Monticello's temporary Village Manager Raymond Nargizian was let go at a recent "emergency" board meeting. Although he still claims not to know what the "emergency", the truth is the meeting was called to vote on the legally necessary transfer of $89,000.00 from revenue accounts to clean up the toxic debris pile on Pleasant Street, which was scheduled to begin the next morning morning. Without that vote, the clean-up could not have proceeded. As a result of this board action, at 8:30 AM the next morning, clean-up began.
The fact that this necessary transfer did not occur at the prior regular meeting demonstrates Mr. Nargizian's loose and disorganized way of doing business. A professional would have made sure this critical detail was taken care of without requiring "emergency" board action.
At a duly convened meeting of the Board of Trustees (which this meeting was), any lawful business may conducted.
Trustee Larissa Bennett, who directed the Clerk to convene the meeting in the first place, made a motion to relieve Mr. Nargizian of his duties, in order to free up the position for a candidate to be selected from the roughly two dozen applications we have received. I agreed and seconded her motion, and it was carried by a vote of 3 to 2. Trustee Doug Solomon, who knew about the meeting, called me the night before to discuss it. He did not request that it be rescheduled to accommodate his work schedule. He said he would be absent and to proceed without him.
Village Attorney Michael Davidoff was present. He did not attempt to interfere with the measure.
After the fact, Trustee Solomon posted comments on Facebook claiming that Mr. Nargizian was removed from Village Hall by the police - a claim which was absolutely untrue. Where did he get this false idea; from Mr. Nargizian? In reality, the brief meeting was conducted in a dignified manner and Mr. Nargizian was thanked for his service. In light of his press conference of today, seeking to drum up support from his power base (mostly from outside of Monticello), I am absolutely convinced I voted in the best interest of the taxpayers and voters of the Village of Monticello. I can no longer hold back details behind the decision.
Looking back, I am forced to admit that accepting Mr. Nargizian's offer to fill in temporarily for nothing was a mistake. I am not afraid to admit I was taken in, along with the other three Trustees.
It is important to note, over recent weeks I have had more than one conversation with each of my fellow Trustees. Each of them - Trustee Solomon and Trustee Weyer included - privately voiced concerns about Mr. Nargizian's job performance. Trustee Bennett's initiative was truly not a surprise to anyone on the board. To assert otherwise, quite plainly, would be a lie.
This morning (August 16th) I received a message from multimedia journalist Eva McKend of YNN television informing me that the fired Manager had called a press-conference, not in Monticello, but at his home.
Ray Nargian, who doubles as the Town of Thompson Republican Committee Chairman and has long had his eye on the County chairmanship, is trying to rally his troops and bully his way back into the seat of power at Village Hall, where he can continue passing out jobs and favors to his friends in exchange for campaign contributions.
In response, I prepared the following statement for the press's request for my reaction to Mr. Nargizian's claim that no one on the past eight years aside from the two "Monticello United" trustees who were recently elected have been competent. Though racist on its face, on further thought, this brash poorly thought-out claim would seem to be a personal attack on each and every person who has served on the Board of Trustees, including the former Mayor and all past Trustees, over the last eight years.
Mr. Nargizian's personal attack on nearly every elected official who has held office in the Village of Monticello, with only two exceptions, demonstrates arrogance and confirms that the board made the correct decision to fire him. Previously, my intent was to hold back. However, in response to Mr. Nargizian's attack, I offer the following public statement.
I had not seen his attack letter when I prepared the following list of just a few of his major unauthorized expenditures:
Statement in Response to Ray Nargizian's attack on Elected Officials
When the board voted to thank Ray Nargizian for his service and send him on his way, it was not my intent to unpack the details of why in public. However, since he has called a TV press conference and is apparently trying to orchestrate public protests hoping to put him back in Village Hall, I am forced explain some of the reasons, as I see them, why we had to do as we did, in the best interests of Monticello taxpayers.
