BY JAMES BERNICK
Attorneys representing Spring Valley Chief Building Inspector Walter Booker and controversial Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme met in court On Tuesday afternoon for a hearing over a request by Booker’s attorney for a temporary restraning order against the Mayor.
“Today was simply a hearing for arguments on whether the court should temporarily order the mayor and the village to comply with the prior order of July 28 in which the village was ordered to restore Mr. Booker to full employment. The problem is that the mayor has been interfering with Mr. Booker’s statutory duties as building inspector,” explained Booker’s lawyer United Federation of Police Union General Counsel John Sarcone.
Sarcone claimed the case is marred by misconduct on the part of Mayor Delhomme: “[Booker] was illegally fired. The mayor said [Booker] didn’t comply with a regulation to be certified [as building inspector]. It was a mistake on the village’s part. We contend that the mayor did it deliberately.
“That said, it is a labor action case and so the motives are irrelevant from the union’s perspective.”
The village’s opposition to the motion must be filed with the court by Monday, and Booker’s attorney’s reply is due on Tuesday. The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for 2:00 pm on Wednesday September 16.
The mayor was represented in court by attorneys from Feerik, Lynch, and MacCartney acting as special counsel to the village. According to Alak Shah, an associate with the firm, “Walter Booker was terminated on April 1, 2015 because the village did not feel he was properly certified. He brought this proceeding against the village several months ago claiming that his termination was unlawful. Apparently he hadn’t met the requisites for the past few years. After this happened he produced documentation that he was in fact certified for last year.
“Judge Koehr vacated the termination on July 28th because he eventually did get proper certification, although the village did not learn about this until August 4. After that, Mr. Booker went back to work on August 5 or 6 and is still working today. They filed an application claiming the mayor is in contempt of court by not following the July 28 decision, however he came back to work the next day.”
Shah further explained that the most prominent element of Tuesday’s motion for a temporary restraining order revolved around Booker’s former office computer: “He didn’t have a computer for the next month after reinstatement. It was seized by the Rockland County District Attorney’s Office for an unrelated criminal investigation. They still have the computer. The mayor doesn’t have it and didn’t take it himself. He only signed a consent form after the Rockland DA asked for it.”
A secondary element of the motion relates to Booker’s ability to do his job as Chief Building Inspector. Said Shah, “They claim that the mayor directs fire inspectors, and Booker thinks he should have that control. They put in their papers today. The judge denied relief. At least for today, the mayor won.”
As a result of the alleged misconduct on the part of the mayor, said Sarcone, “We filed a notice of claim last week against the village for unpaid wages and other costs.”
Sarcone further elaborated on the result of the hearing, “Judge Loehr did not issue the temporary order but did order a short turn around for the mayor and village to file a deposition paper to the motions to hold the mayor in contempt.”
According to Sarcone, although Mayor Delhomme did not show up to court on Tuesday, “He will be subpeonaed to testify. The facts are the facts and he will have to answer for them.”