Carmen's blog

Update, June 4th Board of Trustees Meeting : Police Air-Conditioner To Be Repaired

wavaudio recording before executive session.

At my request, Police Chief Rob Mir obtained three quotes for repairing the air-conditioner compressor in the police station; two in writing (QWQ HVAC, the low bid); Smalls Plumbing and one last-minute verbal promise from another vendor to provide it in writing, at a higher price, tomorrow.

The air-conditioner has been malfunctioning for over a year. It was never repaired properly. The Mayor/Acting Manager and other Trustees were fully aware of the condition of the unit for all that time, and did nothing about it until an emergency developed this week when hot weather began.

The PBA, Chief, and I worked hard today to persuade board members to vote in favor of humane treatment for police and the public. I endured severe insults from the Mayor/Acting Manager today, in presence of the Chief, in which he blamed everyone but himself for this situation. In the end, even the Mayor himself had no choice but to vote yes. TC Hutchins voted no because the third bid had not been received in writing. James Matthews was absent.

The Chief rightly told the Board of Trustees that we do not need a new air conditioner; but rather repairs to the old one. Funds for the repairs will come from the police department's budget, augmented by promises of some anonymous contributions from the community. Thanks to all who have supported this effort for the benefit of Monticello's finest, and to Chief Rob Mir for his hard work getting the quotes together today.

Members Of The Public And Workers Endure Cruel, Inhuman Treatment In Monticello Village Lock-Up And Police Station Due To Mayor/Manager's Negligence

It has come to my attention that the Village of Monticello Police Department is in urgent need of repairs to an air-conditioner compressor which is estimated to cost in the neighborhood of $2,500. The Mayor has personally told me, as he has also told the police, that they will have to suffer this unnecessary heat because "there is no money" to maintain the building's infrastructure.

This is a clear-cut human rights issue, not just a labor issue (though it is that too). Public servants who risk their lives to protect the public deserve respect and decent working conditions.

As a Village Trustee, I go to Village Hall and the police station nearly every day. Yesterday (June 1st) three people were confined in the cells. All three were young and seemed in good health, but they were literally begging for water due to the excess heat. Police supervisors go out of their way to see to it that they get cold water every half hour, but officers must answer a high volume of calls from the community all day long.

I have personally witnessed the unbearable heat in the Village lock-up, and am honestly shocked. Monticello taxpayers deserve better. Such of atrocities are what third-world countries do to their prisoners.

Police routinely detain subjects being considered for possible charges, sometimes forcibly holding them many hours for a judge to arraign them and tell them their rights. But even aside from the presumption of innocence promised to anyone who has not been convicted, crime victims are interviewed there, as well as witnesses, and anyone else seeking information or services from the police.

If the Board of Trustees will not authorize the emergency repairs that are needed to fix the air-conditioner's compressor, and do whatever else is needed to allow for humane treatment of police and members of the public at the police station, at this Tuesday night's board meeting, I will personally elevate the complaint to the NYS Department of Health NYS Department of Labor NYS Division of Human Rights, Division of Criminal Justice Services, and NYS Commission of Corrections, US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and/or any other agency or organization that will listen and intervene. It is so bad, I am not willing to let this issue go until it is resolved.

Present physical conditions in the Monticello lock-up and police station are so outrageous that I remind the Mayor/Acting Manager and anyone who votes against this urgently needed maintenance that they may well be facing yet another State and/or Federal investigation as a result.

"There's no money" is a feeble excuse for physically abusing workers and members of the public in this manner. I may have "just one vote" on the Board of Trustees, amid a majority who either don't care or blindly follow someone else's lead, but I make it a practice to make my one vote, and my voice, count. I am not playing, and I will tolerate no delay.

Compulsory detention in deplorable conditions, whether they are being questioned in a sweltering squad room or detained in 92-degree Village lock-up is a violation of the Constitution's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Board members who vote against this issue should consider advising their own private insurance carriers that they may be personally sued for wrongful death or malfeasance in office if, for example, an intoxicated or otherwise medically compromised person suffers a stroke or heart attack due to being confined in what amounts to an oven.

Have they no decency?

The public will not stand for such abuses, and neither will I, especially at a time when the Mayor and his cronies seem willing to drain every last dollar of the Village's reserve accounts to pay to their criminal defense team and Village's "special counsel" law firm in Rockland County. The Mayor himself is about to go to trial for hitting a Monticello police officer last summer, charged with Obstructing Government Administration. Is his present behavior some sort of pay-back for his own repeated run-ins with the law?

