Proposed Public Hearing Unlawfully Scheduled for April 3rd is Cancelled by Order of Supreme Court of New York State

From: Carmen Rue
To: Janine Gandy, Dennis Lynch, Alak Shah, Wade Beltramo
cc: Larissa Bennett, Gordon Jenkins, Jill Weyer, Doug Solomon, Stacey Walker
date: Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 11:58 PM
subject: RE: Agenda & minutes

Jannine Gandy, Clerk
The Village of Monticello

TAKE NOTICE that the public hearing that was unlawfully scheduled for the morning of April 3, 2014 at 9:00 AM regarding an illegal proposal to adopt a Local Law superseding NYS Village Law has been cancelled pursuant to an order of the Supreme Court of New York State a copy of which is attached herewith for convenient reference.

Sincerely,

Carmen Rue
Trustee

"Reorganizational Meeting" Placed On Hold, Thanks To Publicity and Legal Opinion From NYS Conference of Mayors

Due to advance publicity given to the failed scheme cooked up by the outgoing losers of the recent Village of Monticello election to steal the appointed positions that must be approved by the lawfully elected Board of Trustees, nearly all of the appointments that were on the unauthorized Agenda circulated recently by the Village Clerk Jannine Gandy were "placed on hold" [DOWNLOAD AUDIO].

Gandy falsely told the board that she had received advice from the NYS Conference of Mayors advising her that it was lawful to proceed with annual appointments which do not expire until April 7th. When I forwarded Gandy's e-mail to NYCOM, she received a phone call making it known that this was not what they told her, and that their advice was actually consistent with my statement. As a result, little of consequences occurred at the April Fool's Day meeting, and nothing or almost nothing that may have been done that night can not be undone by the incoming board.

At the start of the meeting, after voting "No" to adopt the agenda, I read the following statement and directed the Clerk to include it in the Minutes of the night's special meeting:

STATEMENT BY CARMEN RUE TO READ ON APRIL 1, 2014:

The Village Clerk circulated an Agenda for a Reorganizational Meeting to be held tonight. The reorganizational meeting of the Board of Trustees is when newly elected members are sworn into office and annual appointments are made by the Mayor or Manager, including any that are subject to approval of the Board of Trustees. When the unlawful nature of tonight's scheme was pointed out to her, the Clerk sent an e-mail admitting that, after she checked the law and with NYCOM, she discovered that I was correct – holding the reorganization meeting prior to the installation of the newly elected trustees was illegal.

But, instead of changing the nature of the meeting, she edited the Agenda to delete the word "Reorganizational" from the meeting's agenda, but did not change the purpose or intent of tonight's unlawful meeting. Not only that, NYCOM also explained to Jannine that the term of office for appointees currently in place do not expire until the 7th.

I hereby declare this meeting, and any of the actions which may be taken here tonight to be null and void, subject to approval of the duly elected Board of Trustees at the annual meeting to be held April 7, 2014. I advise anyone whose contracts or interests may be on tonight's agenda not to rely on these votes, and to take no action on these matters until they are considered at the annual meeting of Trustees on April 7, 2014, as any or all of the votes which may taken at tonight’s meeting are presented with fraudulent intent and may be null and void unless or until ratified by the elected board.

Carmen Rue
Village Trustee


The public is invited to attend the annual Reorganizational Meeting of the Village of Monticello Board of Trustees on Monday, April 7, 2014, at 7:00 PM, on the second floor of 2 Pleasant Street, to witness the swearing-in of two newly elected Trustees Douglas Solomon and Jill Kenny Weyer, and Village Justice Josephine V. Finn.


Download April Fools Day regular meeting of the Board of Trustees

Jenkins, Massey, and Matthews Try Last-Minute "Reorganization" in Violation of New York State Law, Grasping to Preserve the Corrupt Status-Quo

Gordon Jenkins and outgoing members of the Village of Monticello Board of Trustees have announced that they intend to hold an unlawful "reorganizational meeting" on Tuesday, April 1st.

In any municipality operating under the laws of New York State, the annual reorganizational meeting of a legislative body commences with the swearing-in of newly elected members. The losers of the recent election are again thumbing their noses at the voters of Monticello who sent a loud, clear mandate in a massive landslide, bringing an end to the corruption of the Jenkins administration.

Without approval of the Board of Trustees, Village Clerk Jannine Gandy released an unauthorized Agenda on March 28th, putting the cart before the horse, allowing votes and appointments which must be made by the new incoming Trustees to be made by the outgoing losers, and directing the unlawfully appointed "Village Manager" to sign documents and take official actions to benefit Jenkins and his losers, and authorizing contracts and apparently presenting falsified (forged) past resolutions which were never presented to the Board of Trustees for a vote, including a proposed illegal amendment of a law regarding the residence requirements for the Village Manager position for which no public hearing has been held, and which is over-ruled by NYS Village Law. This item does not appear on the "Preliminary" agenda, but is planned to be added at the last minute as an addendum.

The annual meeting can not take place until "the first Monday in the month following the date of the general village election" - in other words, since the election by the people of Monticello of Trustees Douglas Solomon and Jill Kenny Weyer and Hon. Josephine Finn as Village Justice on March 18th, April 7, 2014. (See final Election Results here.)

NYS Village Law § 3-302

Official year, terms of office, extension or reduction of terms, biennial elections.
1. An official year begins at noon on the first Monday in the month following the date of
the general village election
or the date such an election would have been held had elections
been held annually.
2. The term of office of each elective village officer shall commence at the start of the
official year following his election; the term of office of each officer appointed at the
annual meeting of the board of trustees shall commence at the start of the official year
in which he is appointed; and the term of office of each officer appointed at any other time
shall commence at the time of his appointment.


For the information of Jenkins who may have missed the news, the tally of the general election held March 18, 2014 was as follows:

  • Josephine V. Finn (elected Village Justice) - 756
  • Douglas Solomon (elected Village Trustee - 714
  • Jill Kenny Weyer (elected Village Trustee) - 690
  • Rochelle Massey - 226
  • Oswald Allan - 218

The unauthorized Agenda includes approval of a contract with one of the mayor's criminal lawyers, Feerick, Lynch, MacCartney LLC, who defended him and his girlfriend, Rochelle Massey, in their trademark infringement convictions.

In my opinion, in order for honest government to return to our Village, Lynch and his minions must go!

Other items on the "preliminary" April 1st unauthorized Agenda include re-appointment of Village Clerk Jannine Gandy, Treasurer Lilu Li through September 2014, as well as an unnamed Planning Board member by the mayor, (none of which can occur without approval of the duly elected Board of Trustees); a resolution setting the date, time, and place of future regular Village Board meetings; a resolution "authorizing the Village Manager to freeze all further appointments until a later date"; and, finally, "setting Special meeting date for Monday, April 7th, 2014 at 7:00pm for the swearing in of the newly elected officials".

This last item (#23) is a distorted re-write of an item that I submitted, in my capacity as an elected official, to the Village Clerk in an e-mail on March 26th for inclusion on this agenda. At that time, I ordered her to: "...place on the agenda of the April 1st meeting to send a press release that the Reorganizational Meeting of the Board of Trustees will be held on Monday, April 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM."

This last-ditch grab at power by the corrupt outgoing trustees and the mayor cannot be allowed to stand.

At this writing, Jenkins is currently away at his second home in Gillsville Georgia, where he drove on March 26th in a vehicle loaded with boxes, but plans to return to Monticello by Tuesday. This is the same place he hid out last October during the demolition he contracted of the former Village court-house which still sits in an ugly asbestos-laced toxic waste pile on Pleasant Street awaiting final action by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

Jenkins is also awaiting sentencing on the crime of Obstructing Governmental Administration (of which he was convicted by a jury), which all by itself itself constitutes a violation of his oath of office. When the full extent of what Jenkins and Massey are hiding is discovered, they will be held accountable.

Jenkins is demonstrating by his behavior his disdain for the voters of Monticello, and that he has no regard for the laws of the State of New York. He is attempting to prove that he has more power than the District Attorney of Sullivan County, the Supreme Court of New York State, and the Appellate Division of the Third Judicial District, where a petition under the NYS Public Officers Law for his removal from office as a result of his misconduct is currently pending.

