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Monticello board tables controversial vote

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — May 21, 2010 — Despite all the fuss prior to the meeting, the Monticello Village Board on Tuesday unanimously opted to table a controversial resolution to limit trustees’ interaction with employees and use of the village hall.
Village Manager John Barbarite had already circulated a memo to employees advising them that “the workforce is under the direction of the village manager. Individual trustees have no authority to interrupt, interfere or direct employees.”
But he was also pushing for limiting trustees’ use of village hall to simply picking up mail, attending meetings and other business as authorized by the mayor or himself. And he wanted all requests for information routed through him.
Barbarite admitted in a press report that the new rules were a direct result of Trustee Carmen Rue’s allegedly disruptive activities in village hall, which sparked outrage from Rue and fellow Trustee Victor Marinello.
But before the resolution could be voted upon at Tuesday’s meeting, the board went into executive session with its attorney, emerging more than an hour later to table the vote.
“All of us talked about it,” said Mayor Gordon Jenkins. “We’re going to reword it.”
“I think the issue was discussed thoroughly, and maybe there will be a change,” added Barbarite.
The next day, Rue said it’s likely to come back in the form of a policy recommendation from Barbarite – one directed at employees, not trustees, who are his boss.
“I told the lawyer that [original resolution] was illegal,” she recalled.
Saying she “can’t stand” either Barbarite or his deputy, John LiGreci, Rue angrily accused them of misrepresenting her activities with village employees.
“These people who’ve been working there for years know more than me,” she remarked.
She denied directing employees outside of the bounds of her authority.
“I would never do that – I’m not that kind of person,” she explained.
Rue also credited Rev. James Matthews, her fellow trustee, with ensuring the resolution went no farther.
“For me, it wasn’t right,” Matthews said on Wednesday. “It was taking away privileges for the trustees.”
He was quick to add that his resistance was based solely on the “hindrance” the resolution would be to his activities in village hall.
“I wasn’t against anyone in particular,” Matthews explained.
A new resolution, said Jenkins, may be introduced at the next village board meeting, currently scheduled for 7 p.m. in the village hall on June 1.
In other business . . .
Elsewhere during Tuesday’s meeting, Barbarite announced that former Code Enforcement Officer Sue Flora has been fired, and James Snowden has been hired as her replacement.
In response to concerns about qualifications, Barbarite said Snowden has 25 years of experience in the construction business (including running his own firm), and he’s written grants for Monticello.
“He has a year to go to school and get [state] certified,” Barbarite added after the meeting.
LiGreci said the village is looking into possibly sharing code enforcement personnel and funding with the Town of Thompson, and doing the same for the village’s tax collection and policing duties.
He stressed he’s not talking about eliminating services.
“We should at least make Monticello more efficient and drop the costs of services to the public,” LiGreci explained.
Police Chief Doug Solomon pointed out that the village PD is already having the State Police along on patrols at least two to three days per week, and Deputy Mayor TC Hutchins urged LiGreci to look into having the county’s Sheriff’s Office share some of its staff and resources in the village’s courthouse.

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