Mayor Jenkins and others on the Board of Trustees should ask themselves how they would feel about a family member or loved one being chained to a bench in a 92-degree room, or a victim of domestic violence or other violent crime being forced to endure further abuse because the Mayor makes using public funds to pay his lawyer a higher priority than keeping the public safe from crime.

The public is invited to attend this Tuesday's regular meeting of the Board of Trustees, scheduled for Tuesday evening, June 4, 2013, at 7:00 PM, on the second floor of Village Hall, 2 Pleasant Street.

Ironically, the room where the Village Board holds session has a fully operational air-conditioner. Please attend if you live, work, or pay taxes in Monticello, or even if you just want to come to speak on behalf of human rights.

What Monticello Needs vs. What We Are Getting - A Contrast Between Professional Management and Leaderlessness - Village of Monticello on Brink of Financial Ruin

Supervisor Anthony CelliniThe Village of Monticello lost an opportunity for Supervisor Anthony Cellini to fill in as acting Village Manager, offering to bring his expertise and two decades of experience as a Supervisor and 19 years as a Councilman in the Town of Thompson.

The present Acting Manager and Treasurer have not been communicating with the Board of Trustees after each Trustee met with the department heads and obtained "wish lists" for cuts and expenses. The process of constructing a budget for 2013-2014 had begun when it was interrupted last week by the surprise betrayal by two Trustees, reversing their word of honor and reversing themselves, disrespectfully rejecting the generous offer of Supervisor Cellini and once again making Monticello the laughingstock of Sullivan County.

Instead, they supported the Mayor in a raw power grab, restoring him yet again to the post of Acting Manager (in which all four Trustees had previously agreed he had not served effectively). In contrast to Supervisor Cellini's selfless offer of pro bono service, the Mayor helps himself to a salary of $3,000 per month. (This amount was not approved by board vote. He simply announced that he was "taking" it.)

The Treasurer works one day per week (Mondays) for an annual salary of $25,000. The financial books and records of the Village are a mess. So precisely what are we, the people, getting for the huge sums of money being siphoned off by these public officials during a time of economic hardship?

I can answer with certainty. Very little. If anything, we are moving backward instead of progressing.

I have spoken with developers who are putting their projects on hold due to the lack of effective and credible management at Village Hall.

One colossal failure of the present Mayor/Manager's administration has been the negligence of his appointees in ensuring the collection of revenues by enforcement of unpaid taxes. The Mayor's appointees have overlooked foreclosure proceedings to collect $1.7 million in overdue taxes, plus an untold amount of uncollected fees for municipal services. Who carries this burden? Those of us who pay taxes.

Much of this money is literally down the drain, most likely never to be seen. Where the rest of the reserve funds went anyone's guess, unless and until a complete forensic audit of all Village departments has been completed.

Because the general fund and reserves have been drained by the negligence of the Mayor and his appointees, the Village has recently been paying bills in portions, barely keeping creditors at bay. Among the largest drain of Village finances have been legal fees charged by the Rockland County firm of our overpaid "special counsel", Dennis Lynch, which has provided personal criminal defense services to the Mayor on more than one occasion, and repeatedly pushing a litigious agenda to boost their fees beyond what any responsible municipal official should consider reasonable or prudent.

The betrayal by two Trustees of their sworn duty to serve the best interest of the taxpayers of Monticello should shock the conscience of any honest person, with the deal they cut with "the devil they know".

Instead of a professional public servant with nearly 40 years of local experience in economic development, who was willing to donate his services for nothing, we have someone with no experience sucking up an exorbitant salary.

After receiving an inquiry, I am publishing here the "Immediate Goals" which Supervisor Cellini went over in detail first with myself and Trustee Bennett, and on Wednesday, April 17th with Trustee Hutchins and Trustee Matthews at Town Hall. The Supervisor's proposal consisted of a preliminary list of ideas that he put forth to "right the ship", as he put it, referring mainly to the financial condition of the Village. Yet he indicated willingness to accept direction from the Board of Trustees on all matters involving Village administration.

Based on these three meetings with Supervisor Cellini, an agreement was reached that the board would accept generous and good faith offer to serve the residents of Monticello, at no additional pay than what he presently receives as Town Supervisor, to begin to move the Village in a positive direction:

Immediate Goals by Supervisor Anthony Cellini, April 14, 2013

Rather than progress, Trustees Bennett and Matthews changed their mind and cut a behind-the-scenes deal with the Mayor for continued stagnation. If you have not heard it, or if you doubt that it was a pre-arranged deal made by two Trustees with the Mayor outside the view of the public, listen to this audio recording of a five-minute Special Meeting of Trustees on Thursday, April 18th, where they reversed course, shamefully going back on their agreements to help "right the ship", preferring to watch the Mayor/Manager to go down with the vessel, at the public's expense.