I call on my constituents to watch for news about this latest attempted power grab. Come and raise your voice on April 1st, to show support for the newly elected board and demonstrate that the old corrupt ways of the past Jenkins administration are over.

Corrupt Hiring Process : Of Three Recent Applicants for Village Manager, and Dozens Who Applied Last Year, Jenkins Allowed the Board of Trustees To Interview Two Men

In 2013, we had more than 50 applicants for the position of Village Manager. This year, after an advertisement ran in the same publications, the Board of Trustees was only told about the existence of a grand total of three applicants.

Jenkins privately interviewed one at the Goshen law office of Michael Sussman. Sussman is one of Jenkins' criminal defense attorneys. Why Sussman was involved in brokering Village Manager interviews remains unclear. His connection to the criminal charge of Obstructing Governmental Administration on which Jenkins has already been convicted, and other unrelated criminal charges still pending against Jenkins, is well known.

The board was not given an opportunity to interview the applicant seen at Sussman's office, though this gentleman was was interviewed a year ago and at that time and was seriously considered by the full board. This time around, Jenkins misled the man into believing that he now wanted to hire him, even though a year ago he bitterly opposed him. However, this was a lie. Jenkins had no intention of hiring this man, or even of allowing the board to interview him, but then publicly accused "the Monticello United team" of not wanting him.

Of course, the public already knows Jenkins is a liar. I certainly do.

One other man was scheduled by Jenkins to meet with the board at Village Hall on March 12th, but at that point Jenkins and Rochelle Massey clearly had someone else in mind whom they had already interviewed alone without the rest of the board being notified. The first applicant we interviewed on the 12th, whom I did not know previously, wrote me a letter immediately afterward expressing anger at Jenkins for wasting his time with what was obviously a sham interview.

The Board of Trustees did not approve the content of the newspaper ad this time around. That ad specified that applications be sent directly to the Mayor. We only got three applications this year, but 50 last year?

This hiring process stinks of corruption.

Jenkins and Massey are desperate to hold onto control of the public's finances and the flow of information at Village Hall. They have spent many thousands of dollars on private attorneys to pay their own criminal defense bills. Many thousands of taxpayer dollars are missing and can not be accounted for, according to the NYS Comptroller's Office.

Jenkins wants a man who will follow his orders. He obviously believes Thompson is such a man.

When I suggested to Mr. Thompson that if he honestly wanted to "work with" the Board of Trustees at whose pleasure the law says he would serve if were hired, he should wait until after this Tuesday's election. His response, "I already have a majority," proved he views himself as only working for Jenkins.

Something is truly wrong in Monticello government. If voters care, the way to show it, and to TAKE BACK YOUR VILLAGE, is to vote this Tuesday, March 18, 2014, Noon to 9:00 PM, for Doug Solomon and Jill Weyer.




March 18th Election (Noon - 9 PM) Allows Monticello Voters to Choose Two Trustees, Village Justice, AND... Selection Process of Our Next Village Manager

Those who have been spreading rumors pretending to know who the next Board of Trustees might choose as a Village Manager (or even assuming who will win Tuesdays election) were sent a strong rebuke by a couple of board members purporting to join Jenkins in appointing a Rockland County resident to the the post, part-time, at a salary of $78,000.00. It was a message; but of little legal consequence.

The truth is, we will not know until more events unfold, commencing with the election scheduled to be held this Tuesday, March 19th, from Noon to 9:00 PM. If you live in Monticello, you have a voice not only in who will serve on the Board of Trustees, give a vote of confidence to our distinguished Village Justice Josephine Finn, but also who will select Monticello's next Village Manager.

Gordon Jenkins, convicted last month in the Town of Liberty of a crime constituting a violation his oath of office [PRECEDENT], wants the one-time mayor of Spring Valley to take his place. Jenkins is currently defending against a removal petition filed with the Appellate Division. He has committed many wrongs in his capacities of mayor and acting manager, and has much that he wants to keep hidden.

Jenkins also has a short memory. Four short years ago, in one of his lawsuits against the Village that he lost, the NYS Supreme Court issued a Decision and Order on the precise question of residency of Monticello's Village Manager. We have been down this road already and the matter of local residency is settled law, decided in Court. (See Local Law No. 2 of 2010.]

In addition to ruling on other relevant points of law, the Hon. Vincent Sackett ruled that under State and Local Laws, which are still in effect, our Village Manager must be a local resident. How many Judges does it take to persuade Gordon Jenkins that he is not the controlling power of all matters governing the Village of Monticello? There are higher laws than his imperial wishes, or even than votes of the Board of Trustees itself, that we are sworn to uphold.

Jenkins is afraid of a shadows and rumors. He told reporters that his reason for rushing to appoint this part-time Manager, violating our Local Law requiring residency in Sullivan County, was that he was terrified the new Board of Trustees might hire someone he does not like. The truth is that several credible local people have been considered by various board members and candidates. It is impossible to say which one would be chosen until after the results of Tuesday's critical election.

If the Board of Trustees decides Mr. Thompson should have the position, which will require him to move his residence to Sullivan County, I can work with him. However, the actions taken by Jenkins and his cronies on March 14th are a meaningless sham.

No resolution was presented to the board for consideration, and no actual contract was given to Trustees to discuss and vote on. Jenkins' lawyer was inexplicably absent, and the board as a whole had no legal counsel present. Although several local people expressed interest in the post, Jenkins did not allow the Board of Trustees to interview any candidate other than the one he wanted.

The fact that Mr. Thompson was willing to take part in such a charade does not speak well for his ethics. Repeatedly, both in private and in public, I urged him to wait until after the April First reorganization, to demonstrate a genuine willingness to respect and work with the governing board. His response? An arrogant, "I already have a majority." This does not suggest that he is willing to accept direction from, work with, or "serve at the pleasure of" the Board of Trustees. At this writing, Mr. Thompson does not have a valid contract, regardless what papers the mayor might manufacture after the fact fooling him into believing so.

Mr. Thompson's resume looks impressive, but due diligence requires that his past be examined and other candidates be considered. For example, why did Thompson fail badly in his last election bid in his home town of Spring Valley, garnering only 13.8% of his former constituents' votes? He comes across as a pleasant man, but the sneaky, dishonest, and apparently unlawful manner in which Jenkins and two of his cronies showed hubris by arrogantly attempting to shove this a failed mayor from another county down the throats of the people of Monticello was wrong.

The recent NYS Comptroller's audit proves that Jenkins has failed as acting Village Manager and can not be allowed to continue in that seat. The US Department of Agriculture, in a letter dated February 6, 2014, threatened to cancel a $6.7 million grant (a total package of $15 million when low-interest loans are included) for a much needed sewer project in Monticello if Jenkins is not replaced by a full-time, competent professional manager and other "staff changes" within 90 days of that date (i.e. May 6, 2014). Part-time appointment of Mr. Thompson, with no other changes in staff responsible for finances; supposedly to become full-time in August fails to meet these requirements and will result in a huge financial loss to the Village.

Who Jenkins' replacement should be is a decision to be made by the new Board of Trustees after they are elected by the people and the votes are counted. One thing that is sure, though, is that the Monticello United team had made no decisions, and to my knowledge there has been no apparent agreement at this point as to who should be the Village Manager, except that it should not be Gordon Jenkins.

I have held no meetings with any Trustee candidates to discuss who the next Manager should be. Plans or promises of that nature would be premature and disrespectful of the voters, regardless of the lies and rumors spread by Jenkins and political operatives. Trustee Candidates Doug Solomon and Jill Weyer each have their own minds and their own opinions, and they have not confided in me their preferences for a Manager appointment, nor should they. At the moment, they are not on the Board of Trustees, and I would not presume to expect them to make promises in advance of their election.

