Story by Eli Ruiz
MONTICELLO September 24, 2013 The Village of Monticello looks to have a wrongful termination lawsuit on its hands; and abuse of power and discriminatory practices lie at the center of the suit brought by former Village Deputy Treasurer Sheri Bisland. Bisland was relieved of her duties with the village on January 17, 2012.
The suit was filed on September 13, and according to attorney Joe Ranni, of Ranni Law Firm out of Florida, NY, alleges “A continued demonstration of abuse of office by the mayor (Gordon Jenkins), [former Village Trustee] TC Hutchins, [former Treasurer] Heather Berg and [former] Village Manager John LiGreci.”
“They misused the rules in the Village of Monticello to effectuate their own discriminatory purposes,” added Ranni. The suit, also according to Ranni, seeks “damages, lost wages and reinstatement” on the part of Bisland.
Ranni further said that “the original charge of discrimination was actually filed with the United States Department of Justice back in January of 2012.”
Ranni affirmed that the Village of Monticello did respond to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) on February 29, 2012. Asked what the village’s response to the EEOC, Ranni said, “I can’t share that information because an EEOC proceeding is confidential… all I can tell you for certain is the date.”
A call to all parties named in the suit garnered the following responses: A surprised TC Hutchins, who was removed from his seat as Village Trustee upon his July felony conviction in his corruption trial, said, “This is the first I’m hearing of this. I didn’t do the hiring or firing in the village and I have no further comment on the matter.”
Former Village Manager John LiGreci said, “All I can tell you is that my involvement with Ms. Bisland is that she didn’t follow the regulations of the Village of Monticello, as per her job description. Therefore through union procedure and awareness I did terminate her and her own union did not challenge the termination.”
Former Village Treasurer Berg, who also claimed to know nothing of the suit, said, “I didn’t fire Sheri, John LiGreci did. If it was discrimination, well she’s white, I’m white and he’s white so what’s the discrimination? She’s a female and I’m a female and I’m not the one who fired her. I saw Sheri at the mall [Galleria at Crystal Run] last month and talked to her. She was deputy treasurer so for some of her duties I did have to deal with her but this is just ludicrous… I actually fought for her when they took away her stipend. Why didn’t she name the [Village] Clerk [Janine Gandy], why didn’t she name the Village Attorney [Dennis Lynch]… they’re both Village Officials too. All I know is that she stopped doing a good percentage of her job and didn’t tell me anything. When I wanted certain info about certain things she said, ‘Oh, I haven’t done that in six to eight months.’ She said it like it was casual.”
As for Mayor Gordon Jenkins, he referred it to the attorney, Dennis Lynch. “It’s under litigation and I can’t comment on it right now,”Jenkins said.
Lynch responded, “We are not handling that particular matter here. The attorney I believe to be handling the matter is a Brian Sokoloff with the firm Sokoloff and Stern."
A call to the offices of Sokoloff and Stern out of Carle Place, NY, was not returned as of press time.
Bisland, when reached at her current job with the Monticello School District said, “I couldn’t speak about this at work.” Asked what the work atmosphere was like during her time employed by the Village of Monticello, Bisland declined to comment.
Asked if he’d be willing to settle the case outside of court, Ranni said, “Whether this case is settled or not is relative to many factors as to whether the Village of Monticello wants to settle, but we litigate to verdict. We’re in court and they [the Village of Monticello] now have to answer to the complaint.”