Residents and taxpayers in the Village of Monticello who are concerned about next year's taxes and Village budge should contact elected officials at all levels of government to, first, call on these two Trustees to repent of their error; and, second, for the State of New York to continue its investigation of Village of Monticello finances.

A big "Thank You" is also in order to Supervisor Cellini for willingness to serve the public good, at no pay, under adverse conditions.

The Eternal Struggle : A Community's Quest For Liberty, Public Safety, And Professional Municipal Governance

The Board of Trustees is working together to choose a professional Manager to serve as chief executive officer of the municipality. We have had some good applicants and I am hopeful that the management of the Village will improve soon.

Two important public hearings are scheduled to be held on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:00 PM, at Village Hall, 2 Pleasant Street, Monticello, New York.

1.) The first will be to consider repealing certain provisions of Village Code Section 45-9 entitled "Acting Village Manager".

We are concerned about a change that was made to our local law a few years back which REQUIRES that whenever the position of Manager is vacant, the Mayor AUTOMATICALLY takes over until the board selects a replacement. I believe this provision is unlawful and should be changed. In the interim, between one Manager and the appointment of the next, the Board of Trustees needs to ensure continuity and stability. If, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, the Mayor is not the best person to fill in, the board (both now and future boards) must have the ability to choose the best person to fill in until a permanent replacement is chosen.

2.) The second matter is to consider amending certain provisions of Village Code Section 181-3 entitled "Regulations for Use of the Village of Monticello Neighborhood Facility Building (NFB)".

We are concerned that the Mayor, in his capacity as Acting Manager, has acted arbitrarily and in a personally discriminatory manner to control the use of the Stroebele Community Center, which is a municipal asset that must be made available to residents of Monticello on a fair and even basis.

Changes to the above linked local law will be discussed and, hopefully, implemented to both make the facility as available to the general public as its builders intended and protect the Village of Monticello from civil and financial liability.

A NOTE OF APPRECIATION

I want to take just a moment to thank our Chief of Police, Rob Mir, for his outstanding job as head of our fine officers. I am opposed to playing games with law enforcement professionals, causing them to fear for their jobs, for the advancement of a political ego, as we have unfortunately seen occur recently. I regret that mixed messages are being given to the public about the performance of Chief Mir, who in all honesty has done an excellent job.

Our police chief was appointed by a unanimous vote of the Mayor and all four Trustees. He has proven himself worthy, in every way, of that public trust. He has responded thoroughly to requests that have been made of him by the Mayor and Trustees, including sharing of non-confidential information, increasing patrols on Broadway, and cutting police overtime hours. Accomplishing both of the latter two tasks at the same time might seem to some like a tall order to some, but it has not been too much for Chief Mir.

Any honest, unbiased observer must acknowledge that Chief Mir has brought his 20 years of experience in the Village of Liberty to do an outstanding job for the residents of Monticello. Elected officials and the public are indebted to this man for being the public servant that he is, as well as to all the officers and employees of the Village of Monticello Police Department who tirelessly toil at his side.

The most likely suspects who might wish to besmirch his record or character would be convicted criminals and unprincipled attorneys and other surrogates acting on their behalf, who public officers are sworn to expose and hold accountable, applying equal justice to all under the law. In my opinion, criminals deserve to be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, protecting our community of those who would harm our citizenry and honest government.

In the same vein, I strongly oppose unreasonable restrictions on the overtime hours that dedicated employees of the Department of Public Works are allowed to put in, at the cost of public safety. I have received many complaints this winter, confirmed by my own observations, about inadequate plowing and salting of roads, as a result of the Acting Village Manager's personal agenda and wish to control and divert public funds to pay high-priced out-of-county lawyers.

I as aware as anyone can possibly be that the struggle for good and honest government never ends, and can sometimes feel discouraging. However, I ask the good people of Monticello to attend the two public hearings mentioned above, and make their voices heard.

Thomas Jefferson, for whose residence our village is named, is credited with the comment, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

Alert Auditing Saves Village Close To $5000 In Criminal Defense Legal Fees

After I publicly questioned an alleged 20-hour "Telephone conference with John LiGreci regarding Grand Jury Subpoena", on 9/26/2012, for which the Village was billed $5,500.00 last month (for the one supposed phone call), a revised copy of the invoice, this one dated December 6, 2012, was sent by the law firm of Burke, Miele & Golden, LLP of Goshen.