Jenkins' publicly announced desire to harm the Village of Monticello by trying to saddle taxpayers with a $156,000.00 obligation to Mr. Thompson if the future elected board is not pleased with his pal's performance is of no force or effect. No contract was shown or presented to the Board of Trustees for approval on the night Jenkins announced its passage, and even if it were Mr. Thompson is not eligible for the job because he does not live in the county. We have many local people who are qualified for this job and have expressed interest. There may also be other candidates willing to relocate here who are worth considering after a thorough search and application process.

According to the Monticello Village Code § 45-5:

Administrative and executive powers.

The administrative and executive powers of the Village, including the power of appointment of officers and employees, except the Village Clerk, Village Attorney and Village Treasurer, are vested in an official to be known as the 'Village Manager' who shall be appointed by the Board of Trustees and hold office during the pleasure of such Board; he shall receive compensation as shall be fixed by the Board of Trustee.

Mr. Thompson needs to prove himself in order to win "the pleasure of such board". If he does, starting by making himself eligible for appointment by complying with the law that he must live in Sullivan County in order to be hired, and the board legitimately votes to hire him, I would support him. However, if he is only there to cover for Jenkins and has as much contempt for Local and State law as he does, he would be well advised not to waste the gas driving up from Spring Valley for our next meeting.

Jenkins' attempt to coerce the future board into accepting his preferred pick is offensive and holds no water.

My only agenda is in serving all the residents of the Village of Monticello, not protecting the personal interests or ego of Gordon Jenkins.

The election of Douglas Solomon and Jill Weyer, as well as the re-election of Village Justice Josephine V. Finn, are vital to restoring the trust in our local government. This election is one of the most important in recent memory.


DOWNLOAD FULL AUDIO OF THE MARCH 11, 12, AND 14 2014 MEETING OF TRUSTEES

Protecting Cronies a Centerpiece of Jenkins Administration - Last Minute Rush to Hand-Pick New Manager, and Give Contract to Double-Dipping, Unqualified Pal Before Election

Four members of the Board of Trustees voted at the March 11, 2014 meeting of the Board of Trustees to destroy the Village's youth department, placing it under the control of Code Enforcement Officer, James Snowden, who already has another full-time Civil Service job with the Village.

Mayor Jenkins made some reckless and potentially slanderous remarks about the recently departed Recreation Director, Michael Greco, even going so far as to suggest, without any supporting evidence, that he believes Mr. Greco was stealing money from the Village while working in service of our community's youth.

Having already consulting with the Sullivan County Personnel Department, I went on record during the meeting stating that I believe the this action to reward Jenkins' and Massey's political ally violates NYS Civil Service Law. Tonight's resolution to create a new Village Department was incorrectly done, and will fall apart on close legal examination.

In hopes of preventing any future Board of Trustees from undoing their damage, after the meeting recessed, a quorum of members of the board held an unlawful executive session in the Village Manager's office to work out the details of a proposed contract intended to protect Jenkins' and Massey's political ally and pal, and reinforce the $15,000.00 raise they voted for their buddy.

Jenkins also repeated intent to do anything in his power, "as long as I am the Mayor", to destroy the Monticello police department.

Snowden lacks the qualifications and certificates to oversee the operation pool and youth recreation department. He has not undergone an Child Abuse investigation to confirm that he can be trusted to work with our children. He is double-dipping. (See the lawful employment criteria for village Recreation Director and Recreation Attendant.)

He does not have the time to perform two full-time jobs. The village looks terrible, thanks in part to Snowden's negligence and double-dipping, time spent on the job conducting electioneering activities, and serving as the Mayor's personal chauffeur.

Jenkins and his cronies did not follow lawful procedures and once the new board takes office, I believe they (including Snowden) will be held accountable in more ways than one. This yet another call to action, for anyone in Monticello who cares about our youth, to root out out dishonesty in government, starting with a vote on March 18th for two honest and competent candidates to the Board of Trustees.

Tonight's board meeting will reconvene tomorrow at 11:30 AM for the purpose of interviewing two candidates for the position of Village Manager, whom the current majority of on the board has made it clear they intend to try to ram down the throats of the incoming board, sealing the hiring of their political pick with what they wrongly believe will be a binding contract intended to tie the hands of the incoming board. One candidate is from Spring Valley, NY, and the other is from Ossining, NY. Even if one or both of these men are qualified for the Manager position, they would be idiots to accept the job at this point in time.

Rochelle Massey and her current running mate for Trustee seats must be terrified of losing the March 18th election, for her and her paramour, the Mayor, to take such desperate and poorly thought out steps now.

Why not do the respectable and honest thing, and wait until three weeks to hire a manager? The Mayor claims he wants to "work with" the incoming board. He is proving himself a liar, once again, interested primarily in tightening his grip on power and control to cover up past corruption and heading down the same road toward economic destruction of the community while enhancing his own personal interests and those of his friends.

Either of the potential Village Manager candidates being interviewed tomorrow (Wednesday, March 12th) would be a fool to accept the position of Monticello Village Manager in the present tenuous situation.

Why not wait until after the re-organizational meeting, if they realistically hope to last in the position?

To accept the post under present circumstances would be a set-up for legal action in which any contract they may hammer out given would probably be declared null and void in a court of law on a variety of legal grounds. There is also the possibility, depending how deeply they dig themselves into the hole with Jenkins, Massey, Snowden and their cohorts, that a new Manager could end up facing the same sad fate as the last occupant of that position, before a Grand Jury, eventually convicted of criminal acts and removed from office for Official Misconduct. I ask them each: IS IT WORTH THIS RISK, JUST TO AVOID WAITING A FEW WEEKS?

Manager candidates considering coming to Monticello should research the recent history of corruption in local government here before accepting an appointment, and exercise caution before they step in something they may regret.


DOWNLOAD FULL AUDIO OF THE MARCH 11, 12, AND 14 2014
MEETING OF TRUSTEES

Appealing to US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the Refusal of NYS Agency to Provide Mediation or Sensitivity Training to Address Monticello Mayor's Racial, Ethnic, and Other Misconduct

I will exercise my civil right as an American citizen and as an elected public official to appeal Mr. Victor DeAmelia's faulty conclusions on behalf of the NYS Division of Human Rights to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It does not appear that Mr. DeAmelia reviewed my full submissions, since he only addresses one concern, ignoring the full pattern of misconduct by the mayor outlined in my complaint.

USDA Cites Monticello For Financial Instability, Denies Funds For Sewer Plant

Letter from US Department of Agriculture, dated February 6, 2014, outlining numerous reasons why the Village of Monticello is financially unstable and unqualified for extra funding to allow the proposed sewer project to proceed, not the least of which is the absence of professional management.

Breaking News : Final Audit Report Released By NYS Comptroller, Village Of Monticello

Breaking News

NYS Comptroller audit, Village of Monticello, Board Oversight

Click THIS LINK to download a full copy of the final audit report, released February 14th. Very few changes were made between the draft and final versions, except a response signed by the Mayor/Acting Village Manager/Budget Officer was appended, in which he blames the former Treasurer and others appointed by him for the missing financial records and unaccounted funds.

The audit was initiated at my request, but the response speaks only for the Mayor, who failed to present it to the Board for review, comment, or vote.

The report accuses the Mayor/Acting Village Manager/Budget Officer, the former Treasurer, and a past Trustee of failing to pay a total of $1,000 in late fees on taxes for properties they own or owned.

Large amounts of funds are reported to be missing or unaccounted for, yet because the Comptroller's office lacks law-enforcement authority any follow-up investigation to determine where the money went is the task of outside agencies, officials said.

The Mayor's response also claims that one of the "corrective actions" taken is handing the Code Enforcement Officer a second Civil Service job as Recreation Director. Unfortunately, weeks before the Mayor's response was written, the Sullivan County Personnel Department ruled this action to be unlawful. As noted on this website on December 21, 2013, in an article entitled Gordon Jenkins & Co. Hand Out Jobs And Raises To Friends And Cronies While The Village Of Monticello Speeds Toward Insolvency:

"Hiring Code Enforcement Officer James Snowden to the additional Civil Service position(s) of Recreation Director and/or Recreation Attendant, and relocating Building Department files from their present safe repository at Village Hall to the Stroebele Neighborhood Facility, under Snowden's control (this hiring appears to be unlawful, according to the Sullivan County Department of Personnel, since Snowden does not meet the minimum criteria for eligibility to test for these positions and because he already occupies a full-time Civil Service title), handing out an unbudgeted and undeserved $15,000 per year above and beyond Mr. Snowden's current salary of $47,000 salary per year as building inspector."



