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