When I called with Mr. Burke about the bill last month, asking him to explain the 20-hour phone call, he told me that the item actually included time consulting with the Mayor, Trustee Hutchins, LiGreci, and others. However, in the current bill, the time spent in the supposed consultations regarding how to targets of a Grand Jury investigation should respond to subpoenas (criminal defense strategy) the 20-hour claim was reduced to 20 minutes, at a cost of only $55.00. Big time, "Oops!" A typo? Really?

I remain opposed to using public money to cover legal fees of officials charged with crimes. This $5,000 discrepancy raises questions about whether padding of bills may be occurring, in which charges are hidden in line items that may go unnoticed.

Fortunately, I caught this discrepancy during my auditing, but it is my opinion that the billing practices of all the law firms employed by the Village (not just this one, but more especially the firm of Nyack lawyer Dennis Lynch who has billed the Village a quarter-of-a-million dollars over the last 12 months, purportedly for salary, litigation fees, and consulting) deserve close scrutiny by proper outside authorities before the Village of Monticello is bankrupt.

I remain opposed to using public money to cover legal fees of officials charged with crimes. This $5,000 discrepancy raises questions about whether padding of bills may be occurring, in which charges are hidden in line items that may go unnoticed. Fortunately, I caught this one, but I believe the billing practices of the law firms employed by the Village deserve close scrutiny by proper outside authorities.

Ringing The Alarm Bell On Monticello’s Fiscal Crisis : A State Forensic Audit, And Accountability Must Be Our Priorities

Monticello may be facing a fiscal crisis. The financial records of the municipality are in such a condition that, in my opinion, a full forensic audit by State authorities, of all departments, is required to determine if, and if so how much, money may be improperly accounted for. Based on concerns I had, even then, about improper accounting of taxpayers' money, I first made a formal request to the NYS Comptroller's Office for a forensic audit on July 11, 2012.

I have repeated this request, and am doing so again here in public and asking for the help of my constituents in amplifying this request so Albany will respond. A full investigation of all accounts at Monticello Village Hall is URGENTLY requested, to commence immediately, to follow on the heels of the recent indictment of the former Village Manager and former Deputy Mayor on multiple charges of corruption in office involving, among other things, misappropriation of funds.

I am making this emphatic request to carry out my due diligence as an elected official, and no other reason.

One instance that I raised recently, for example, concerned a line item in the general fund that had been described in-house by the Treasurer as "the savings account". When I inquired, saying this sounded suspiciously like an illegal "slush fund", she became irate, insisting that the monies set aside in "savings" were not supposed to be public knowledge. (The fund first came to my awareness when the now indicted former Village Manager made a remark about purchasing office furniture with it.)

This is not how I work. As an elected Trustee of the Village, I take seriously my responsibility to the public to be open and truthful.

After I requested an accounting, the Treasurer announced she was resigning two months down the road. She blamed her quitting on the Building Inspector's issuance of a warning to her to dispose of some old furniture stored on the porch of a house she owns in the Village.

When I released the Treasurer's resignation to the public, she went to the Village Police, having been advised to do so during a phone call between herself, the Mayor, and the attorney for the Board of Trustees, to seek the issuance an Appearance Ticket charging me with allegedly invading her privacy by not removing her already publicly available return address from the resignation letter. These bizarre actions raise more red flags!


In today’s economy, who would ever resign an $80,000 per year job, with full benefits and pension, because someone told them to get the garbage off their porch or because they were asked to explain their work? This doesn’t make sense. There is something seriously wrong here.


My understanding, confirmed on analysis by two Certified Public Accountants that I have consulted (the treasurer is not a CPA; she is a real estate broker), is that the account in question refers to $100,000.00 contingency fund, set aside in the Village's budget for as long as budgets have been administered in Monticello, for unforeseen disasters. This money has been carefully conserved by previous boards for many years, and, to the best of my knowledge until recently, was never used.

It has come to my attention that the Village's contingency account has been redirected for everyday operating expenses to cover excess costs we are now occurring. Yet the Board of Trustees never voted to adopt an adjusted budget authorizing this critical change as a policy matter. According to Village Code Section 45-7, the Manager’s duty is to inform the board of the financial condition of the Village. There was a breakdown in communication between the Treasurer and the former Manager (who now stands indicted for misappropriating funds other counts of felony corruption). What we have now in place is a retired prison guard and a real estate broker as acting Chief Executive Officer and Treasurer.

In addition, dedicated Water and Sewer funds were transferred to pay attorney fees to our out-of-county "special counsel" (we do not have a duly appointed Village Attorney), whose firm has now been paid nearly a quarter-million dollars over the last 12 months from Village coffers. The Treasurer herself has confirmed to me that she did this, reportedly (according to what she told me) at the instruction of one Trustee, T.C .Hutchins, who also stands indicted on multiple counts of felony corruption in office.

