Hard Lessons Learned - Hear The Tape Yourself - Extending The Hand Of Partnership To All
Congratulations to attorney Danielle Jose for successfully arguing a case on behalf of the Village of Monticello. The Village had to pay Ms. Jose almost $7,000 in legal fees after she left office to continue defending this suit. Unfortunately for the taxpayers, the present salaried Village Attorney couldn't fit into his schedule to handle the case himself. Ms. Jose did so admirably both while and after she was Village Attorney.
The Appellate Division of NYS Supreme Court issued a decision this week affirming a January 2008 judgment by Judge Robert Sackett of Monticello. Appeals courts usually render very narrow decisions focusing on particular points of fact or law, and this case was no different.
The higher court's decision stated simply:
"Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration, which it correctly treated as a motion to renew. Petitioner failed to show a reasonable justification for failing to raise the additional facts while the proceeding was pending." [Full Text]
Appeals courts allow lower courts a certain breadth of judicial discretion. Unless an appellant can show that judicial discretion was abused or an error occurred, appeals are usually unsuccessful.
The fact that the appellate judges ruled that Judge Sackett did not exceed his discretion in denying the plaintiff's "motion for reconsideration" by treating it as a "motion to renew" says nothing about the actual merits of either the plaintiffs' or the Village's position with respect to a certain rooming house on North Street.
Wasteful and wheel-spinning lawsuits like this one are less likely to occur when code enforcement is fairly and uniformly managed.
Monticello's former village manager is a case in point. John Barbarite was fired by the Board of Trustees because of disrespectful and discriminatory language and behavior toward residents and property owners of the Village of Monticello. Barbarite himself has been the central figure of too many lawsuits against the Village of Monticello, though his name did not appear in this case. Barbarite has lost most if not all of the lawsuits he has filed against the Village of Monticello.
He is still the target of multiple Federal civil rights suits stemming from his behavior as Village Manager. Yet a few still blindly defend him.
Linked below is an audio recording of a sworn deposition taken under oath during an official investigation of Barbarite's short conduct in office. This document, in audio and written form, is a public record.
Among other statements, Barbarite referred to his neighbors on Cottage Street as "Spicks" and commented that he hoped someone would die in a fire to teach building owners to better secure vacant buildings, according to the testimony of Vincent Meyer, Building Inspector for the Sullivan County Department of Family Services, given under oath and under penalty of perjury.
Full audio recording of SWORN TESTIMONY OF SULLIVAN COUNTY DSS BUILDING INSPECTOR VINCENT MEYER IN REGARD TO JOHN BARBARITE, January 2, 2008, in which Barbarite is quoted as referring to his neighbors as "Spicks" and stating that he hopes someone dies in a fire to teach building owners to secure their premises.
Mr. Meyer is an honest, hard-working man. Unlike polygraph results, which are notoriously unreliable, his sworn testimony is credible and admissible in court. I have not spoken with him since the early 1990s when my husband and I chaperoned several "Independent Living Jamboree" youth events with him, held by Sullivan DSS at Frost Valley YMCA Camp.
But hearing Mr. Meyer, in his own voice, relate his experiences with Barbarite led me to believe Mr. Meyer. Subsequent experiences I have had with Barbarite, as the sole Latina on the Board of Trustees, have sadly removed any remaining doubt.
Searching For A Professional Manager
It is well known that the Board of Trustees is seeking a professional Village Manager. Manager Zachary Kelson has performed a valuable public service by filling in briefly at the board's request in order to prevent threatened reprisals and malfeasance in office. My respect for Mr. Kelson has been increased ten-fold by the patience and leadership he has shown amid unfair abuse heaped upon him during his short tenure.
It is also well known that the former Village Manager has lately demonstrated his complete lack of professionalism by going door-to-door with amateur newsletters produced on his home computer aimed at obsessively attacking not just me personally over and over as the only Hispanic member of the board, but also his former employer, the Village of Monticello. I can live with the attacks on me, considering the source. This man's intolerance, hatred, and ignorance are transparent and pathological. His obsession with me is scary.
Even as he demonstrates his pathology, I respect his First Amendment rights and trust the intelligence of Monticello's 7,000+ residents to see and fairly judge what's going on, including those who choose not to attend out-of-control Village Board meetings, preferring to e-mail me, call me on the phone, or talk to me in stores, in the post office, and other public places. I am truly grateful for all these kind words and I genuinely feel supported.
Barbarite's ongoing vicious public insults to individual dedicated career Village employees and private citizens are reckless and inexcusable. He has absolutely proved the wisdom of the Board of Trustees in voting to fire him not once, but twice.
We all make mistakes, including me! What's important is our willingness to learn from and not repeat them.
The entire Village of Monticello Board of Trustees must begin to work together in the best interest of our community. I have repeatedly extended my hand of partnership to all and will continue to do so. Trustees Schoonmaker and Marinello have done likewise, and I am sure they will also press forward toward better times and better conditions in Monticello.
The long local nightmare of the Barbarite era is over. He is out of power and has been reduced to pumping out silly and inaccurate newsletters, passing them out house-to-house like so much litter delivered by an unemployed former mailman.
It is time for the Village to move on.
We invite the public to join in building a better and more positive place to live, work, and play.