Response of Trustee Carmen Rue to OSC Report of Examination, 1/1/2014 (text below):

VILLAGE OF MONTICELLO

January 1, 2014

Rachael L. Krizanek, Principal Examiner
Division of Local Government and School Accountability
NYS Office of the Comptroller
110 State Street, 15th Floor
Albany, New York 12236

Re: Response to Report of Examination (Appendix B)

Dear Ms. Krizanek:

During my tenure as Village Trustee, questionable financial information has come to my attention. A few times over the last few years I requested that your offices perform an audit of Village of Monticello operations. I have made numerous telephone calls and written memos expressing my specific concerns. I would like to thank the Comptroller’s Office for performing this most recent audit.

As requested, please accept the following as my response to your examination dated December 2013.

I must preface my response by stating that, as a Board member, my agreement with the examination findings does not mean I have been complicate or condone the Board's actions. My record is clear. I am confident that my participation, as difficult as it has been, has contributed to exposing our problems in order to effect corrective action.

As a Trustee and Board member, I have worked tirelessly to oversee Village operations. As can be readily evidenced by my website, carmenrue.com I have been honest, forthright and transparent regarding all Village issues. I have, much of the time, been a minority of one on a five-person board since the day I took office. It is therefore hard to accept being characterized with the same brush as the other board members. Where possible, and with appropriate confirmation by the records, I would appreciate insertion of the verbiage, “a majority of the Board of Trustees” be used in your report.

Repeatedly, I asked, both in writing and on the record at meetings, for reports from department heads, and repeatedly I was denied this information as an elected Village Trustee, by order of the Mayor/Acting Village Manager/Budget Officer, and was told multiple times by department heads and by the Treasurer that they were under orders not to provide me with information that I told them was necessary to the performance of my duties as a Trustee.

Without hesitation, I agree with your observations and findings and acknowledge their significance. I accept the reprehensible truth and responsibility that the majority of the Board of Trustees did not do its duty, and “did not properly oversee Village operations.” My hope is, that as a result of this report, financial control issues noted will be addressed and corrected. The previous audit performed by the NYS Office of the Comptroller received May 2013 contained many observed deficiencies. The audit response written by the Village’s out-of-county contract attorney, selected by the Mayor, denied or explained away a majority of your comments. Accordingly, no meaningful improvements were made to the Village’s control structure or its policies and procedures as a result of the OSC audit. I sincerely hope the findings of this audit will be addressed and a corrective Action Plan implemented, with review procedures to ensure the changes implemented are operating as revised.

An audit of this nature effectively reviews compliance with the control mechanisms in place to ensure the system is operating as designed and according to specified policies. Upon determining systems are inaccurate and controls are circumvented, a summary judgment is made that proper oversight has not been provided by the Board of Trustees.

Significantly, the report does not make clear that Monticello follows the Village Manager form of government. The Village Manager is charged with the responsibility of running day to day operations. The job includes following and enforcing the internal controls and the policies and procedures of the Village, and serving as Budget Officer.

The form of government, however, is not the reason for the lack of oversight or dysfunction. An organization is only as good as the people running it. Our village has unfortunately been plagued with cases of nepotism and political favoritism. There have been many examples of unethical behavior by the Mayor, board members, officers and executive employees. We have had an extraordinary turnover of village managers. We have been inundated with lawsuits. The report did not mention that a previous Village Clerk, a fellow Trustee, and a Village Manager were all tried and convicted of felonies in the performance of their official duties. Our Mayor is presently embroiled in heated legal and racial controversies that impact decisions made by "the majority of the Board.”

Taken as a whole, the multitude of discrepancies and variances, that have continued unchecked, provide basis that the Board did not properly oversee operations. To me, this suggests that if the Board does not change the manner and composition of its membership, its ability to accomplish oversight and an improved control environment will be difficult to accomplish. Clearly, failing to operate in an open and ethical manner, hiring out-of-county counsel, enacting questionable laws, giving warranted raises, and appointing one's fiancée as a Trustee are just a few examples of decisions that have eroded the Board’s ability to operate with credibility and effectiveness.

An important error appears on page 8 of the OSC report, wherein it is asserted that, "No public hearing was scheduled and no Board meetings or discussions were held" [referring to the process of adopting a budget]. In actuality, we started meeting with department heads in April, and the process was nearly completed by early June. It was agreed that a meeting and public hearing would be held on June 21st to pass the adopted budget. However, the Mayor/Acting Manager/Budget Officer ordered the Clerk to cancel the meeting because he said the Treasurer was going to absent. I have documents and records of these meetings. The Mayor abused his powers to sabotage the budget process, preventing the Board of Trustees from adopting a final budget in order to retain his hold on power and his $36,000.00 annual salary as Acting Village Manager.

Another example of the Mayor’s abuse of power was his failure to pay two year’s late fees on delinquent taxes on properties he and Trustee Rochelle Massey jointly own, as well as allowing another member of the Board of Trustees a similar privilege. What corrective action does the OSC recommend in order for the Village to be made whole for these amounts? Does this particular action or inaction appear to constitute a possible crime, or malfeasance in office?

Yet another example took place after the conclusion of the present OSC audit, when the Mayor signed contracts, without appropriate bids and in violation of the Procurement Policy and New York State law, to demolish a municipally-owned building, acting together and in concert with the Code Enforcement Officer who oversaw the operation. This crime has thus far resulted in the arrest of six low-level laborers who were caught by the NYS DEC in the act of illegally dumping asbestos-laden waste on private property adjacent to a Town-owned well, with further investigation of culpability said to be ongoing by the DEC and other authorities. (This Code Enforcement Officer was recently given an undeserved and unbudgeted raise, by a three-member majority of the Board.) The asbestos-laced debris pile, now known in the community as “Mount Jenkins”, is awaiting clean-up. No funds were ever budgeted or approved by the Board of Trustees for these misappropriations.

What corrective action does the OSC recommend with respect to the statement on page 8 of your draft report which states: “…out of 18 building permits from that period tested, we could not trace 14 permits totaling $3,566 to a deposit slip or bank statement deposit”? Where did the money go and who is responsible? If OSC does not know the answer, and the Board of Trustees does not know, to what Agency will this matter be referred for investigation and correction?

In the course of answering the above question or collateral thereto, is the OSC aware, or is the OSC willing to refer for appropriate investigation by an outside Agency, how many construction projects overseen and inspected by the Code Enforcement Officer were performed by the construction company that he and/or his brother own, and if appropriate permits were issued to and charges collected from the Code Enforcement Officer’s construction firm?

Your office's examination exposes a host of problems in need of correction. Considering that the most important responsibility delegated to the Board has not been met by a majority of its members, I believe we must implement a top-down approach to correcting the problems noted. The Board of Trustees must first get its affairs in order, and operate ethically and transparently, for the best interest of the taxpayers and residents of the Village of Monticello.

The Board is a political entity. Its members are elected. Historically, I have been unsuccessful at persuading "the majority of the Board” to cure many known problems. Here, I would like to point out that we must fix the problems, not the symptoms of the problems. I believe there is a lack of honest, competent appointees and employees in key positions, which inhibits our ability to progress and improve. Unfortunately, but honestly, our Village operations are grossly out of control because the Board and management are grossly out of control.

I must also interject another item of dysfunction that has developed within the upper echelon of our village government. Due to “the majority of the board” vs. me, the minority, I have not been privy to many items of information which should be available to all Board members. Numerous specific requests I have made for relevant and pertinent information, necessary to the performance of my duties, have been denied. Due to personal alliances and favoritism, executive administrative controls are flagrantly discounted and disregarded. I have been powerless to effect any change and have been personally slighted by many personnel including my fellow Board members. Indeed, so severely did this discrimination persist that I was forced to turn to the NYS Division of Human Rights not just for redress over the denial of information to which I was lawfully entitled and needed in order to carry out my job, but also the fact that these denials were tainted by an environment of racial, ethnic, and other hostility by the Mayor and some of his appointees to buttress their power and control.

