Monticello again debates switching governments
Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO September 10, 2013 Though the idea has been kicked around previously, the notion of replacing the village’s current governmental configuration that of having both a mayor and a village manager to what Village Attorney Dennis Lynch calls “the regular village form of government” featuring just a mayor as the village’s executive elicited serious discussion at Friday’s board meeting, along with protestations from Trustee Carmen Rue.
Mayor Gordon Jenkins started off the evening with the seemingly redundant appointment of Village Treasurer LiLu Li of Monroe, even though the official mayoral appointment had already taken place the week prior.
After speaking to the legitimacy of the mayor’s appointment an appointment Rue had previously questioned (and continues to do so) due to residency requirements Lynch brought up some options regarding the village’s current mayor/manager form of government.
“The village manager form of government that the village has limits the appointments of the mayor to certain categories,” he said. “With the regular village form of government, which is probably [used in] about 90 percent of the villages in New York State, the power appointed to the mayor is a lot more expansive.”
Lynch added, “There’s also been some discussion I’ve heard it at meetings that the only way you can change the form of government from village manager to the regular form, which most villages have, is through what’s called a permissive referendum.
“It is true that you can have a permissive referendum to change the form of government, but you [the village board] can also pass a local law that allows that change to take place. That local law, if you pass it, would itself be subject to the right of the public.”
He said the law would become effective no sooner than 30 days after passing board muster. The 30-day grace period requirement exists, explained Lynch, “because the people have a right to get a petition together and seek what they call a permissive referendum.”
Trustee Rue disagreed: “This is not the information I got form NYCOM [New York Conference of Mayors] and from the state that the village has [to hold] a resolution and has to collect 60 percent of votes to put it in a referendum because Article 15-A . . . says that in order to change that law it has to go to a referendum.”
After sparring over Rue’s accuracy vs. his, Lynch shut down the conversation.
“I’m finished,” said Lynch. “I gave my opinion. NYCOM actually approved my opinion. What NYCOM did not tell the board is that there’s an opinion by the Attorney General which supported exactly what I said, but to answer the question: you’re [Mayor Jenkins] authorized tonight to make thatappointment. If you want to change the village to a better form of government, you can do that 30 days after you pass the local law, provided that there is no permissive referendum petition filed.”
Recently installed Trustee Rochelle Massey, who is also Jenkins’ 28-year domestic partner, then chimed in, “I think we do need a change because the manager form of government is not working. We need a strong mayor form of government like other areas like Middletown have, and Liberty has and so on and so forth. It’s not working with a manager.
“As many managers as we’ve gone through, it’s crazy. And the way managers work; if they have a vote they swing to this side, and if tomorrow it’s the left, that’s where they are, to the left. That’s why it’s not working. Managers come in . . . certain people pick the manager and then he’s working for them. It’s not working . . . it’s a proven fact.”
Jenkins would subsequently ask Lynch to “look into that for the next meeting,” to which Lynch affirmed, “I certainly can, and if Trustee Rue has any law to the authority, I welcome it.”
Lynch said he’ll prepare a resolution for consideration at the next board meeting, currently scheduled for Tuesday, September 17 at 7 p.m. at the village hall.
As for Mayor Jenkins’ opinion on the village manager form of government, he offered, “I’ve been here for 30 years . . . The shelf-life of a manager is probably two years in this village because you have a board that’s so political it’s sickening . . . so it doesn’t work, but if you have a sitting mayor and the people put you in this seat and if you screw it up or do a good job . . . you either stay or you go. That’s how it goes.”
Jenkins said that he came into the manager’s office when the village was more than a million dollars in debt.
“Someone’s been dropping the ball,” he said, laying the blame on former village treasurers. “They all screwed it up.”
Lauding his freshly appointed treasurer, LiLu Li, the mayor offered, “I’ve talked to New York State auditors, and they say, ‘You got the best pick in the world’.”
In other business
• One thing the board could agree on, though, was a unanimously passed resolution to accept donations for youth and sports activities at the proposed new recreation center.
“I had the treasurer put this as a line item on the agenda because we’re tearing down the old courthouse before the winter comes,” said Jenkins. “We’re taking it down to put up a $600,000 recreation center. I said we’re gonna do this before I get out of this office and I’m hoping the board can get together and do what we say we’re gonna do.”
Tom Rue, Carmen’s husband, questioned the legality or appropriateness of soliciting donations to village government, suggesting instead the board consider the model of the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon, which is governed independently of the Town of Delaware, as it is a 501(c)3 organization with its own board.
Yesterday, Jenkins told the Democrat, “Our area’s youth is in real danger, and this is extremely important to me, and ... if I don't get anything else but this done while I'm still here, I'll leave a happy man.”
Those interested in more information can visit Village Hall on Pleasant Avenue or call 794-6130.
• Also during the meeting, Jenkins appointed Leo Glass to the village planning board, and an open seat on the village zoning board of appeals was filled by Monticello resident Stephen Kaufman.