Promise Made, Promise Kept - Thank You To Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther For Recent Aid Concluding Jefferson Street Renovations

A big "Thank You" to our Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther for coming through with her promise to assist the Village of Monticello in covering the final outstanding balance on the Jefferson Street Gateway project. The NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) previously provided our Village $477,995.00 to fund the project for bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use path transportation enhancement to encourage tourism and economic development opportunities. The work also repaired longstanding drainage problems in the area.

However, this large State grant we received from the DOT left the Village a quarter-million dollars in the hole for the project.

Recently, the long-promised portion has come in the form of $250,000.00 State grant of public funds originating fomr the office of Ms. Gunther, awarded to our Village through a Golden Feather Award given at Bethel Woods, fulfilling a promise reported by the Village Manager to the the Board of Trustees, included in the minutes of June 21, 2016:

Manager’s Report
Per Mr. Sager, * * *

The Jefferson Street Project is ready to be awarded. I spoke with Assembly Woman, Eileen [sic]
Gunther, regarding the other $250,000.00 that was needed to fund the project and although
it’s unofficial, she has promised to fund the balance of the project. So, I would ask that the
Board award the project to the lowest bidder, Sun Up Enterprises Inc.

Relying on this necessary assurance, the Board of Trustees voted to award the final bid on the project. It is extremely pleasing that this alotment of State funds came through when it did, since contractors have done the work and have been asking for payment.

As we saw during a recent heavy downpour of rain, some flood-control measures on Jefferson Street have yet to be completed.

This piece of state funding is particularly gratifying to me, as I attended the initial training session for the Transportation Enhance Program (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. Then deputy clerk Stacy Walker joined me for the day-long training event. At that time, community planner Helen Valenti Budrock of Sullivan Renaissance also worked with us to save the Village of Monticello roughly $20,000.00 for completion of the initial grant application.

It is fitting that Sullivan Renaissance was able able to serve as a pass-through channel, and also benefit from the public relations, as our community receives this final piece of funding to allow us to pay the remaining outstanding bills due on the Jefferson Street TEP project. So, THANK YOU to all who made this TEP grant, as well as the remaining funds that our Village was promised, for recently completed infrastructural improvements.

This recent award is the most recent of many State and Federal our Village has received in recent memory. Other major grants have included:

  • $1,250,000.00 grant from USDA for Water Project received 2015; application commenced 2011, now in progress.
  • $15,000,000 Broadway project construction 2008 to 2011.
  • $11,947,000.00 grant from USDA for Sewer Project received in 2014, application commenced 2009; increased in 2014 by $4,000,000 for a project total on (Grants and loans) of $21,500,000.00, now in progress.
  • $330,000.00 grant: NYS DOT for walkable sidewalks on Route 42 South;
  • $1,700,000.00 RESTORE-NY grant for Entertainment Village on Broadway, still in progress.

As a member of the Village of Monticello Board of Trustees since 2008, I am pleased to have been able to work together with others in our municipality (board members, community volunteers, and public employees who work under board direction), often with cooperative support and direct assistance from the Town of Thompson and County of Sullivan, as well as from officials in Albany (Ms. Gunther and our Senator, John J. Bonacic) and in Washington, to help us bring together these and other resources for the good of our local community. These are taxpayer funds.

Elected and appointed officials are accountable to the public to assure that public monies are properly used. We must tighten our belts, recognizing that every municipal expenditure represents a personal financial sacrifice by individual homeowners and other taxpayers, and not raise taxes.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and Thompson Councilman John Pavese, Sr. at Monticello's

Related articles on this site:

Heeding Public Outcry, Village Board Reigns In Management's Push For Tax-And-Spend Profligacy -- Stays Inside Tax Cap

The Village of Monticello Board of Trustees voted unanimously against the manager's recommendation to exceed the Constitutional tax-cap limit. Thanks in part to advance publicity prior to the June 20th meeting, dismayed taxpayers filled the chairs in the boardroom to express concern over out-of-control taxes required by management's excessive spending.

Village taxes will increase less than 1% (.96792%) during 2018, within limits urged by State authorities, thanks to the board's action.

During a break in the June 20th meeting, a red-faced $80,000-a-year village manager launched into a tirade, verbally attacking taxpayers who spoke at the meeting. He also railed against two board members who spoke against his proposal to exceed the tax cap. Downstairs, out of hearing of the public during a brief recess, Sager showed gross disrespect and lack of professionalism, in front of the full board calling one Trustee "a piece of s**t liar" and ordering another Trustee, "Don't you ever f**ing talk to me!"

Sadly, this is the side of Sager's behavior to which employees and taxpayers who are not his favorites are frequently subjected at Village Hall.

On June 20th, Sager announced, on the record, that he will tender his resignation when three board members develop spines and ask for it. Sager also told one speaker that there would be consequences in the next Village election when two current Trustees will be up for re-election. Responding to an audience member who pled with the board not to raise taxes, Sager aggressively retorted that he is a is now a Monticello taxpayer himself (referring to a vacant dwelling that he recently bought in foreclosure).

