Village pulls trustees’ legal support

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By Kevin Beese

If Broadview trustees’ lawsuits against the current and former mayor are to continue, they will do so without the village covering the trustees’ legal expenses.

Village Board members have voted that the village will not cover the legal expenses in cases the trustees brought against the former mayor. However, the village, as it now stands, will cover the legal expenses of both former Mayor Sherman Jones and current Mayor Katrina Thompson in the cases.

Trustees Tara Brewer, Judy Brown-Marino and John Ealey and former trustee Diane Little have been in legal battles with Jones over his authority to install appointees during his administration. They contend that Jones went around directions of the former Village Board – when Brewer, Brown-Marino, Ealey and Little held the majority – to give money to his friends and political backers.

Jones said their action was vindictive.

“They went and approved a budget where two department heads had their salaries cut by 33 percent,” Jones said after a special meeting last week to address the legal fees. “I told them that it was illegal to do that during (the department heads’ term of office).

“But they went and reduced the salaries of two minority department heads (Public Works Director Matt Ames and Building Department Commissioner David Upshaw) from $90,000 to $60,000. They didn’t touch the salaries of any of the white department heads.”

Jones reinstated the salaries of the department heads despite the trustees’ adjustment to the fiscal year 2016-17 budget, which the trustee bloc said he had not authority to do.

The trustees’ lawsuit also contends that Jones appointed Lenore Sanchez as village collector/deputy village clerk without Village Board approval and without Sanchez being a resident of the village, a requirement for the deputy clerk position.

The former mayor noted that the village cut ties with Ancel Glink, the law firm providing legal counsel for the trustees, in May and said the firm should no longer be getting village funds.

Brown-Marino, after the meeting, said she was disappointed in the decision and that the village’s law firm, Del Galdo Law, did not advise Jones and Thompson to refrain from voting on the issue because of having a financial interest in the outcome. She said she and the other trustees suing Jones and Thompson would not gain financially from the lawsuit, that the money earned from the current and former mayors would go back into village coffers.

“I am very disappointed in (Del Galdo attorney James) Vasselli,” Brown-Marino said.  “I do not believe he understands the law regarding conflict of interest.”

Vasselli said that punitive damages could be as much as $100,000 in the case. The trustees and Little contend that Jones and Thompson should pay the village the difference between the two department heads’ salaries approved by the Village Board and the salaries given by Sherman.

Although in office only since May, Mayor Thompson has been added to the lawsuits because the trustee bloc contends she has continued to go along with the higher salaries for the department heads despite their being no action from the Village Board to reinstate the department heads’ salaries.

Voting in favor of the village no longer funding the legal fees for the trustees’ cases against the former and current mayor were Trustees Judy Abraham, Verina Horne and Sherman Jones, and Mayor Thompson.

Voting against the measure were Trustees Brewer, Brown-Marino and Ealey.

Jones said that he intends to drop his counter-case against the trustees and Little, and feels that they should do the same for the good of the village.

Brown-Marino said just as the mayor and former mayor contend of their actions, the trustees and Little were acting in their role as village officials and feel their legal expenses should be covered.

“We are doing this for the village,” Brown-Marino said, noting that the trustees have no intention of backing down from their lawsuits just because the village won’t pay their legal expenses. “There is no chance this is going to go away. They exceeded their authority. We are not doing this for our benefit. None of us are going to benefit from this.”

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