed my mind on issues. How about his championing of this youth center? When TC Hutchins came up with the idea years ago, when this was TC’s priority, we held public discussion about it and the mayor told our engineer [John Fuller] that he did not support it. He said that we were broke, that there was no money for such a project. He said he just wanted to fix the police station, the entire building and remove the asbestos in the Village Hall. He did not support it, but now champions it because it will serve as his girlfriend’s [Trustee Rochelle Massey] platform for her run for Village Trustee come March. That’s it.”
She added, “How can the mayor say that we have all this money when we’re so behind on our employees insurance premiums? It does not add up. He [Jenkins] purposely sabotages the budget this fiscal year because he wants to keep his acting manager job he set aside $36,000 for in the original budget.
“He can call me poison and anything else he likes, but the main source of poison on this board is Village of Monticello Mayor Gordon Jenkins,” continued Rue. “He lies. He may say he speaks the truth, but the vast majority of what he says are bald-faced lies! I am by the book. As an elected official I have to, and do, follow the laws of this village. That must be why I am poison to him. We are here to work for the people’s interest, and that’s what is most important to me. The mayor only does what benefits the mayor. And as far as the dumping scandal. Mr. Soto told me that the mayor absolutely knew where and when he was dumping this asbestos mixed debris. I stand by my word and will always stand my ground.”