I question the competence and experience of key employees. I believe the hiring practices surrounding appointments and key employees must strictly adhere to prescribed policies and procedures. Certain employees and officers have been hired with no resume submitted or references checked. Domicile requirements change like the wind to accommodate hand-picked appointees. This behavior must stop. Following and enforcing prescribed procedures must start at the top.

In keeping with the above, I believe the Village should have an updated Policy and Procedure Manual. An employee flowchart hierarchy should be developed and each position and function defined. Job functions and descriptions should be documented and used in conjunction with each and every employee’s annual review. Most importantly, Village hiring practices must demand the highest level of competence and integrity. Segregation of responsibilities and enforcing approval procedures are critical to any fiscal control environment. An understanding and awareness of each officer’s ethical responsibility to perform his/her sworn duties must override any personal relationship. This is not presently the case in the Monticello village government.

An item that unfortunately does not appear to have received notice in your recent audit report is the lack of administrative controls surrounding Village operations at the executive level. Minutes of meetings of the Board of Trustees and other Village proceedings are inadequate and often do not provide a proper basis for historical records. As a result, audio files of meetings of the Board of Trustees archived on carmenrue.com were accessed, allowing auditors to listen to a recorded version of our Village proceedings. Despite this inadequacy, our Clerk/Tax Collector recently received a substantial unbudgeted raise, even though Village property tax bills went out a month late, just five months ago. Our Code Enforcement Officer, who now spends much of his time chauffeuring the Mayor around (due to the loss of the Mayor's driver's license), was just given almost a $15,000 raise. I disagree with the “majority of the Board” on the supposed justification for these raise and how they were given.

In certain cases, it is hard to differentiate inadvertent errors with control weaknesses. I would hope many of the large variances and differences are a result of posting errors and improper knowledge and usage of the system. Other items, however, involve certain individual transactions which deserve to be closely scrutinized and investigated for legitimacy. Additionally, in many instances I have questioned the classification of certain expenses and transfers which did not appear proper. Often, my requests for information or supporting documentation go unanswered. I am routinely disrespected and disparaged as an elected official for asking questions and questioning the actions of our employees.

The disorganization and lack of controls extend beyond the financial systems in the Village. A substantial number of complaints and issues have arisen as a result of improperly issued and recorded building permits, missing or altered property records, etc. Official required reports have gone out late damaging the Village’s credibility. Certain financial variances reported in your examination are due to control weaknesses at high-level department functions.

More than two years ago, a local law passed by a “majority of the Board” was filed in Albany. Subsequently, it was discovered that the version of the law approved by the board was not the version filed in Albany. The law had to go through the development process and get filed again. While I do not wish to cite irrelevant issues that the village has faced, it is clear that fundamental procedures are not followed at the highest levels. Is it the lack of controls or specific personnel that are the weakness?

On many occasions I have questioned the financial data and reports that have been provided by the Treasurer. On one hand, I question her competence, on the other hand, she is (was) a highly paid, mayor appointed, official who should have understood her job and performed it properly. We have identified too many procedural, posting and classification errors. We must ascertain the exact cause of these problems and correct them. We must focus on the problem, not symptoms. Unquestionably, the competency levels and training of our management needs improvement.

I am not knowledgeable about accounting or computer systems. I do question, however, the software program the Village uses to control its finances. As I have previously noted and discussed, the Report Date (per see) is not printed on the report heading. Only a knowledgeable, trained user would be able to understand the date context of the reports. In addition, it appears to allow improper postings and provides insufficient audit trails. I do not know if the system is unable to generate requested information or if the system's users do not know how to generate the requested information. I have made past assertions that important village information has been withheld from my preview purposefully.

The existing computer system is complex and costly to maintain. Considering the status of our existing financial records, now or very soon, may be an opportune time to convert to a modern and simpler system. I suggest too much time is devoted to fighting with the system for input and output. We could do more with less if our computer software were easier to work with. Other similar communities using the same software does not certify a software product is good or a proper fit for this Village. I feel comfortable our present CPAs could assist with improved software if deemed appropriate. An update and redesign of our Chart of Accounts should be part of the system conversion. I do acknowledge that any system is only as good as the people operating it.

I find myself addressing the reasons and solutions for your assessment that, “The Board did not properly oversee Village operations.” Discussing the individual players and personnel is reserved for executive sessions and I will respect that finding. The affairs of the Village government have been permeated by politics and personal favoritism. There are possible legal issues both implicit and explicitly referenced in the report. I defer to the appropriate experts to evaluate those items.

As noted in the report’s comments, among the most important Board deficiency was the fact that, “no action to correct issues outlined in our prior report of examination(s) or the management letter from the Village’s CPA.” The mayor instructed his hand-picked outside counsel to respond to this OSC audit. His counsel’s response discounted and explained away a majority of your recommendations. I found this reprehensible. It appears that part of the Board's oversight problem involves poor decision making and governance at the highest level of our village government.

I believe the amount devoted to legal fees between August 2011 to now, approximately a quarter of a million dollars, to legal fees – much of which was not properly vouchered or reviewed by any member of the Board of Trustees – should be given due notice and scrutiny in your report. I believe the purpose of this legal billing, and precisely what services were provided to the Village of Monticello and/or to the Mayor/Acting Village Manager, warrants close examination.

In line with the above, I strongly suggest our CPAs, who have demonstrated an understanding of the system, be designated to assist with the Village’s response to your examination, not an out-of-county lawyer preferred by the Mayor to protect his personal interests. In addition, the CPAs should be tasked with developing a practical Action Plan to resolve the discrepancies and design procedures to ensure they do not perpetuate. There is little doubt the findings of our CPA’s first audit will correspond with the OSC findings. I would like to propose that the CPA’s work-papers and testing results be made openly available to the OSC if requested.

As noted, an important control weakness is that our financial information and prior CPAs reports were extremely late being issued. Management cannot effectively operate or make responsible decisions with outdated and incorrect information. I know our new CPAs have been diligent with their current audit, and that they have the next two ‘late’ certified audits planned. I am confident they are prepared to assist the Village getting its accounting records accurate and timely.

A critical and pertinent item that did not come within the scope of your examination was the current financial position of the Village. Since December 12, 2012, when I published on my website the memo “Ringing The Alarm Bell On Monticello’s Fiscal Crisis : A State Forensic Audit, And Accountability Must Be Our Priorities”, I have predicted the imminent insolvency and default by the Village. Page 11 of the OCS audit shows our General Fund Total Balance was out (less) by $932,998. Although there is no contingency plan in place, I believe the Village should consider and plan for a situation wherein the village is unable to meet its obligations before the end of the current fiscal year.

Page seven of your report discusses the significant prior period adjustments which I brought to the OSC attention over a year ago. I have only one question regarding these and all the observed differences and variances noted in your examination; have they all been reconciled and explained-out sufficiently to the Office of Comptroller's satisfaction?

I would hope any unresolved or open items in the OSC examination will be shared with our CPA firm for appropriate follow-up.

I also have trouble with the excuse given on page seven, “…because bank reconciliations were not timely or accurate.” An inaccurate bank reconciliation is highly improper, unacceptable, and a significant control weakness. Is the responsible officer incapable of performing the bank reconciliation or not provided sufficient time to accomplish the task?

A few months ago, I reviewed a report showing our Capital Projects Fund. Not being familiar with the report’s information, I submitted written questions. I was answered, to the effect, that Debits are on the left and Credits are right and that everything was satisfactory in the report. Page eleven shows Capital Fund differences: a ($2,440,000) difference in Transfers, a $2,000,000 difference in Revenues, and $1,780,038 difference in Expenses. Discrepancies of this amount warrant questioning and straightforward responses. At this point, only when outside professionals assure me that a balance is correct will I feel confident it is correct.