Village Manager performing, in not so rare form, creates his own miniature circus at board meeting, furious that the Board of Trustees refused to follow his push to exceed tax cap - VIDEO

David Sager

"Professional" village manager performing in a less than professional manner at the June 20, 2017 meeting of the Board of Trustees (this was the least of his disrespectful and poor behavior this evening).


NYS Comptroller Warns Monticello It Has Entered "High-Risk Zone" For Exceeding Constitutional Tax Cap -- Tax Increase Coming -- Public Input Is Needed -- DOWNLOAD BUDGET HERE

If you own property in Monticello and do not want your taxes to rise beyond the cap set by the State, your input is needed.

Board members and the Village Manager require persuasion concerning the importance of staying within spending limits. A healthy turnout of Monticello residents at a June 6th public hearing made their voices heard. Please keep attending and alert your friends.

The public is respectfully invited to attend the next Budget Workshop on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 starting at 4:30 PM, followed by the regular meeting of the Board of Trustees at 5:30 PM. It is anticipated that the final budget will be adopted.

All of the following files are public documents and are posted here in entirety as a public service.

I would add, incidentally, that in the nine years I have served on the Board of Trustees, this is the most rushed job that I have ever seen in constructing a budget. The board as a whole has been denied the opportunity to meet with Department heads, to discuss potential areas of savings, as we have done in every prior year. This draft budget was put together by two people at Village Hall and presented to the board under cover of the e-mail from the Treasurer that appears below, and at this writing, the board has spent one hour in public session discussing it, with one additional hearing planned before adoption. Additionally, to my knowledge this is the first the Village of Monticello has received the type of warning letter from the Comptroller's office.

Respectfully, if you own property in Monticello, please make your voice heard before it is too late. Thank you.

The following two links to work files on the NYS Comptroller's website accompanied the above letter and graph:

The following email from the Villalge Treasurer to members of the Board of Trustees explains the budget documents and data files below:

From: "Melissa DeMarmels (Treasurer - Village of Monticello)"
Date: May 22, 2017 4:06 PM
Subject: 2018 Tentative Budget Filing
To: "Doug Solomon" , "Jill Weyer" , "Carmen Rue" , "Aleta Lymon" , "George Nikolados"

Cc: , "Clerk (Village of Monticello)" ,

Dear Mayor and Trustees,

The 2018 Tentative Budget has been filed with the Village Clerk. The Village Manager and I worked together over the past few weeks to get to this point, incorporating and

updating the requests received from Village Department Heads. Highlights of the filing are as follows:

The rates for Water, Sewer and Sanitation are unchanged.

Unfortunately, for the General Fund the picture is not as rosy. We do not recommend using unassigned fund balance to balance the budget, as the projection for year end 2017 is

roughly the minimum 10% of 2018’s tentative budgeted expenditures. We are however recommending a transfer of funds from the Community Development Fund (Home Grant $) of

$275,000. We have also taken the tax levy up to the maximum allowed per the Constitutional Tax Limit for the Village. This equates to a 5.5% increase in taxes. This is not an

ideal place to be by any means. Just to get to this level we have left vacant positions unfilled and taken out the request for a combo-body for the Highway Department.

(Attached is a more detailed summary).

Also attached is the payroll schedule used to craft this tentative filing.

We look forward to working with you at the budget workshops the coming weeks.

Best Regards,

Melissa DeMarmels
Village of Monticello
2 Pleasant Street
Monticello, NY 12701
(845) 794-6130 ext 311
Fax (845) 794 - 2327

Land Bank: Eliminate Apparent Conflicts Of Interest, Clarify Boundaries And Fiduciary Responsibilities, Targeting Blighted Properties And Communities

A recent item in the Sullivan County Democrat (PDF file) revealed details that have been been kept under wraps regarding a proposed Land Bank that is intended to benefit distressed communities in SullivanCounty, namely the villages of Monticello and Liberty.

Unfortunately, the governing body in Monticello has mostly been left out of the loop by one or two local officials acting on their own without board approval, each with apparent conflicts of interest.

The Democrat article quotes me and Trustee Aleta Lymon as voicing concern over the fact that one Trustee has maintained an inside track on information which she has not shared with the rest of the board. Trustee Jill Weyer candidly confessed to a reporter that she does indeed have the appearance of a conflict of interest by virtue of her employment as deputy commissioner of the Sullivan County Planning Department. Ms. Weyer's immediate supervisor is overseeing the creation of the Land Bank: "In response, Weyer acknowledged that there might be a perception of a conflict, but noted that she is not on the board of the land bank and has no decision making capacity." But, of course, she has an obvious interest in doing the bidding of the County, which may differ from the Village's interests.

As a result of her admitted apparent conflict of interest, it should be clear to any honest and unbiased observer that Ms. Weyer is ethically constrained from taking part in any vote or deliberations concerning the Land Bank, and also from taking any part in her employment with the County of Sullivan in decisions involving the Village of Monticello. She must fully recuse herself at both ends, immediately.

"...if not conducted in an open and transparent manner, accountable to elected officials and the public, a Land Bank may also create a honeypot for unethical opportunists - which I do not believe was the intent of County and State elected officials who worked hard to create this resource for our community."

My reservations are not with the concept of the proposed Land Bank itself. Monticello definitely needs help, and this may be an excellent vehicle for economic redevelopment.

