Monticello maelstrom partly hails from Rockland

BY DYLAN SKRILOFF

The Village of Monticello has been the center of political intrigue the past several years and a few Rockland County players have had a role in the drama, including former Spring Valley Mayor Alan Thompson and the lightning rod Nyack law firm of Feerick, Lynch and MacCartney.

The Sullivan County village, best known for its racetrack and casino, has been in the news  due to the dramatic tensions within the board and the behavior of its mayor, Gordon Jenkins. Mayor Jenkins is already on probation and has, in the past two years, been arrested for allegedly driving drunk as well as accidentally accosting a police officer in a separate incident.

He potentially faces several weeks of jail time if convicted. He gained even greater renown, however, for  a recording of a drunken anti-white racial rant he made while handcuffed inside the Monticello police station.

Race also plays into the political tension within Monticello, as Jenkins formed a police commission to exercise power over the local police department. He claimed he wanted to organize policing in a manner that was friendlier to black people, while the police said it was nothing more than a power grab plain and simple.

Jenkins publicly blamed the Monticello Police and police in general for supposedly helping to perpetuate a cycle of prison and poverty common in much of the African-American community, especially among young males. During the commission controversy one of Jenkins’ close allies on the board was convicted of felony coercion for attempting to secure a position in the police department for an unqualified friend.

These actions eventually sparked a counter movement that has seen Jenkins lose control of the Board of Trustees and former Police Chief Doug Solomon become the most influential member of the board. After Solomon’s ticket won, the Board of Trustees immediately abolished the controversial police commission.

During the many legal battles Monticello has incurred over the past few years the mayor and his allies employed the Nyack-based Feerick, Lynch and MacCartney firm to represent the village. The new board promptly fired the Nyack law firm when taking over this year.

The new trustee and former police chief Solomon offered a parting shot in the Times Herald Record, claiming that “The [Feerick, Lynch, MacCartney Law Firm] has bilked the village for hundreds of thousands of dollars on all kinds of frivolous matters,” most specifically the controversial police commission.

In a conversation with the Rockland County Times, Dennis Lynch shot back, “It’s false and inflammatory. The police commission was a commission the village board made to make sure the minority interests were protected — we carried out the board’s wishes. It’s the right of the board to create it, it’s the right of the board to disband it.”

Lynch added a pot shot in kind toward the former Chief Solomon, accusing him of attempting to claim excessive retirement benefits and being bitter at the mayor for challenging him.

Solomon told the Rockland County Times that another matter that set him at odds with the firm was that, according to his account, the firm assisted Mayor Jenkins when his board sought to appoint a crony to an advisory position over the Monticello Police Department, leading to the aforementioned conviction of a Jenkins’ ally on felony coercion charges.

However, as Lynch sees it, the job of a law firm is to work with the majority will of elected officials on the board, and his law firm has never been accused of acting outside the law in the Monticello case.

In late 2013 Jenkins’ lame duck board majority brought former Spring Valley Mayor Al Thompson (and 2013 Spring Valley mayoral runner-up) in to be Monticello’s village manager. Thompson’s contract was for $78,000 annually and the Jenkins’ board had guaranteed the salary for two years even if he was fired.

The new Solomon-led board faction promptly won a court decision vacating Thompson’s appointment and his contract was invalidated. It was found he was not legally hired. The Solomon faction appointed a new town attorney, Mike Davidoff, and a new village manager, Ray Nargizian.

Jenkins was not impressed. He accused Solomon of the same charges of cronyism that Solomon had levied at him. “Good old boys, my friend gets a job. When do you stop that?”

To the naked eye, it would appear there is a connection between Jenkins’ short-lived appointment of Thompson and the fact that Dennis Lynch of Feerick Lynch and MacCartney is Jenkins’ board counsel.  The law firm has been deeply involved in Spring Valley politics recently, representing a faction opposed to Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme, Alan Thompson’s victorious 2013 rival.

While, Solomon was successful in having Jenkins’ appointment of Al Thompson thrown out in court, back in Rockland County Feerick, Lynch and MacCartney found themselves on the opposite side of legal fortune, as they were successful in defeating Delhomme’s illegal effort to unseat Trustee Vilair Fonvil.