Monticello has been through a long nightmare of misconduct scandals involving former Village elected officials and Village Mangers. As a representative of the people of Monticello, I hope the nightmare is nearing an end, and we may finally see peace and progress for our community. We can only hope and pray.
But in a press conference on April 3rd, Goshen lawyer Michael Sussman impugned my sworn testimony, which warrants a response.
In a proceeding initiated in the Supreme Court Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, four local residents -- Elaine Williams, Adriana and Michael Greco, and Julian Dawson -- filed a petition for the removal of Gordon Jenkins from the Mayor's seat. I won't go into the merits of that petition here, except to point out that I was not a part of or a party to the removal Petition. I was called as a witness; one of several, but Sussman singled me out by name several times in a defamatory manner in his recent press conference. The reality is, I told the truth in court as best I could. When I could not recall a detail, I said so. In the end, the Court found my testimony credible. The Court did not find Sussman's position credible, which is why he lost.
The Appellate Division of the Third Judicial Department assigned the petition to a Referee for hearing. In my capacity as a Village Trustee, I was among several witnesses subpoenaed at that trial. My attendance was compelled by law, under penalty of arrest if I failed to appear and testify as ordered. Also subpoenaed and questioned were an Assistant District Attorney, two Village police officers, and a Village employee, as well as affidavits and other evidences. Following the hearing, the Referee issued a report recommending removal of Mayor Jenkins. The hearing lasted several days.
Among the objections on which Sussman now seeks to mount a dubious attack on the unanimous judgment of the Appellate Division is that Mr. Jenkins was then under felony criminal indictment for some of the matters addressed therein, and even as of now has not been convicted of that particular charge. However, rather than objecting at the hearing, Mr. Sussman consumed days of billable hours cross-examining me and other witnesses about this matter. Perhaps he now regrets taking part in that line of questioning.
Why wait until this late date to raise the issue that Mr. Jenkins is "only" facing felony charges, rather than objecting to the inclusion of that material at the time of the hearing before Judge Peckham on the grounds that he was not yet convicted? Perhaps Sussman's supreme confidence in his ability to have the petition dismissed explains why he did not think ahead. Sussman's unsupported and disrespectful suggestion that Mr. Jenkins can not now receive a fair trial in the Courtroom of the Hon. Frank LaBuda, Sullivan County Court, because of a line of questioning in which he he (Sussman) participated is an odd assertion.
In his media event held today, after losing at the Appellate Division, Sussman also attempted to question the legal standing of the four residents to file their Petition. Once again, why wait until months after the fact to object to the petitioners' standing, when the decision has been handed down and his case has been lost? Sussman, it seems, is more than a day late to make this claim, though doubtless thousands of dollars wealthier for his efforts.
This is sad. It is sad for Monticello, said for Mr. Jenkins and his partner whose finances are being drained by a fellow who apparently determined to be known as the epitome of pettifogger lawyer, who indeed seems to have long lost his moral compass along with any credibility he may once enjoyed as a media personality or lawyer prior to his decision to pursue his own regional political aspirations. (I resist the temptation to describe Sussman as a shyster, suspecting he is just enough of an opportunist to roll over and play victim about the questionable origins of this word. So I won't go there, merely out of respect for others who might take offense. Dishonest? Perhaps. Opportunist? Yes. Unethical? Absolutely. Shyster? I abstain.)
His argument that my testimony "lacked credibility" falls flat in the face of the Appellate Division's unanimous judgment against his weak presentation in court.
In contrast to Sussman, who is Mr. Jenkins' well-paid mouthpiece, my testimony was found to be credible by Hon. Eugene Peckham, who was appointed by the Appellate Court to hold the hearing, as well as by the unanimous decision of the Appellate panel.
Mr. Jenkins himself told me this week that he and his partner are on the verge of selling their Broadway clothing store to a Chinese investor. Could it be that their financial resources are being drained by Sussman's half-hearted and protracted defense efforts?
My hope is that a motion will be made for sanctions against both Sussman (See CPLR 130-1.1.) In fact, my hope is that Mr. Orseck, Esq. will immediately draft a letter, if he has not already done so, so that when Sussman files his promised Notice of Appeal, he can immediately (i.e., within moments of receiving the notice of appeal) served with a letter warning him of sanctions for frivolous motion practice, and imposing a deadline for withdrawing his notice of appeal by no later than the start time of this Tuesday's annual reorganizational meeting of the Board of Trustees.
In conclusion, if Sussman follows through with his stated plan of dragging this matter out further, which is likely to serve no one's interests but his own, I hope the Court of Appeals will move quickly to respond. With a unanimous panel at the Appellate Division having already spoken, Sussman's chances of getting heard by the NYS Court of Appeals seem slim. In the end, I trust, truth will prevail.
In my humble opinion, Sussman deserves to be held accountable for taking advantage of his client's well-known tenacity and emotionalism, and for continuing to abuse the community of Monticello with his self-serving agenda.