What troubles me is not just Ms. Weyer's appearance of a conflict of interest (which is sufficient cause for her to recuse herself), but the Village Manager David Sager's actual conflict. Mr. Sager has managed to secure himself a position as a member of the Board of Directors of the Land Bank. He did this without informing the Village Board of Trustees. In fact, despite being the longest-serving member of the Village Board, I had to learn of of his fiduciary role in relation to the Land Bank by reading about it in the May 5th edition of the Democrat. At least one other board member I have spoken with was also unaware of Mr. Sager's position on the Land Bank's board of directors.

The Land Bank does not yet have an executive director. We have not even been told who will be applying for the job. It has not been explained to the Village Board and public how acquisitions and sales will work and how resulting revenues will be divided. All we know is that the County planning department is integrally involved in its creation and implementation. We need more information.

Mr. Sager's failure to disclose this conflict raises more questions in my mind about how the eight properties, totaling over $1,000,000 in assessed value, were cherry-picked.

Some of my questions include:

  • How were these properties selected? Not all of them are run down or hard-to-sell. For example, the former Rosen & Rosen law office at 504 Broadway is prime real estate, the value of which may be expected to rise as the local economy improves. Another parcel on Mr. Sager's list appears to have no delinnquent taxes due. My understanding of the Land Bank is that it is intended to target properties which are not economically viable - of which Monticello has plenty. The properties we were asked to relinquish do not all fit this description.
  • The County presently holds title to numerous properties in Monticello. Why not start by transferring those sites to the Land Bank? Why the rush to grab eight additional sites on short notice before the next auction with little explanation to elected officials?
  • Once the Land Bank takes ownership of a parcel, does the bank's Board of Directors have authority to transfer the property to the County or nonprofit organizations for tax-exempt use? If so, I would like assurances that this will not occur.
  • Will taxpayers of the Village of Monticello receive a significant portion of the sale revenues? If not, I would like assurances that we will, rather than the funds being spread out in the County's general treasury.

For example, recalling back a few years, after Appolo Plaza was taken by the County, our Village (which formerly held title) had to fight for scraps. In the end, we had to threaten to sue the County just to collect a portion of the taxes that were due to us. Now, years later, Apollo still sits vacant and rotting, after bringing in a new investor with yet another plan. (I do not fault the investors in Apollo, but mention it as a prime example of what happens when the County asserts precedence over Village ownership.)

Mr. Sager withheld full details about the Land Bank from the full Board of Trustees until shortly before the May 2nd board meeting when he sent an e-mail describing the Land Bank as being "charged with helping to stabilize communitites through site control, property improvements or potentially necessary demoltion in certain circumstances." His brief email listed the section, block, and lot numbers of eight parcels that he wanted handed over to the financial institution on whose Board of Directors he serves (without disclosing this dual role to the Village). I had to research the SBL numbers myself and pull up property records to understand what parcels Mr. Sager was pushing the board to hand over, relying on public sources like, in order to share the information with the Mayor and Trustees (see PDF file).

The Village of Liberty, by contrast, appears to have rightly exercised its discretion to seat a Village Trustee to the board. Why was our Board never consulted concerning who we wanted to represent us on the Land Bank board? (If Mr. Sager unlawfully selected himself to represent our Village on the Land Bank board of directors, without approval of the Village Board, might this might open up the Land Bank to legal challenges if any interested taxpayer wished to file an Article 78 petition challenging its actions and organizational structure down the road? I would not rule out the possibility.) I presently have no opinion on who we should select to represent the Village of Monticello on the Land Bank board, but have doubts about the manner of Mr. Sager's seeming self-appointment to that fiduciary role.

In response to questions raised at the May 2nd board meeting, on May 4th Mr. Sager fired off a disrespectful e-mail numerous large file attachments (see below) on the subject of land banks, directing the board to "take the time to fully educate yourselves" on the subject.

Informing the board is the Village Manager's job!

Not until I read it in the Democrat did I learn that one of the incorporating directors (confirmed by reading the Certificate of Incorporation on the County's website) is "David Sager 2 Pleasant Street Village of Monticello Manager Monticello, New York 12701", a fiduciary role which I believe can only be legitimized by a vote of the Village Board of Trustees.

Why did our Manager fail to explicitly disclose to the governing body for whom he works the nature of his role with the Land Bank, as well as his reasons for seeking to take the eight properties he asked for? The Board of Trustees should have had the option of selecting its representative, which could have been the Manager, a board member, or perhaps a local businessperson.

The Village Manager works for us, at a salary of $78,000 per year, so it is fully incumbent on him to "educate" the board, without partisan discrimination about his conflict of interest, to make recommendations, and allow the elected Board of Trustees to make our rightful decision - not try to bully a vote with only limited data, and then dumping documents on us by e-mail and telling us to educate ourselves after elected officials betin to ask questions.