A prior period adjustment was also explained as a reconciliation timing difference between the Village’s records and a required an outside agency report. It seems reasonable that a prior period adjustment can only be posted on the books that omitted the original adjustment item. I am not an accountant, and rely on the OSC and our financial professionals. I can only ask questions.

Page nine states: “failure of the Board members to perform many of the fundamental duties of their positions has resulted in significant government-wide dysfunction.”

I cannot imagine a more disheartening characterization of the Board’s performance. I suggest that a change in the Board’s membership will happen in the near future. Perhaps this change will provide the catalyst and leadership to promote positive change and an improved control environment and competency levels.

Since the first day I took office there has been heated controversy surrounding the Village Manager position. Appointed by the majority of the Board as "Acting Village Manager, the Mayor has broad and pervasive powers over village operations. He has appointed a number of inexperienced and unprofessional managers to run the village. The immediate past Village Manager was convicted of felony Official Misconduct. Presently, the Mayor, held in place by a majority of the Board, is the Acting Village Manager. This effectively circumvents the Manager form of government required by Article 15-A of the former Village Law, which governs Monticello. What can be done?

I am but one Board member. I sought the present audit, and am grateful that your office has responded. I participated actively throughout the course of the audit, providing information and records that I had been able to secure to your staff. I respectfully submit and agree, the lack of oversight is a result of “a majority of the Board” not performing their responsibilities. I will continue to make myself, and any information in my possession, available to your office and other authorities to ensure that my duties as a Trustee are carried out to the best of my personal ability.

Thank you for your office’s assistance.

Respectfully,

Carmen Rue, Trustee
Monticello Village Trustee

Related Links

Improvements Coming To Jefferson Street "Gateway" To Monticello Starting 2015

New sidewalks, improved crossings, and wheelchair-accessible curb cuts will provide health and safety benefits for people who like to walk, those who don't have a car, and seniors and other nearby residents. The project will also fix a storm-water run-off problem that has existed for years at the corner of Jefferson Street and Sturgis Road.

Creating jobs and inviting economic development and tourism, there will be improvements to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the Jefferson Street gateway to Monticello by addition of green landscaped buffers, attractive pocket parks, and orderly pedestrian right-of-way delineation. The "new look" for Jefferson Street will complement recent enhancements on Broadway, Pleasant Street, and Forestburgh Road, seamlessly connecting to Exit 104 and 106 to State Route 17.

The NYS Department of Transportation will provide $477,995.00 to fund the project for bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use path transportation enhancement to encourage tourism and economic development opportunities. Construction bids will be awarded between October and December 2014, with construction and final project inspection between April and December 2015.

DOT studies concluded that many drivers entering Monticello prefer the route to the Government Center and business district via the Pleasant Street corridor, rather than Jefferson Street, in part due to the condition of the roads and the lack of sidewalks and other amenities. Also, during storm events, minor flooding occurs and the inadequate drainage has compromised the integrity of the road surface in several areas and caused water pollution, most notably the intersection of Jefferson Street and Sturgis Road, which provides direct access to the Sullivan County Government Center and Shortline Bus Terminal.

The award of this grant is personally gratifying to me, as I attended a training session for the TEP program held by the DOT in Poughkeepsie on June 12, 2013. DOT required at least one "official" representative such as a Trustee, to demonstrate municipal commitment to the grant application. Deputy Clerk Stacy Walker joined me for the day-long training event. I also want to send a huge thanks to community planner Helen Valenti Budrock of Sullivan Renaissance whose worked with us to save the Village of Monticello roughly $20,000.00 in the completion of the formal grant application at no cost to the taxpayers.

TEP provides 80% of the cost of the project, with 20% matching funds from the locality. A reimbursement program, the Village will be required to have funds available for the entire project and submit paperwork by specified deadlines in order to secure reimbursements.

Jefferson Street Gateway Project map

See this press release on Governor Cuomo's website. Click the above image to download a PDF of the project description with letters of support from the following public officials and community organizations:

Preliminary NYS Comptroller's Audit Report Presented To Board Of Trustees Shows Complete Financial Chaos At Monticello Village Hall

In July 2012, believing that public funds were being misappropriated or missing, I asked the NYS Comptroller's office to conduct a thorough audit of our finances, for the protection of the public. Receiving no response, in December 2012 I posted an entry on this website calling for a detailed audit by the NYS Comptroller's office. In response, Ringing The Alarm Bell On Monticello’s Fiscal Crisis : A State Forensic Audit, And Accountability Must Be Our Priorities.

Finally, that audit has now been completed, vindicating each and every point raised in my 2012 article. Board members met on January 7, 2014 with the auditors who wrote the report, which shows millions of misclassified and unapproved expenses, hundreds of thousands not collected in taxes, total lack of control due to incompetence, with no oversight by the majority of the Board of Trustees.

Contrary to a promise that responses of board members would be appended to the final report, auditors Mary Plevinsky, Lucas Armstrong, and Rachael Krizanek told me today in the final exit conference that the only response to their findings that would be permitted to be appended to the report would a one-sided statement which will be submitted by the Mayor and his lawyer. I once trusted Mayor Jenkins, but he has betrayed that public trust and should resign.

It is my decision to disregard the preference that the Preliminary Report ("Not intended for external distribution") be kept under wraps until it can be released without an adequate response. They made it clear to me, in that discussion, that this request was optional, and as a recipient of the report, I am free to release it in its present form, despite their wish that they be allowed to hold it back pending a few minor edits and the addition of a one-sided response which would not represent my view.

They made it clear that their accounting is accurate, and no numbers will be changed in the final report.

My responsibility is to the taxpayers and voters who put me in office. Rather than extending a courtesy to officials from Albany to keep under wraps their report concerning the catastrophic condition of the Village, despite their stated refusal to include my response (as the individual who requested the audit in the first place), my decision is to make Preliminary Report available now for public review, together with my full response.

The Mayor will will have his chance try and explain away the facts that are plainly laid out in the audit.

Please keep in mind that while the Mayor and his supporters on the board may lie, the numbers do not.

When the Comptroller's Office posts the final report, I will add a link to that document for public review. We have been assured that the Preliminary Report is substantially the same as the yet-to-be-released Final Report, and that all the numbers are accurate. We were informed there would be a few minor edits in wording, the insertion of a one-sided statement by the Mayor and his lawyer, an attractive binding, and information about the NYS Comptroller's Office. Otherwise, findings presented in this draft will appear in the final report.

This audit must be followed by appropriate law-enforcement investigation and legal action by the NYS Attorney General and Sullivan County District Attorney.



NYS Comptroller's Draft Audit Report, 12/23/2013


Auditors will make a few minor edits in wording in the final report.
For example, most references to "the Treasurer" will be changed to "the former Treasurer".
But the numbers are accurate.

Response of Trustee Carmen Rue to OSC Report of Examination, 1/1/2014



VILLAGE OF MONTICELLO

January 1, 2014

Rachael L. Krizanek, Principal Examiner
Division of Local Government and School Accountability
NYS Office of the Comptroller
110 State Street, 15th Floor
Albany, New York 12236

Re: Response to Report of Examination (Appendix B)

Dear Ms. Krizanek:

During my tenure as Village Trustee, questionable financial information has come to my attention. A few times over the last few years I requested that your offices perform an audit of Village of Monticello operations. I have made numerous telephone calls and written memos expressing my specific concerns. I would like to thank the Comptroller’s Office for performing this most recent audit.

As requested, please accept the following as my response to your examination dated December 2013.

I must preface my response by stating that, as a Board member, my agreement with the examination findings does not mean I have been complicate or condone the Board's actions. My record is clear. I am confident that my participation, as difficult as it has been, has contributed to exposing our problems in order to effect corrective action.

As a Trustee and Board member, I have worked tirelessly to oversee Village operations. As can be readily evidenced by my website, carmenrue.com I have been honest, forthright and transparent regarding all Village issues. I have, much of the time, been a minority of one on a five-person board since the day I took office. It is therefore hard to accept being characterized with the same brush as the other board members. Where possible, and with appropriate confirmation by the records, I would appreciate insertion of the verbiage, “a majority of the Board of Trustees” be used in your report.

