Story and Photo by Matt Shortall MONTICELLO — There was hardly an empty seat to be found inside Village Hall at 2 Pleasant Street in Monticello as board members held their annual …
MONTICELLO — There was hardly an empty seat to be found inside Village Hall at 2 Pleasant Street in Monticello as board members held their annual reorganizational meeting last Wednesday.
Former Village Mayor Gordon Jenkins was sworn in as a trustee, followed by incumbent Trustee Rochelle Massey. Both won by wide margins during village elections held last month.
“I appreciate the community and everyone who voted for me,” Jenkins said. “It’s not about Gordon being a trustee. It’s about building youth and building a better community.”
Immediately following the swearing-in ceremony, Trustee Massey introduced a resolution to appoint James Snowden as the full-time village manager with an annual salary of $85,000.
Massey read the resolution as follows: “Whereas the village board of trustees did perform a thorough candidate search and interview process for the position of manager, and whereas upon completion of the candidate interview process, the village board of trustees wishes to offer James Snowden a permanent position as village manager commencing April 6, 2022 …”
Before being elected back to public office, Jenkins had been a vocal critic of the board not having a full-time village manager.
Village Mayor George Nikolados had been performing the duties as village manager, just as former Mayor Gary Sommers had before him.
Trustee Michael Banks asked if the board could discuss the village manager position in executive session.
“I’m not aware of any new hires,” Banks said. “Nothing against James, he’d probably do a great job. But I want to do it the right way … I didn’t get a chance to see any information about the contract.”
“There’s a motion on the floor to vote,” responded Jenkins.
Trustees Carmen Rue, Jenkins and Massey voted yes to appoint Snowden as village manager. Trustee Banks voted no. Mayor Nikolados, voting last, sided with the majority to vote yes.
Mayor Nikolados said he did not have a chance to interview Snowden.
“We didn’t know who was being hired until we found out at the meeting,” Nikolados said. “There was speculation.”
Snowden has previously served as village building inspector and code enforcement officer when he was indicted on charges related to the demolition of the village courthouse.
Snowden was fired as Code Enforcement Officer in 2016. All criminal charges against him were dismissed in 2017.
Snowden filed suit against the village, alleging he was wrongfully terminated because of his political association with then-Mayor Jenkins, who was removed from office in 2015 by the state Appellate Division, Third Department of the State Supreme Court citing instances of misconduct.
The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.
“What’s in the past is in the past,” Snowden told the Democrat. “We have to move forward. We have to make sure we’re building a future for our kids … We have a lot of work to do.”
Trustee Rue said Snowden was the right candidate for the job because he knows the village and the challenges it faces.
“There’s some fiscal as well as zoning challenges that we plan to address head on,” Snowden said.
Following Wednesday’s reorganizational meeting, an emergency meeting was called for Friday morning.
Following a number of agenda resolutions, boardmembers went into executive session for over an hour to discuss personnel. When they reconvened there was a resolution to remove $25,000 from Gary Lasher’s salary and to give payroll duties to Bonnie Carnell.
The $25,000 relates to some of the village manager duties that Lasher has performed before the board hired Snowden last week.
The next resolution lowered the salary of Enforcement Officer BJ Gettel from $65,000 to $50,000.
Trustee Michael Banks called Gettel’s salary change a “personal vendetta.”
“[Gettel] has been working night in and night out. The office was in shambles [before her],” Banks said. “She single handedly turned that department around … $65,000 with no benefits is a gift to us.”
Trustee Carmen Rue claimed Gettel’s salary never came before the board for a vote.
“I think they’re trying to get rid of her, honestly,” Nikolados said.
Trustee Jenkins added that the village needs to get its finances in order. “There’s a lot of resentment because we won,” Jenkins said. “There’s too much spending and there’s too much money being given away.”
The resolution passed with Massey, Jenkins and Rue voting in favor while Banks and Nikolados voted no.
When reached for comment, Gettel said she was “beside herself” with the new board’s decision.
“This is not right,” she said. “I enforce the code, which they don’t like.”
Some in Monticello’s Jewish Orthodox community have alleged discrimination during previous public comment sections of village meetings.
“I treat everybody equally,” said Gettel. “If [anyone] wants to holler discrimination let me bring my rabbis from Bethel and they can tell you how fair I am.”
Monticello’s Board of Trustees voted to appoint James Snowden as Village Manager during last week’s reorganizational meeting.
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