On May 4th (two days after the meeting where he pushed for eight properties to be turned over to the Land Bank), Mr. Sager got aroun to addressing an e-mail to the Mayor and Trustees with the following attachments:

  1. An article entitled New York State Land Banks: Combating Blight and Vacancy in New York Communities, 16 pages.
  2. A book entitled Land Banks and Land Banking by Frank S. Alexander (2011), 120 pages.
  3. An article entitled Pay Now or Pay More Later: St. Paul’s Experience in Rehabilitating Vacant Housing, 1998, 4 pages.
  4. A map of the 2017 Foreclosures in the Village of Monticello
  5. A table showing potential auction properties for 2017 including prior history of tax foreclosures

I am aware of no resolution by the Village Board authorizing Mr. Sager to serve as an incorporator or member of the board of directors of the Land Bank. I would like to know what claims he made to the Land Bank board concerning his representation of the Village's legislative body, or whether he believes he has the power to appoint himself unilaterally because he works for us as Village Manager, or if he believes one or two Village Board members have the authority to appoint him on behalf of the Village to the bank's board of directors outside of an open meeting and without a board vote.

As a Trustee, I consider his behavior in this matter unethical and I am may seek a formal investigation of how he was appointed to his role as an incorporator and director of the Land Bank without consulting or even informing, the Village of Monticello Board of Trustees.

In my opinion, Mr. Sager's behavior has been demonstrated a lack of professional boundaries, resulting in conflicts of fiduciary responsibilities. Did he not have a duty to disclose to the Village of Monticello Board of Trustees that he sits on the Board of Directors of the Land Bank? Did he not have a duty to disclose to the Land Bank that the Village Board was never informed of his dual role?

I am hopeful that the Land Bank may end up being a useful tool for community improvement. My objection is not to the Land Bank concept, but to the manner in which the legislative governing body of the Village of Monticello has been kept in the dark by individuals those financial and personal interests are not at all clear. However, if not conducted in an open and transparent manner, accountable to elected officials and the public, a Land Bank may also create a honeypot for unethical opportunists - which I do not believe was the intent of County and State elected officials who worked hard to create this resource for our community.

I look forward to representatives of the Land Bank attending a meeting of the Village Board to make a full and formal presentation, including answering questions by the public, so ultimately we can confidently support this endeavor. It seems like a good idea, but all board members deserve to be treated with the same respect in order to make policy decisions that serve the best interest of our constituents and so the Board of Trustees can appropriately supervise our staff and employees.

UPDATED - "Firestorm" In Monticello Created By Dysfunctional Form Of Government -- Monticello Needs A "Strong Mayor" And Active Board Of Trustees, Not A Village Manager


Municipal management practices cited in a recent NYS Comptroller's audit of the Village of Monticello have led to what a newspaper headline calls a "firestorm". This post contains my perspective, based on decades of close observation at Monticello Village Board meetings and nine years taking an active role as an elected Village Trustee. Some may disagree with my conclusions, but I believe my years of experience on the board give me a perspective that deserves respect and consideration.

According to the Comptroller's audit team, "The objective of our audit was to assess the Board’s and officials’ oversight of Village operations for the period August 1, 2014 through April 6, 2016." (The report also noted, "We reviewed our last two audit reports dated 2012 and 2014 to determine if reported deficiencies were corrected. We also reviewed the last four CPA reports for 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 to assess if reported deficiencies were corrected. We judgmentally selected all bank reconciliations for the months of July 2015, November 2015 and February 2016 to evaluate whether they were completed accurately and in a timely manner.")

The Village of Monticello is governed by existing law under a controversial "manager form of government". Under this antiquated regime, the Village Manager, under Article 15-A of the former Village Law (which outlines that form of government that has existed since 1954), is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Village. Under this law, our Mayor and each of the four Trustees are equal members of the governing body at whose "pleasure" the Village Manager serves. The form of government we have includes a weakened Mayor's post, placing all board members on one level. For decades in Monticello, Village Managers have come and gone, with many acting like Village government is their little fiefdom, until they are let go -- resulting in a dysfunctional and confusing merry-go-round effect.

For years, well-informed observers have recommended doing away with the Village Manager post in Monticello, most recently including longtime Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano, of neighboring Orange County, during remarks this past summer to local residents at the Monticello Diner.

What has stood in the way of accepting this wise counsel, as I see it, is the fact that the highly paid post is treated as a political plumb. Many over the years have had few actual qualifications or experience that justify calling them "profesional municipal managers", relying instead on local political connections to get the job.

By a unanimous vote of the Board of Trustees on December 1, 2014, David Sager was hired as Village Manager. So, contrary to assertions by some, the period of the examination is focused primarily on the term of office of Mr. Sager (August 2014 to April 2016). When he first arrived, I was very supportive of Mr. Sager and shared information with him to help him adjust to his new position. However, I have been sorely disappointed by his lax and unaccountable management style.

Among many other personal attacks and insults leveled at me by Mr. Sager in an effort to divide and conquer both the board and Village employees, I have lately been accused by Mr. Sager and others of releasing a draft Comptroller's audit report prematurely. This speculation is false. All board members, the Village Manager, and a few other officials, received an advance "unofficial" copy of the report from the Comptroller for the purpose of review and submitting comment. I did not initially release the draft. It was apparently first released to Mid-Hudson News. However, whether I released the document, which is now a matter of public record, or whether the Village Manager or someone else did so with the intent of embarrassing the board, is irrelevant at this point. Releasing a draft audit report is not a crime, but the fact is that I did not do it. My personal belief, as I have told him, is that Mr. Sager did so. It is consistent with his style. Had it been me, my "style" would have been to simply upload it to this website. I do not care who released it, or whether Mr. Sager is lying about having done so, and taxpayers shouldn't either at this point.