Repeatedly, I asked, both in writing and on the record at meetings, for reports from department heads, and repeatedly I was denied this information as an elected Village Trustee, by order of the Mayor/Acting Village Manager/Budget Officer, and was told multiple times by department heads and by the Treasurer that they were under orders not to provide me with information that I told them was necessary to the performance of my duties as a Trustee.

Without hesitation, I agree with your observations and findings and acknowledge their significance. I accept the reprehensible truth and responsibility that the majority of the Board of Trustees did not do its duty, and “did not properly oversee Village operations.” My hope is, that as a result of this report, financial control issues noted will be addressed and corrected. The previous audit performed by the NYS Office of the Comptroller received May 2013 contained many observed deficiencies. The audit response written by the Village’s out-of-county contract attorney, selected by the Mayor, denied or explained away a majority of your comments. Accordingly, no meaningful improvements were made to the Village’s control structure or its policies and procedures as a result of the OSC audit. I sincerely hope the findings of this audit will be addressed and a corrective Action Plan implemented, with review procedures to ensure the changes implemented are operating as revised.

An audit of this nature effectively reviews compliance with the control mechanisms in place to ensure the system is operating as designed and according to specified policies. Upon determining systems are inaccurate and controls are circumvented, a summary judgment is made that proper oversight has not been provided by the Board of Trustees.

Significantly, the report does not make clear that Monticello follows the Village Manager form of government. The Village Manager is charged with the responsibility of running day to day operations. The job includes following and enforcing the internal controls and the policies and procedures of the Village, and serving as Budget Officer.

The form of government, however, is not the reason for the lack of oversight or dysfunction. An organization is only as good as the people running it. Our village has unfortunately been plagued with cases of nepotism and political favoritism. There have been many examples of unethical behavior by the Mayor, board members, officers and executive employees. We have had an extraordinary turnover of village managers. We have been inundated with lawsuits. The report did not mention that a previous Village Clerk, a fellow Trustee, and a Village Manager were all tried and convicted of felonies in the performance of their official duties. Our Mayor is presently embroiled in heated legal and racial controversies that impact decisions made by "the majority of the Board.”

Taken as a whole, the multitude of discrepancies and variances, that have continued unchecked, provide basis that the Board did not properly oversee operations. To me, this suggests that if the Board does not change the manner and composition of its membership, its ability to accomplish oversight and an improved control environment will be difficult to accomplish. Clearly, failing to operate in an open and ethical manner, hiring out-of-county counsel, enacting questionable laws, giving warranted raises, and appointing one's fiancée as a Trustee are just a few examples of decisions that have eroded the Board’s ability to operate with credibility and effectiveness.

An important error appears on page 8 of the OSC report, wherein it is asserted that, "No public hearing was scheduled and no Board meetings or discussions were held" [referring to the process of adopting a budget]. In actuality, we started meeting with department heads in April, and the process was nearly completed by early June. It was agreed that a meeting and public hearing would be held on June 21st to pass the adopted budget. However, the Mayor/Acting Manager/Budget Officer ordered the Clerk to cancel the meeting because he said the Treasurer was going to absent. I have documents and records of these meetings. The Mayor abused his powers to sabotage the budget process, preventing the Board of Trustees from adopting a final budget in order to retain his hold on power and his $36,000.00 annual salary as Acting Village Manager.

Another example of the Mayor’s abuse of power was his failure to pay two year’s late fees on delinquent taxes on properties he and Trustee Rochelle Massey jointly own, as well as allowing another member of the Board of Trustees a similar privilege. What corrective action does the OSC recommend in order for the Village to be made whole for these amounts? Does this particular action or inaction appear to constitute a possible crime, or malfeasance in office?

Yet another example took place after the conclusion of the present OSC audit, when the Mayor signed contracts, without appropriate bids and in violation of the Procurement Policy and New York State law, to demolish a municipally-owned building, acting together and in concert with the Code Enforcement Officer who oversaw the operation. This crime has thus far resulted in the arrest of six low-level laborers who were caught by the NYS DEC in the act of illegally dumping asbestos-laden waste on private property adjacent to a Town-owned well, with further investigation of culpability said to be ongoing by the DEC and other authorities. (This Code Enforcement Officer was recently given an undeserved and unbudgeted raise, by a three-member majority of the Board.) The asbestos-laced debris pile, now known in the community as “Mount Jenkins”, is awaiting clean-up. No funds were ever budgeted or approved by the Board of Trustees for these misappropriations.

What corrective action does the OSC recommend with respect to the statement on page 8 of your draft report which states: “…out of 18 building permits from that period tested, we could not trace 14 permits totaling $3,566 to a deposit slip or bank statement deposit”? Where did the money go and who is responsible? If OSC does not know the answer, and the Board of Trustees does not know, to what Agency will this matter be referred for investigation and correction?

In the course of answering the above question or collateral thereto, is the OSC aware, or is the OSC willing to refer for appropriate investigation by an outside Agency, how many construction projects overseen and inspected by the Code Enforcement Officer were performed by the construction company that he and/or his brother own, and if appropriate permits were issued to and charges collected from the Code Enforcement Officer’s construction firm?

Your office's examination exposes a host of problems in need of correction. Considering that the most important responsibility delegated to the Board has not been met by a majority of its members, I believe we must implement a top-down approach to correcting the problems noted. The Board of Trustees must first get its affairs in order, and operate ethically and transparently, for the best interest of the taxpayers and residents of the Village of Monticello.

The Board is a political entity. Its members are elected. Historically, I have been unsuccessful at persuading "the majority of the Board” to cure many known problems. Here, I would like to point out that we must fix the problems, not the symptoms of the problems. I believe there is a lack of honest, competent appointees and employees in key positions, which inhibits our ability to progress and improve. Unfortunately, but honestly, our Village operations are grossly out of control because the Board and management are grossly out of control.

I must also interject another item of dysfunction that has developed within the upper echelon of our village government. Due to “the majority of the board” vs. me, the minority, I have not been privy to many items of information which should be available to all Board members. Numerous specific requests I have made for relevant and pertinent information, necessary to the performance of my duties, have been denied. Due to personal alliances and favoritism, executive administrative controls are flagrantly discounted and disregarded. I have been powerless to effect any change and have been personally slighted by many personnel including my fellow Board members. Indeed, so severely did this discrimination persist that I was forced to turn to the NYS Division of Human Rights not just for redress over the denial of information to which I was lawfully entitled and needed in order to carry out my job, but also the fact that these denials were tainted by an environment of racial, ethnic, and other hostility by the Mayor and some of his appointees to buttress their power and control.

I question the competence and experience of key employees. I believe the hiring practices surrounding appointments and key employees must strictly adhere to prescribed policies and procedures. Certain employees and officers have been hired with no resume submitted or references checked. Domicile requirements change like the wind to accommodate hand-picked appointees. This behavior must stop. Following and enforcing prescribed procedures must start at the top.

In keeping with the above, I believe the Village should have an updated Policy and Procedure Manual. An employee flowchart hierarchy should be developed and each position and function defined. Job functions and descriptions should be documented and used in conjunction with each and every employee’s annual review. Most importantly, Village hiring practices must demand the highest level of competence and integrity. Segregation of responsibilities and enforcing approval procedures are critical to any fiscal control environment. An understanding and awareness of each officer’s ethical responsibility to perform his/her sworn duties must override any personal relationship. This is not presently the case in the Monticello village government.

An item that unfortunately does not appear to have received notice in your recent audit report is the lack of administrative controls surrounding Village operations at the executive level. Minutes of meetings of the Board of Trustees and other Village proceedings are inadequate and often do not provide a proper basis for historical records. As a result, audio files of meetings of the Board of Trustees archived on carmenrue.com were accessed, allowing auditors to listen to a recorded version of our Village proceedings. Despite this inadequacy, our Clerk/Tax Collector recently received a substantial unbudgeted raise, even though Village property tax bills went out a month late, just five months ago. Our Code Enforcement Officer, who now spends much of his time chauffeuring the Mayor around (due to the loss of the Mayor's driver's license), was just given almost a $15,000 raise. I disagree with the “majority of the Board” on the supposed justification for these raise and how they were given.

