BY JOEL GROSSBARTH
The hearing that will ultimately determine whether Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme will be removed from office has started in Westchester County Supreme Court.
In opening statements before Special Referee John P. Clarke, the attorney for Petitioners Ken Del Vecchio, Esq. laid out a claim of five separate acts of malfeasance that warrant the drastic remedy of removing Mayor Delhomme from office due to public malfeasance.
According to Mr. Del Vecchio, petitioners will show to the court that Mayor Delhomme abused his office by unlawfully purchasing a 2014 motor vehicle without board approval, using the same village owned vehicle to travel to his vacation home in North Carolina on four separate occasions, all while using village owned credit cards and EZ-pass for the travels to North Carolina.
Additionally, it is claimed that Mayor Delhomme engaged in a practices of religious discrimination against the Hasidic community in Spring Valley as retaliation against Trustee Asher Grossman forming an alliance on the Village Board with the Mayor’s opponents, entered into unlawful contracts with vendors of the village and abused his power to fire or suspend village employees and officials including Building Inspector Walter Booker. According to the petitioners, each one of these acts would constitute public malfeasance that would warrant removal from office.
Mayor Delhomme’s attorney Kenneth Brown, Esq. countered that the proceedings were nothing more than political in-fighting between Mayor Delhomme’s rivals, including Trustee Vilair Fonvil. Brown stated that the majority of the Board engaged in costly and petty personal attacks against Mayor Delhomme, all for their own personal, political agendas.
Defense counsel characterized Trustee Fonvil as the true “bad guy” who should be the one who is removed from office. Brown defended the mayor’s actions and said he inherited a mess from the prior mayor Noramie Jasmin, currently imprisoned for taking bribes from developers who were actually FBI agents. According to Brown, Mayor Delhomme ran on a platform of good government and took actions against the Building Inspector after discovering the building department was corrupt.
The hearing is scheduled to proceed through next week with witnesses including current Village Board members, the village clerk and others. Following the testimony and post-hearing submissions Referee Clarke will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the charges and ultimately make a recommendation to the Appellate Division, Second Department on what actions should be taken.
On December 16, 2016, the Appellate Division issued a ruling ordering the hearing on whether to remove Mayor Delhomme from office. The court stated that the allegations of the petition, if true, rise to the level of justifying the extreme remedy of removal from public office pursuant to New York State Public Officers Law § 36.
This in and of itself is significant, as such petitions to the court are often rejected. A final decision from the Appellate Division is not likely for several months, by which time the mayoral election campaign will be well under way.