Focusing on who released the draft report reminds me of Captain Queeg in an old movie. The obvious intent in singling out "one Trustee" (namely, me) is to divert, divide, and defocus. Let's stop it now.

What is important, and what risks being missed by obsessively focusing on who leaked the draft audit report to the media, is that taxpayer dollars have been wasted, misused, and according to the Comptroller's audit, in some cases cannot be accounted for.

Corrective action has been needed for months and, in some cases, years. When I and others at Village Hall have asked the manager to take corrective actions, his often highly unprofessional response has been to attack, deny, and point fingers. Of his targets in the Village, I happen to be the only one who is a sitting elected official.

I am willing to stand up to this bully because I owe it to the people of Monticello who elected me. He is skilled at presenting a charming face when he chooses in order to manipulate listeners. Though some who have not seen his "other side" may rally to defend him, many will confirm my experience that he has a less pleasant aspect that is motivated by a drive for power and self-service. Multiple complaints have been made to the board not just by employees, but by taxpayers and members of the public. Some officials are willing to look the other way, promising to "take care" of each new issue, but then do nothing. Perhaps some feel they owe a favor to Mr. Sager. I do not. Perhaps they hope that by ignoring persistent problems, the public will be lulled into thinking everything at Village Hall is "quiet" and therefore going well. It is not.

Valued and reliable longtime employees, many because they were not in a position to tolerate this Manager's abusive nonsense, have resigned. Some have made their complaints public, such as the former Director of Public Works who was physically shoved and insulted by the Manager (to which I was an eye-witness); or the former Treasurer who endured extreme rude, disrespectful, and unprofessional behavior Others have chosen to simply leave.

Notably, the recent Comptroller's audit report observes that the extraordinarily high turnover rate of key employees is partly responsible for the fiscal irregularities that have been documented. I urge Village taxpayers to demand accountability and more courteous service.

On July 6, 2016, responding to a request by staff of the Comptroller's office after speaking on the phone, I sent the following e-mail to Comptroller staff in Binghamton:

"...the Comptroller's auditors questioned why critical employees have been leaving the Village's employ over the last year or two. At the time, I was caught off guard by the question. However, after giving the matter some thought, I need to explain. The former Treasurer, Lilu Li, resigned because of verbal abuse and harassment by the Village Manager. The former Deputy Treasurer, left because she was making a lot of discrepancies in the payroll. When the manager advised her the Comptroller's office was coming for an audit, she submitted her resignation. Account Clerk [personal name redacted] left because money could not be accounted for and she did not want to be held responsible.

"After I spoke with Comptroller's staff, I asked Lilu why she did not complete reconciliations on statements shortly prior to her departure. She said the reason was that there were discrepancies in the deposits for which she could not account. (I believe she provided evidence of this to the NYS Comptroller's Office.)

"I remain concerned that some board members are treated unequally by the Village Manager, who manipulates processes to get his way with respect to expenditures and other matters that lawfully require board approval. Department heads report that he intimidates, abuses, and demands his way (notably, for example, at a meeting last week when he threatened to fire any department heads who provided information to a member of the Board of Trustees). It is safe to predict that in the near future the flow of retirements and resignations of longtime valued employees will continue."

In an e-mail dated December 16th, [personal name redacted], the principal examiner in the Division of Local Government and School Accountability, addressed "Dear Village Board Member", our individual comments were specifically solicited concerning the report:

"If you believe anything in the preliminary draft findings may be inaccurate or incomplete, please feel free to contact me or the examiner-in-charge [personal name redacted]. Also, if you have any other questions or concerns, or would like to meet with the audit team to discuss the draft, feel free to contact me..." (followed by his phone number).

When I called to discuss the draft, I was urged to submit my thoughts in writing, which I did.

I do not know whether any other members of the Board of Trustees bothered or cared enough to directly respond to what they may have considered inaccurate and omissions in the draft report, but individual comments were invited, so I replied. I am aware that the Village Clerk also submitted a response. Others may have as well, or perhaps they did not. A few months earlier, before contacting the Comptroller, our Village Clerk also complained directly to the board.

After the final report was publicized, I read in the newspaper that the Village Manager claimed that he and the Board of Trustees, deliberating in secrecy, without informing me, had drafted what he submitted as the Village's "official" response, consisting of an attack on "one Trustee". In a desperate act of finger-pointing, Mr. Sager told a newspaper reporter that one individual Trustee was to blame for the mismanagement cited in the report.

The assertion that the response supposedly submitted on behalf of the Board of Trustees was approved by the board is, therefore, a fraudulent lie, or else the product of blatant discrimination against "one Trustee" and a violation of the NYS Open Meetings Law.

The Village Manager's ridiculous claim that "one Trustee" is powerful enough to responsible for the management issues cited in the audit, and that "one Trustee" has created a "circus" at Village Hall, is bizarre. It is foolish to assert that one little old lady, with just one out of five votes on the board, has that much power. Anyone who would make such a claim would have to believe the public is made up of fools.