When these inter-fund transfers began, I contacted the NYS Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) for an opinion. The advice sent to the Village Manager at my request was that "fee money" like the Sanitation and Water and Sewer revenue accounts, could be borrowed for narrowly defined essential purposes, such as maintaining infrastructure, but must be repaid by the end of the fiscal year.

That deadline passed on July 31, 2012 and to date none of the money has been returned. The balance in the Sanitation fund has been reduced from $1,500,000.00 one year ago to the present balance of $175,000.00 for unpermitted purposes. Where will the general fund ever get $1,500,000.00 to pay back the Sanitation fund?

Yet another example pertains to the long-term lease of a truck for the Water and Sewer Department executed, with no authorization, by the Village Manager. Contrary to his action, the Manager was in fact directed by unanimous resolution of the Board of Trustees to purchase the said truck outright for $39,000.00 cash (at that time there was more than $1,000,000.00 in the Sanitation Fund). Instead, without lawful authority, the Manager secretly signed a six-year 9% per-annum lease without informing the Board of Trustees.

Another example that I cited to the Treasurer recently was what appears to be a sizable shortfall of funds in the Parks and Recreation Department. Money is taken in, but due to a lack of internal accounting controls, the whereabouts of these funds are unclear to me or to finance professionals I have consulted who have reviewed available records. Where are all the funds that have been collected from events held at the Ted Stroebele Neighborhood Facility?

It appears crimes may have occurred at Village Hall involving misappropriation of funds (look at the situation, for example, involving the former Village Manager and a former Deputy Mayor). The Board of Trustees never authorized eliminating the contingency fund and spending it on general purposes. Additionally, some budget transfers from "fee money" accounts were never approved by the board, and the Treasurer appears to have failed to diligently follow prescribed Village policies and procedures and her job responsibilities outlined in Village Law §4-408. Some accounts that should contain money are empty.

These are alarming statements, but I make them in good faith, with no malice toward anyone. As a Trustee, it is my duty under the law and my own internal moral compass, to sound the alarm and report to my constituents that the financial condition of the Village is bleak.

I have previously called upon the NYS Comptroller's Office to come to Monticello, at the earliest possible date, and vigorously investigate, in the form of a thorough forensic audit, of every department and every fund, and to prosecute improprieties and recommend corrective steps.

I have specific concerns to enumerate when State officials arrive to conduct that investigation with the intent of putting the Village back into orderly condition in which it was left by the former Treasurer when she retired two years ago.

Villagers need to be aware that taxes are going to go up next year exponentially. I am ringing the bell now. Mark it on your calendar that on 12/12/12 a warning and call to action were issued by me: Citizens beware!

Your help is needed! Please contact our State representatives and law-enforcement authorities by phone and in writing demanding an immediate forensic audit, full investigation, and corrective action to stop the hemorrhaging. You will see the results next year.

Now Is Not The Time To Change The Form Of Government

Due to the above concerns, I am announcing that I do not now intend to support the referendum that I have proposed to abandon the Village Manager form of government at this time, in light of the present environment of corruption and mismanagement. The appropriate time is in the future, but not now.

Presently we must focus on resolving serious problems in the Village's finances, cleaning up the books and records, determining if and how much money is missing (such as from the Recreation Department) and where it went; and placing someone at the helm who is qualified to properly oversee the fiscal management of the Village with nearly an $11,000,000.00 annual budget.

We have a retired prison guard as an Acting Village Manager with insufficient municipal experience to make necessary course reforms. We have a real estate broker as Treasurer who never submitted a resume to the full Board of Trustees, possibly because she was a Mayor’s appointment. The most reliable and credible record of the proceedings of meetings of the Board of Trustees is the archive of audio files on carmenrue.com, because the minutes are so sketchy.

Our Mayor, with the strengths and human weaknesses he has, was not elected by the voters of Monticello to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the Village. I continue to support a referendum abolishing the Manager form of government coinciding with the next Mayoral election in 2016, not now.

First, we have more pressing financial matters to resolve, and the Village needs professional help and close monitoring by State authorities. Citizen participation and support is urgently requested. I am only one vote on the five-member board which governs Monticello. Please help me save your Village and mine.

Examining Sources: It Pays To Check Citations, Some Lawyers Don't 'Always Take The High Road'

Chief Judge Lawrence H. CookeIf odd sounds were heard on the evening of Tuesday, September 18th coming from the vicinity of Rock Ridge Road, five blocks east of Village Hall, they may have been the sound of the Honorable Chief Judge Lawrence H. Cooke turning over in his grave.