In certain cases, it is hard to differentiate inadvertent errors with control weaknesses. I would hope many of the large variances and differences are a result of posting errors and improper knowledge and usage of the system. Other items, however, involve certain individual transactions which deserve to be closely scrutinized and investigated for legitimacy. Additionally, in many instances I have questioned the classification of certain expenses and transfers which did not appear proper. Often, my requests for information or supporting documentation go unanswered. I am routinely disrespected and disparaged as an elected official for asking questions and questioning the actions of our employees.

The disorganization and lack of controls extend beyond the financial systems in the Village. A substantial number of complaints and issues have arisen as a result of improperly issued and recorded building permits, missing or altered property records, etc. Official required reports have gone out late damaging the Village’s credibility. Certain financial variances reported in your examination are due to control weaknesses at high-level department functions.

More than two years ago, a local law passed by a “majority of the Board” was filed in Albany. Subsequently, it was discovered that the version of the law approved by the board was not the version filed in Albany. The law had to go through the development process and get filed again. While I do not wish to cite irrelevant issues that the village has faced, it is clear that fundamental procedures are not followed at the highest levels. Is it the lack of controls or specific personnel that are the weakness?

On many occasions I have questioned the financial data and reports that have been provided by the Treasurer. On one hand, I question her competence, on the other hand, she is (was) a highly paid, mayor appointed, official who should have understood her job and performed it properly. We have identified too many procedural, posting and classification errors. We must ascertain the exact cause of these problems and correct them. We must focus on the problem, not symptoms. Unquestionably, the competency levels and training of our management needs improvement.

I am not knowledgeable about accounting or computer systems. I do question, however, the software program the Village uses to control its finances. As I have previously noted and discussed, the Report Date (per see) is not printed on the report heading. Only a knowledgeable, trained user would be able to understand the date context of the reports. In addition, it appears to allow improper postings and provides insufficient audit trails. I do not know if the system is unable to generate requested information or if the system's users do not know how to generate the requested information. I have made past assertions that important village information has been withheld from my preview purposefully.

The existing computer system is complex and costly to maintain. Considering the status of our existing financial records, now or very soon, may be an opportune time to convert to a modern and simpler system. I suggest too much time is devoted to fighting with the system for input and output. We could do more with less if our computer software were easier to work with. Other similar communities using the same software does not certify a software product is good or a proper fit for this Village. I feel comfortable our present CPAs could assist with improved software if deemed appropriate. An update and redesign of our Chart of Accounts should be part of the system conversion. I do acknowledge that any system is only as good as the people operating it.

I find myself addressing the reasons and solutions for your assessment that, “The Board did not properly oversee Village operations.” Discussing the individual players and personnel is reserved for executive sessions and I will respect that finding. The affairs of the Village government have been permeated by politics and personal favoritism. There are possible legal issues both implicit and explicitly referenced in the report. I defer to the appropriate experts to evaluate those items.

As noted in the report’s comments, among the most important Board deficiency was the fact that, “no action to correct issues outlined in our prior report of examination(s) or the management letter from the Village’s CPA.” The mayor instructed his hand-picked outside counsel to respond to this OSC audit. His counsel’s response discounted and explained away a majority of your recommendations. I found this reprehensible. It appears that part of the Board's oversight problem involves poor decision making and governance at the highest level of our village government.

I believe the amount devoted to legal fees between August 2011 to now, approximately a quarter of a million dollars, to legal fees – much of which was not properly vouchered or reviewed by any member of the Board of Trustees – should be given due notice and scrutiny in your report. I believe the purpose of this legal billing, and precisely what services were provided to the Village of Monticello and/or to the Mayor/Acting Village Manager, warrants close examination.

In line with the above, I strongly suggest our CPAs, who have demonstrated an understanding of the system, be designated to assist with the Village’s response to your examination, not an out-of-county lawyer preferred by the Mayor to protect his personal interests. In addition, the CPAs should be tasked with developing a practical Action Plan to resolve the discrepancies and design procedures to ensure they do not perpetuate. There is little doubt the findings of our CPA’s first audit will correspond with the OSC findings. I would like to propose that the CPA’s work-papers and testing results be made openly available to the OSC if requested.

As noted, an important control weakness is that our financial information and prior CPAs reports were extremely late being issued. Management cannot effectively operate or make responsible decisions with outdated and incorrect information. I know our new CPAs have been diligent with their current audit, and that they have the next two ‘late’ certified audits planned. I am confident they are prepared to assist the Village getting its accounting records accurate and timely.

A critical and pertinent item that did not come within the scope of your examination was the current financial position of the Village. Since December 12, 2012, when I published on my website the memo “Ringing The Alarm Bell On Monticello’s Fiscal Crisis : A State Forensic Audit, And Accountability Must Be Our Priorities”, I have predicted the imminent insolvency and default by the Village. Page 11 of the OCS audit shows our General Fund Total Balance was out (less) by $932,998. Although there is no contingency plan in place, I believe the Village should consider and plan for a situation wherein the village is unable to meet its obligations before the end of the current fiscal year.

Page seven of your report discusses the significant prior period adjustments which I brought to the OSC attention over a year ago. I have only one question regarding these and all the observed differences and variances noted in your examination; have they all been reconciled and explained-out sufficiently to the Office of Comptroller's satisfaction?

I would hope any unresolved or open items in the OSC examination will be shared with our CPA firm for appropriate follow-up.

I also have trouble with the excuse given on page seven, “…because bank reconciliations were not timely or accurate.” An inaccurate bank reconciliation is highly improper, unacceptable, and a significant control weakness. Is the responsible officer incapable of performing the bank reconciliation or not provided sufficient time to accomplish the task?

A few months ago, I reviewed a report showing our Capital Projects Fund. Not being familiar with the report’s information, I submitted written questions. I was answered, to the effect, that Debits are on the left and Credits are right and that everything was satisfactory in the report. Page eleven shows Capital Fund differences: a ($2,440,000) difference in Transfers, a $2,000,000 difference in Revenues, and $1,780,038 difference in Expenses. Discrepancies of this amount warrant questioning and straightforward responses. At this point, only when outside professionals assure me that a balance is correct will I feel confident it is correct.

A prior period adjustment was also explained as a reconciliation timing difference between the Village’s records and a required an outside agency report. It seems reasonable that a prior period adjustment can only be posted on the books that omitted the original adjustment item. I am not an accountant, and rely on the OSC and our financial professionals. I can only ask questions.

Page nine states: “failure of the Board members to perform many of the fundamental duties of their positions has resulted in significant government-wide dysfunction.”

I cannot imagine a more disheartening characterization of the Board’s performance. I suggest that a change in the Board’s membership will happen in the near future. Perhaps this change will provide the catalyst and leadership to promote positive change and an improved control environment and competency levels.

Since the first day I took office there has been heated controversy surrounding the Village Manager position. Appointed by the majority of the Board as "Acting Village Manager, the Mayor has broad and pervasive powers over village operations. He has appointed a number of inexperienced and unprofessional managers to run the village. The immediate past Village Manager was convicted of felony Official Misconduct. Presently, the Mayor, held in place by a majority of the Board, is the Acting Village Manager. This effectively circumvents the Manager form of government required by Article 15-A of the former Village Law, which governs Monticello. What can be done?

I am but one Board member. I sought the present audit, and am grateful that your office has responded. I participated actively throughout the course of the audit, providing information and records that I had been able to secure to your staff. I respectfully submit and agree, the lack of oversight is a result of “a majority of the Board” not performing their responsibilities. I will continue to make myself, and any information in my possession, available to your office and other authorities to ensure that my duties as a Trustee are carried out to the best of my personal ability.

Thank you for your office’s assistance.

Respectfully,

Carmen Rue, Trustee
Monticello Village Trustee

Pages

Subscribe to Website of Carmen Rue RSS