He claimed to be working “for free”, but in reality nothing comes for free, especially when it comes to political deals and payoffs. For example…
- He signed a $35,000 contract renewal with Paychex, without board approval. A majority of board members believe this service limits accountability and our control over time sheets.
- He spent $1,800 for a CPA to investigate the time and attendance of the code enforcement officer without board approval. This investigation yielded nothing that I know of, in part due to poor management oversight of the Paychex system.
- He hired a second code enforcement officer for $47,000 per year with nothing in the budget for that salary, without board approval. (Snowden was already being paid $47,000 per year. The second item was not, and is not, budgeted.)
- He hired a deputy manager for $55,000 per year with nothing budgeted for a deputy manager.
- He brought in the former Treasurer as a consultant, without board approval, for $5,000 to help him understand the budget; knowing that we are already paying $55,000 for a Treasurer that he refused to talk to. Eventually, the consultant walked away, saying she did not feel anyone was listening to her and stating that the current Treasurer knows what she is doing.
- He fired a secretary who was working for $10 per hour, four hours a day, and picked a replacement to do his typing at $20 per hour, two hours a day, without board approval.
- He fired or laid off two employees – that I know of, without board approval. One is pulling in $1,800 a month from the Village’s general fund. The other is collecting $1,600 a month from the Village's general fund. This is because the Village self-insures for unemployment compensation.
At first I went along with hiring him temporarily because it seemed better than the bad situation we had, and maybe for a while it was for a little while. The original agreement was he would be there two months, but he managed to manipulate his way into holding onto power and recently said he planned on staying until December (without board approval). It eventually became clear that he was more interested in running our Village, and running the board, as a political party boss, throwing his weight around; handing out payoffs and favors to Republican friends, than he was (or is) in accepting direction from his elected governing body at whose “pleasure” the Village Manager serves.
It's ironic how he targets me in his press release (a blatant attempt to create a wedge between members of the Board of Trustees, which is typical of his manipulative self-serving style), accusing me of "micro-management". This might seem like a joke if the truth didn't make the statement so pathetic. Mr. Nargizian called me nearly every day for most of the time he occupied Village Hall recently, asking for documents, records, and ideas. I never turned him away or avoided his calls. Ray Nargizian sought this position out not because he was an experienced professional looking to earn a living, but because he is a political operative who thrives on power and control, and the Manager's office allowed him to reward his friends and freeze out his enemies.
If we need a Village Manager, what we need is one who accepts direction from the Board of Trustees, who knows what he or she is doing, and who gives equal respect to each of the elected members of his governing board. Trustees who are not politically indebted to and controlled by Ray Nargizian know this.
Nearly every day Mr. Nargizian called my home asking for copies of various Village documents and records. I gave him everything he ever asked for, and made every effort to provide the best advice I could to keep him on the right track. Now he criticizes me, but fails to note his own incompetence.
Mr. Nargizian was paid $72,000 per year during his past years of service as Village Manager, eventually walking off the job with no notice. Recently, he claims to have worked "for free".
In reality, as Mr. Nargizian's performance illustrates, little in life is truly free.
The bottom line is this: I once again call on the Board of Trustees of the Village of Monticello to act in unity, not based on politics or pay-backs. All five members of the board are obligated to do our best work together in the best interest of the Village. The time has come for us to put our heads together and select the best qualified professional to manage the Village.
We must stop wasting time on political attacks like Nargizian's, conduct business in a professional, dignified and efficient manner, and move forward!
Full text of my Statement in Response to Ray Nargizian's attack on Elected Officials 8/16/2014
Full text of press conference statement by Ray Nargizian 8/16/2014
Full audio recording of Emergency Meeting of Trustees 8/12/2014
Letter of Scott Collins, Acting State Director of Rural Development for the USDA, 8/14/2014, stating:
"We are pleased to announce that a loan of $7,984,000 and a grant of $11,947,000 was approved by Rural Development to renovate the Village Wastewater Treatment Plant."