That night, an attorney from Nyack who consults with the Village of Monticello Board of Trustees in the absence of a duly appointed corporation counsel for the Village, attempted to twist the words of the late esteemed Chief Judge of the NYS Court of Appeals for his own purposes, creating a meaning other than the one intended by the Chief Judge.

Wisely, the board took no action on the criminal indemnification proposal after the public hearing [full audio]. The best course would be to drop the matter and not bring it back before the board.

Pushing for a Local Law authorizing interest-free loans to public officers and employees of the Village of Monticello who are or who may in the future be charged with crimes (to be "reimbursed" to the Village after a criminal conviction), Nyack lawyer Dennis Lynch inappropriately cited the case of Corning v. Laurel Hollow (48 N.Y. 2d 348 [1979]), which was decided by the late Chief Judge Cooke; as well as NYS Comptroller's Opinion 2000-1.

Although Mr. Lynch was asked roughly a week before the meeting to answer certain "Questions of Law" put to him in an e-mail, he chose not to exercise his duty to properly advise the Board of Trustees. Instead, he waited until a public hearing was in progress to rattle off the two citations to support his bald-faced false assertion that a Local Law drafted by him to defend Village Manager John LiGreci and others who have been subpoenaed in connection with a pending Grand Jury investigation complies with New York State law.

In fact, the contrary is true.

Chief Judge Cooke, writing on behalf of the majority of the highest court in New York State, was faced with a claim by former village officials for reimbursement of costs and legal fees incurred after concluding a successful defense to a civil rights action brought against them in their official capacities.

Though Mr. Lynch cited it in support of adoption of his proposal of interest-free loans to pay legal bills of Village officials accused of crimes, this case is not relevant to the measure proposed by Mr. Lynch, in which he rationalizes advance payment of personal legal fees for officials charged even with criminal misconduct.

Our esteemed Monticello native, former Chief Judge Cooke, included these words in his decision, which Mr. Lynch conveniently failed to note in his two-minute report to the board on this matter:

"One of the risks traditionally associated with the assumption of public office is that of defending oneself against charges of misconduct at one's own expense (Matter of Chapman v City of New York, 168 N.Y. 80, 85-86). The public owes no duty to defend or even aid in the defense of such a charge. As was said in Matter of Chapman (supra, at p 86): 'Whoever lives in a country governed by law assumes the risk of having to defend himself without aid from the public, against even unjust attempts to enforce the law, the same as he assumes the burden of taxation' * * * (see, also, Leo v Barnett, supra; Buckley v City of New York, 289 N.Y. 742, affg 264 App Div 116; Matter of Guarino v Anderson, supra; Matter of Kilroe v Craig, 238 N.Y. 628, affg 208 App Div 93; 17 Opns St Comp, 1961, p 125; 12 Opns St Comp, 1956, p 479)."

Chief Judge Cooke carefully emphasized that Corning vs. Laurel Hollow pertained to civil matters only, not criminal defense:

"Insofar as here relevant, section 18 generally requires a village which has adopted the provisions of that section to provide for the defense of its officers and employees in any "civil action or proceeding" arising out of any alleged act or omission which occurred or allegedly occurred while the officer or employee was acting within the scope of his or her public employment or duties (Public Officers Law, §18[2][a])."

Mr. Lynch may not appreciate the place of honor which Chief Judge Cooke holds in the memories of the people of Monticello who knew him.

With regard to Comptroller's Opinion 2000-1, Mr. Lynch was equally negligent with his mis-advice to the Board of Trustees. A careful reading reveals that the Opinion referred to a law modeled after Section 19 of the NYS Public Officers Law (which does indemnify State employees against criminal charges in some limited instances, but allowing reimbursement only after the accused official has been aquitted - not turned upside-down, as Mr. Lynch's proposal would have it).

The Opinion cited by Mr. Lynch, the meaning of which he yet again stood on its head (evidently assuming no one one the board would dare to question his expertise as a high priest of jurisprudence), states:

"The provisions of section 18, however, do not authorize a municipality to provide a defense in a criminal proceeding (see Zimmer, supra; 1986 Atty Gen [Inf] 6; cf. Wassef v State, 98 Misc 2d 505, 414 NYS2d 262 [analogous provisions of Public Officers Law, §17 do not require State to provide defense in a criminal matters]; compare Public Officers Law, §19, relative to defense and indemnification of State officers and employees in criminal proceedings). To the extent that an investigation by a district attorney into the potential commission of a crime may be considered either an 'action' or a 'proceeding' (compare General Construction Law, §§11-a, 16-a, 18-a; CPLR, 105[b], [d]; Criminal Procedure Law,§1.20[16], [18]; People v Van Der Beek, 18 AD2d 205, 238 NYS2d 676), it must usually be considered criminal in nature (see Criminal Procedure Law, §1.20[18], defining 'criminal proceeding' in part as 'any proceeding which occurs in a criminal court and involves a criminal investigation'). Similarly, a grand jury proceeding is generally regarded as a criminal proceeding (see People v Van Der Beek, supra; People ex rel Nuccio v Eighth Dist. Prison Warden of City of New York, 182 Misc 654, 45 NYS 2d 230; but see Hunt v Hamilton County, 235 AD2d 758, 652 NYS2d 402 [grand jury proceeding held to be civil action or proceeding within meaning of Public Officers Law, §18 when district attorney admitted no intention of pursuing criminal charges]). Accordingly, it is our opinion that the village in this instance may not pay the police officers' legal expenses pursuant to the provisions of section 18 of the Public Officers Law."

The Local Law Mr. Lynch proposes depends on Section 18 of the Public Officers Law. He evidently prefers to rely on Section 18 (which the very authorities he cites confirm do not apply to criminal defense) because that section allows indemnification (against civil suits) in advance; while Section 19 (which applies to criminal defense) only permits repayment to a public officer after an acquittal or dismissal.

During the September 18th public hearing, attorney and recently retired Acting Village Justice Leo Glass offered the following public comment on the proposed law:

"Mr. Lynch has provided us with certain legal citations and legal authorities which I am not prepared to answer to at this time because I was not aware of what he was going to bring up. I think this is an ill-conceived idea. The Village, I am sure, has liability insurance covering the actions of certain employees, including the board. And I think for this Village, with its high tax burden, to now assume the responsibility for legal fees for anybody and everybody who commits any crime of any sort is absolutely absurd. It is beyond the realm of probability that we should pass this, and I would ask that the matter be adjourned until such time as I have an opportunity to respond to Mr. Lynch's legal citations because, just as you know, every time somebody cites a law in their favor, there is a law cited against them."

The taxpayers of Monticello will be grateful to Judge Glass for any professional legal analysis, opinion, or other services that he is able and willing to offer in response to Mr. Lynch's "ill-conceived idea".

Interest-Free Loans To Village Employees For Criminal Defense Lawyer Fees Get No Support

At tonight's public hearing, no one spoke in favor of the local law proposed by Nyack attorney Dennis Lynch, and a broad spectrum of members of the public, and officials, spoke against it. After the hearing, no one on the board moved for its passage.

Click here for full audio of the board meeting.

Proposed Local Law Gives Free Loans To Village Employees For Criminal Defense Costs

Taxpayers who object to public money being advanced to defend public employees and officials charged with crimes should attend the September 18th public hearing at 7:00 PM at Monticello Village Hall.

The obligation of each member of the Board of Trustees is to look out for and protect the best interests of the Village of Monticello as a whole, not for our own personal welfare. A proposed local law places any member of the Board of Trustees who might votes in favor in jeopardy of personal liability for theft and malfeasance.

Rockland County consulting attorney Dennis Lynch, who is paid by the Village of Monticello for advice

The board voted 4 to 1 (Carmen Rue dissented) to hold the September 18th public hearing.

The public is invited to speak.

Lawyer Dennis Lynch of South Nyack (pictured at right), who drafted the proposed law and whose firm would substantially benefit from its passage, is expected to push Trustees to vote for its immediate approval the same night.

Presently, a Grand Jury at the Lawrence H. Cooke Sullivan County Court House is investigating if one or more Monticello officials, such as Village Manager John LiGreci and/or others, may be guilty of felonies while acting in their official capacities.

John J. LiGreci, Sullivan County Democrat photo

As of now, no Village officials are charged with any felonies, though several have been subpoenaed.

Lynch's proposed law would cover defense against crimes of all degree (both felonies and misdemeanors), regardless of the crime's nature, if the employee pleads Not Guilty and claims the offense was part of his or her official duties.

If officials are charged by the present Grand Jury or for any other crimes in the future, unless the law proposed by Mr. Lynch is stopped, the taxpayers of Monticello would pay legal fees to defend them.

Only if accused employee(s) are found guilty, under Mr. Lynch's proposal, would they be expected to "reimburse" the Village of Monticello for legal defense fees already paid to Feerick Lynch and MacCartney PLLC and other other lawyers benefitting from the local law.

Precisely how the Village could expect to collect such a debt from a former employee who would then be a convicted criminal is not addressed by Mr. Lynch.