Before being allowed to see the statement that was supposedly made on behalf of the Board of Trustees, taking note of the date when the board's collective response was due, I wrote to the Comptroller's office in Binghamton:

From: "Carmen Rue" (
Date: Jan 17, 2017 8:06 AM
Subject: Re: OSC Audit - Village of Monticello - Draft Audit Report - Board
To: (
Cc: "Carmen B. Rue" (

To Whom It May Concern:

Relative to your office's recent Comptroller’s audit findings in this municipality, It has come to my attention that monies overpaid to Village of Monticello employees as long ago as July 2015 still have not been repaid.

The manager's response to the recent audit report has not been shared with the Board of Trustees, despite my request through the Village Attorney that it be reviewed by the Board prior to submission.

It is respectfully requested that your office continue the present audit, or include as an addendum ASAP, a full review of Village payroll records through December 2016 to ensure accountability and that wrongfully disbursed public funds are restored to Village coffers.

Thank you.


Carmen Rue
Monticello Village Trustee

Requests for further Comptrollers audits and law-enforcement action

I have a spreadsheet listing the names of employees who erroneously received in some cases thousands of dollars more than their usual paychecks. Every one of those who were overpaid as a result of the Village Manager's assignment of inexperienced staff to do payroll, knows who they are, just as I do. Some honest workers have taken initiative to repay money to which they were not entitled. However, others have not yet done so, which must be due in part to the Village Manager's failure to recoup the funds from subsequent paychecks.

Without board approval, the manager took it upon himself to have at least some sign "I.O.U." agreements. These documents should have been presented to the board for approval. They were not, and the board as whole has not been informed of which employees still have not made the taxpayers whole for the payroll errors. I blame this failure on the manager, as much as anyone, since he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Village.

Over a year ago, when I questioned the wisdom of assigning payroll duties to an inexperienced staff member rather than the Treasurer, Mr. Sager attacked me in a series of angry e-mails, asserting his executive authority to assign inexperienced staff if he so desired, and objecting to so-called "micro-management". Later, when I e-mailed him and the board that recoupment of the overpayments to staff should be approved by a board resolution, Mr. Sager again claimed that I was stepping on his toes as Manager and no board action was needed.

Taking seriously the duties of my elected office, I have urged the Comptroller's office to return, yet again, and ensure that all payroll errors have been corrected. At this point, I know that some have not. The Manager's response to date has been inadequate and requires State oversight. This is not "personal". As a Trustee, I am responsible for the use of the Village's public funds, along with the rest of the board. At the risk of being accused of "exceeding [my] authority", I am willing to speak truth to power when I see waste, fraud, and abuse occur with public funds.

Accordingly, my letter to the Comptroller of December 16, 2016, concluded:

"My respectful recommendation is that your office refer your findings to appropriate legal authorities empowered to determine the severity and nature of violations of the law that may have been committed, and who to hold accountable for the protection of the interests of the taxpayers in the Village of Monticello."

"Village Manager" form of government should be abolished

There never was any resolution to approve the Manager's response to the Comptroller's report. I did not see his accusatory letter until February 3rd. I have no way to know if he showed or e-mailed it to other board members and excluded me, but "voting" by e-mail or in anything other than a public meeting is null and void and a violation of the Open Meetings Law. It is also possible that Mr. Sager is not telling the truth when he accuses four members of the Board of Trustees of collectively violating the NYS Open Meetings Law together with him in this manner. However, if the board truly approved the management letter attached to the report without informing me of its contents (it was absolutely not done in an open meeting), this was clearly a violation of NYS Executive Law.

Monticello is one of the last remaining in Villages in New York State that still operates under the antiquated section of Village Law which was abandoned by the Legislature in the early 1970s. In my opinion, the "manager form of government" limits accountability, increasing the opportunity for waste and fraud. It should be abolished. We could still have a comptroller responsible for managing Village offices, and the elected Mayor and Board of Trustees would oversee in the manner like the vast majority of small and large municipalities in New York State.

However, until such a change is made, we must function under an antiquated system in which one unelected appointee (the Village Manager) exerts power over subordinate employees allowing established policies and procedures adopted by the Board of Trustees to be disregarded, and he openly boasts that he can act with impunity because "I have my three votes."

Serious consideration should be given to updating Monticello's form of government by doing away with the so-called "manager form of government". This action has been urged for years, but inertia and political patronage has stood in the way.

Nearly all villages and cities in New York State have what is commonly called a "strong Mayor" form of government. Not so here. In Monticello, the Mayor and Trustees each have one equal vote on the Board of Trustees. The Mayor is not the chief executive officer and does not oversee daily operations. The manager does. The board has the power to hire and fire the Village Manager, which has led to a dysfunctional revolving door in our village over the last 20 to 30 years.

Managers over the years have been hired, and then become politically involved or abuse their power. Boards then let them go, hoping that things will be better with a replacement. But it does not get better. As elected officials, we are accountable directly to the voters of Monticello, and no one else. We are not accountable to social media or to anyone other than those who vote in Monticello.

The February 4th edition of the Times Herald-Record reported, "Mayor Doug Solomon said problems happen when trustees exceed their authority. Can that issue be resolved?' he was asked. 'That remains to be seen at this point,' he said."

