BY JOEL GROSSBARTH
The Appellate Division has determined that claims brought by a local Spring Valley resident against Mayor Delhomme could rise to the level of justifying the extreme remedy of removing him from office. In the matter of Heyward D. Reed v. Demeza Delhomme, the petitioners asserted several allegations against Mayor Delhomme including religious discrimination, improper personal use of village funds, refusal to follow local laws and resolutions and harassment of village officials.
In response to the resident’s claims, Mayor Delhomme sought dismissal of the case. The Appellate Division rejected Mayor Delhomme’s motion and has appointed retired Supreme Court justice Nicholas Colabella to preside over a hearing and take testimony. Ultimately Judge Colabella will report his finding back to the Appellate Division.
Under Section 36 of the New York Public Officer’s Law, a village “may rid itself of an unfaithful or dishonest public official. Removal from office is a drastic remedy and reserved for malicious and corrupt acts as compared to minor neglect of duties, administrative oversights and violations of the law.” The Appellate Division found that, if true, the petitioners’ allegations rise to the level of justifying removal of the mayor.
It is likely that any further action from the Appellate Division will not occur for at least several months. Removal of office of an elected official is one of the rare cases that originate in the Appellate Division rather than a local county’s Supreme Court. This is designed to prevent local judges from having to decide the fate of other local politicians.
Mayor Delhomme has been no stranger to controversy since taking office. Claims of abuse of power and harassment of village officials have riddled his first term.
Amongst Delhomme’s greatest hits: pronouncing himself “King of the village” during a videotaped board meeting, making threats against his enemies recorded on audio tape, several hours in jail for contempt of court after failing to follow a judge’s order to open a village summer camp and failing to dispatch the village’s snow plows in a timely fashion during a heavy snow storm.