In my opinion, an act designed to benefit one or more board members or their friends at Village Hall, giving interest-free loans in the form of advance payments prior to a finding of Not Guilty or dismissal is theft by those board members who pass this impermissible local law.

I would expect a restraining order prohibiting advance payment of criminal defense fees to be issued if the measure is passed on or after September 18th, and later challenged in court. Any Monticello taxpayer would have legal standing to file suit to stop the abuse of power and misuse of public money.

This law gives the false appearance of authorizing what amounts to Misappropriation of Public Funds. I believe that to pass such a law would constitute Malfeasance in Office and could be grounds for removal of an elected official by the Attorney General.

Despite the bad legal advice emanating from a high-priced Rockland County lawyer, Trustees should beware of the potential legal consequences that could be brought to bear upon them personally by appropriating public funds to benefit themselves or their friends.

Take, for example, the historical case of a Village employee convicted of stealing money from the Village Court in the early 1990s. If this law were in effect at the time of her arrest, once she was eventually convicted, the Village would have had to sue her in order to be “reimbursed” for legal defense fees already paid. It is not hard to imagine the difficulty the Village would encounter in collecting “reimbursement” by convicted criminals. (I am not talking about anyone presently charged, but about all the hypothetical situations that could arise in the future if and when Village officials or employees are ever charged with a crime committed during the performance of their duties.)

In some instances, the former official or employee, having been convicted, could be imprisoned – or file for bankruptcy. How would we collect then?

Mr. Lynch remains silent on this question.

When civil lawsuits are filed against the Village, legal defense fees have for many years been covered by our existing liability insurance policy. It excludes defense against criminal charges.

There is no money in the Village's budget to pay unlimited sums for the defense of officials who are now or who may in the future be charged with criminal actions in office.

As an elected Village Trustee, on Tuesday, September 11th, I e-mailed Mr. Lynch with the subject, "QUESTIONS OF LAW - PLEASE RESPOND". To date, he has failed to reply.

Here is my unanswered e-mail to the Village's consulting attorney who is pushing passage of this measure:

Dennis,

Please explain by what legal authority the Board of Trustees may lawfully apply Article 2, Section 18 of Public Officers Law (which is the basis for the local law you have proposed) to pay attorney fees in CRIMINAL defending against criminal charges.

Article 2, Section 19 of the that law provides for reimbursement of State employees who have been charged with criminal offenses by authorizing REIMBURSEMENT TO THE EMPLOYEE after being found Not Guilty or the charges are dismissed.

I could support policy or law by the Village of Monticello indemnifying Village employees who have been charged with crimes during the commission of their official duties in this manner, by means of reimbursing the officer or employee of the Village AFTER a disposition favorable to the defendant. In my view, this is entirely reasonable and consistent with New York State law.

The scope of this Section 18 is limited only to CIVIL proceedings, not CRIMINAL, as stated in this sub-section:

Article 2, Section 18 (3) (a): "Upon compliance by the employee with the provisions of subdivision five of this section, the public entity shall provide for the defense of the employee in any civil action or proceeding, state or federal, arising out of any alleged act or omission which occurred or allegedly occurred while the employee was acting within the scope of his public employment or duties. This duty to provide for a defense shall not arise where such civil action or proceeding is brought by or at the behest of the public entity employing such employee."

If you will present a law based on the language and conditions of Section 19 (relative to criminal proceedings) rather than Section 18, I believe I could support such a measure.

Anyone who compares Section 18 to Section 19 of the Public Officers Law should readily see the difference between the two, and will understand that the point I am making is [not] personal. These two sections of law clearly distinguish between indemnification of employees and officers in civil lawsuits vs. defending against criminal charges.

Loaning money to employees or officers of the Village, by appropriating public funds to pay their legal defense bills in the hopes the officer or employee will not be convicted of any crimes, and hoping that they will then "reimburse" the Village [if they are], does not appear to me to be a lawful act. As I have said, it appears to me to be misappropriation of funds, malfeasance in office, and quite simply theft.

I also see no way to assure that the loan will ever be repaid if the person is convicted. If such an employee has declared bankruptcy, has no assets, or is incarcerated, how would the Village go about obtaining the money we are owed?

In order for the Board of Trustees [to] consider your proposed Local Law in an informed manner, please advise us what legal recourse we would have to assure "reimbursement" when an employee is convicted, and also provide the legal authority and precedents for adopting a Local Law of this nature. Thank you.

I respectfully ask Monticello voters, taxpayers, and New York State authorities interested in how the rule of law applies to the Village of Monticello to demonstrate that interest on September 18th and by following up with and supporting any necessary and appropriate action to stop this misuse of public money.

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