What "remains to be seen" is whether Mayor Solomon will join my call for a strong-Mayor form of government. Presently, his own powers are limited by law under the controversial "manager form of government". Under this antiquated regime, under Article 15-A of the former Village Law (which has been eliminated in most municipalities), the Mayor's powers are not significantly different from those of any other board member. These powers, which we in Monticello have unwisely delegated to a never-ending series of Village Managers, are thus limited:

§ 369. Legislative powers vested in board of trustees
All the legislative powe;s of the village conferred upon or possessed
by it are hereby vested in the board of trustees, which shall
be composed of a mayor and four trustees. Added L.1927, c. 650,
§ 47, eff. July 1, 1927.


§ 370. Powers and duties of mayor
The mayor shall preside at all meetings of the board of trustees ;
he shall be the official head of the village for service of civil process;
he shall have no power of veto, but shall have the same power
as a trustee to vote upon all matters coming before the board.
Added L.1927, c. 650, 8 47, eff. July 1, 1927.

It is time for Monticello to be governed by those who are elected to serve, and for elected officials to be accountable for our own actions and not have our hands tied by larger-than-life managers.

UPDATE - External Audit Advises Caution

A second team of independent auditors has cautioned the Village of Monticello about municipal spending practices. The latest financial audit (which does not review administration) by the local accounting firm Cooper-Arias LLC found that during 2016 the Fund Balance dropped from approximately $1.3 million to $600,000 as of December 31st. This appears to indicate poor planning by managment, confirming findings of an earlier audit by the NYS Comptroller's Office.

Village Auditors warned the Board of Trustees in a presentation at a February 21st public meeting that if spending is not better contained, it could be necessary for the Village to apply for permission to New York State to exceed statutory tax cap. (Audio of the February 21st public meeting which included an oral presentation by the auditor is here.)

As one Village Trustee, my hope is for the smallest possible tax increase - or for no increase at all - when we formulate the 2017-2018 budget at workshops to be held in the late spring and early summer.

However, I only have one vote out of five.

Members of the public are strongly urged to attend all meetings of the Board of Trustees and express their concerns about matters involving Village government. If you cannot personally attend meetings, contact members of the Board of Trustees. (I can be reached here.) The following summaries are provided to the taxpaying public as a community service, in hopes of soliciting constructive participation:

Middletown Mayor DeStefano Advises Abolishing Monticello's Manager Form Of Government -- Years Of Editorials Agree

In an item on on entitled "Monticello business leaders learn secret of Middletown’s rebirth" describes advice from longtime incumbent Mayor Joe DeStefano of Middletown on improving government and reviving the local economy. Observing that the Village of Monticello is "on the cusp of a potential rebirth with the Montreign casino and other significant projects underway", business leaders heard from Mayor DeStefano and other top officials from Middletown, a city in neighboring Orange County, during a forum in which they discussed the Village's redevelopment.

According to the report:

"Monticello’s government structure includes a full-time village manager, who runs the day to day business and follows policy as set forth by the village board.

"Middletown has no city manager or administrator and when Mayor Joseph DeStefano was asked what he suggests Monticello do, he told attendees to get rid of the village manager form of government.

“'You need a strong mayor form of government,'” DeStefano said. 'The best thing that we ever did was we staggered our terms – the mayor and council president are four years; council members are two years. That puts a lot of pressure on them to either buy into your plan or to develop their own plan, and then I have to buy into their plan. I think that made for a good working relationship with the members of the board, that you have the power of the bully pulpit.'”

According to the published account, Monticello Mayor Douglas Solomon called the strong mayor concept "interesting", adding, “You would definitely have to have the right person for the job."

Both Middletown and Monticello have similar problems in attracting retail business to their downtown areas, DeStefano said.

The idea of abolishing the antiquated Village Manager form of government has been repeatedly endorsed on this website. Based on more than eight years of experience on the Board of Trustees and many more years than that as a local political observer and participant on government committees, I have seen how difficult it has been to hold the long series of Village Managers, some of whom have been more professional than others, accountable.

The public should be able to elect the Village's chief executive officer and vote him or her out when they fail to perform.

Sulllivan County Democrat, October 16, 2012

Sullivan County Democrat, April 8, 2011

Monticello manager fired after aborted Concord meeting, 10/16/2012, Sullivan County Democrat, news

Trustee would change government - Rue wants to can Monticello village managers, 3/23/2011 Times Herald-Record, news: "Village of Monticello Trustee Carmen Rue says she needs fewer than 250 voters to force a referendum on her proposal to dump the village manager form of government... But she says it's not them she wants to get rid of, but their $120,000 in salary and perks. 'It is not personal,' she said, noting that other communities, such as the Village of Liberty, are running their governments without paid managers."

Calm discussion would help Monticello, 3/24/2011 Times Herald-Record, editorial: "If the village can do without these expenses [of a Village Manager], it should move in that direction. While it is always hard to separate the personal and the political in Monticello, Rue has a point. Other villages operate with other structures, some of them less costly. If Monticello can get along without paying this money, it should."

Related Posts on This Site:

Time To Disband Monticello's Antiquated "Manager Form Of Government", For The 21st Century, 3/18/2011

The Questions Of Our Need For A Village Manager vs. Dissolving The Village Of Monticello, 3/21/2011


Time To Make The Donuts! New Businesses Coming To Monticello's Jeffersonville Street Gateway

The project described in the following April 9, 2015 account in the Times Herald-Record illustrates the progress taking place on Jefferson Street accompanying planned renovations to the infrastructure there. This project has been in the planning stage with the Village Board of Trustees and Planning Board for several years which I am pleased to see coming to fruition.

UPDATE: This photo, taken June 5, 2016, shows the rapid construction:

Dunkin Donuts, Monticello, NY

Monticello getting new Dunkin' Donuts, boating store

MONTICELLO - A new Dunkin' Donuts franchise will soon replace the former Bean Bag eatery on Jefferson Street after the Town of Thompson land on which it sits was annexed into the village.

The Monticello Board of Trustees on Tuesday voted for the annexation following a joint meeting with the Town of Thompson. It was the last step before the Dunkin' Donuts project - headed by Monticello attorney Robert Gaiman - could move forward with construction.

"I think Dunkin' Donuts is good to go," said Monticello Village Manager David Sager.

Gaiman said during the meeting that the coffee shop will be similar to the one located along Route 42 in the town.
The board also approved the annexation of a parcel of land on Kaufman Road, near Monticello Casino and Raceway, that will be home to a new boating store owned by Rock Hill business owner Ron Resnick. According to village officials, the annexation was necessary for the store to get site plan approval at an April 24 village Planning Board meeting.

The annexation was meant to clean up the boundary lines of the properties since the majority of both were located in the village, according to Town of Thompson Supervisor Bill Rieber. Both parcels already use Monticello sewer and water.

“(The annexation) was meant simply to bring the rest of the parcel into the village as opposed to a case where we bring an entire separate parcel into the village,” Rieber said.

While the parcels were both less than a full acre, Sager says they will expand the village’s tax base. The town will continue to receive property tax revenue from the parcels since the village is part of the Town of Thompson.
Sager says the property assessment for both of the parcels - which he says “were in decay” - will rise after the projects are completed.

He added that the new Dunkin' Donuts and boat shop will make both properties "something the village can be proud of.”

Village Trustee Carmen Rue Carries Message Of Hope For Economic Development: We ARE Rebuilding Monticello!

[If you live in Monticello, I am YOUR Village Trustee, Carmen Rue, running for re-election on the Democratic, Conservative, and Independence Party lines, on the March 15th ballot. (FULL TRANSCRIPTION APPEARS BELOW.) If you live in Monticello, I ask for your vote. I gave the following brief remarks at a fund-raiser held by the Town of Thompson Democratic Committee on March 6, 2016 at Fat Boiz restaurant, Broadway, Monticello. The video starts off a bit rough, but please listen and vote for me. Thank you.]

"Most of you already know me. Yes, I am in the news and on Facebook, but they are not my friends.

"My friends are my constituents! That is the people I represent. I get in touch with them almost every day. I've been going to village meetings since the 1990s.

"I am familiar with the village. I know the financials. Yes, we are very good in all the departments. In water, sewer, and sanitation we used to have nothing, and now for the last two years we have in each department almost a half million dollars. Also, like Bill [James] said, we have $1.2 million in the general fund. So, now we are now really running in the right direction.

"We have a lot of grants that are still pending. Yesterday we got a $15,000 grant from Renaissance to improve some signs and also to help us hire another code enforcer. That way we can fix and be tough on the people on Broadway especially, where the people need a lot of code-enforcement and enforcing very hard on those buildings.

"We passed the law, our board, that the people can rent upstairs two bedrooms. That's a plus for the village. The village would not allow use of the second floor because there was an Artist Loft [Law], but now we changed that law. That gives more opportunity for people to rent upstairs. Also, it gives more opportunity to the owners to get more money to their buildings. They get finances from the rental, they get help so they can keep the buildings up to code. Before, you see, all those buildings were closed upstairs. They couldn't rent for a living area, only a business area. Now it's different. We hope that change will bring more business and that the owners will care more about the buildings on Broadway.

"It's going to change completely. We have a lot of grants. On Jefferson Street, we got a half million dollars like a year ago. Jefferson Street is going to start in the spring. Jefferson Street is going to be beautiful. There's going to be plants. There's going to be benches for people to sit, and for people to walk to work. We see what happened to Pleasant Street a few years ago, like about 2004 or 2003. That was when Jim Barnicle was Mayor. In that time, that was all grant-funded, and it changed completely. It's a different look. So, this is going to happen with Jefferson Street.
"And we're very excited. We all work with the same goals, to serve our community, to lower taxes, not to give lay-offs to our employees. So, what else can I tell you? You can ask me any questions. I think we're all running in the same direction, with the same goal, that we want our village to be number one. And now with the casinos, you're going to see the people working!"


Why Does Jefferson Street Need Fixing? Project's Objectives, Per NYS DOT.

Since 2013, the Village of Monticello Board of Trustees has worked with the NYS Department of Transportation to repair and improve the Jefferson Street corridor, the entry to the Village near the racino. The following paragraphs from documents recently forwarded to the Village by DOT officials described the project.


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