Monticello DPW acting superintendent resigns after public pressure

Mayor remains

By ELIZABETH LEPRO
Posted 6/5/20

MONTICELLO, NY — Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers announced the resignation of former Department of Public Works (DPW) acting Superintendent Raymond Jones to a crowd of protestors Thursday. 

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Monticello DPW acting superintendent resigns after public pressure

Mayor remains

Posted

MONTICELLO, NY — Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers announced the resignation of former Department of Public Works (DPW) acting Superintendent Raymond Jones to a crowd of protestors Thursday. 

A video began making the rounds at the end of May featuring then DPW Superintendent Jones calling employee Stefon McGinnis the “n” word twice. In response to criticism that the village had been sweeping the issue under the rug, Mayor Gary Sommers said that McGinnis is a member of the union that represents DPW employees and requires complying with a “grievance process” of up to 30 days. 

Ahead of a Village of Monticello public board meeting via Zoom Wednesday, a release from the clerk’s office said that comments submitted to the board ahead of the meeting—many of which were expected to be about Jones—would be read aloud. Instead, the board ended the meeting without reading any of the written comments, promising to include them in the minutes. Village Clerk Janine Gandy-Mckinney said the board will release the minutes on Wednesday, June 17. No public meeting minutes have been posted on the village’s website since February.

After their comments were not read, 21-year-old Cristal Staten and others organized a protest the next day outside of the Mayor’s office. 

“It was a slap in the face for us to speak out and then for them to be able to silence us all,” said Staten, who virtually attended the public meeting the night before. “They were going to keep dragging this out for as long as possible.” 

More than 100 people showed up the next day at the County Courthouse before marching to the Monticello Village Hall, where Mayor Sommers came outside to address the crowd. Holding a written statement, he announced Jones’ resignation to the group, which included McGinnis’s wife. The Mayor’s Office has not released a written statement on the resignation. This is what he read to the crowd: 

“Having allowed for the due process that I requested, I’m able to announce that the former acting superintendent is resigning.” At this point, frustration erupted from those gathered, asking why Jones was allowed to resign rather than being fired. After organizers quieted the crowd, the mayor continued: “[Jones] will be leaving the village employment. At this time, I really can’t release any further information because it’s still an ongoing personnel matter.”

“We’re still frustrated. We’re all very unhappy with this resignation,” Staten said. “ It should not have been allowed to continue on for this long.” She added that protests nationwide have been a catalyst for action in Monticello.

“I do not think that we would have protested had this instance occurred before this time,” she said. “Maybe he would have only received emails, but I do not think the entire community would have rallied together physically… Protests do work. They speak volumes.” 

Stefon McGinnis said he has been advised to remain silent on the issue for now but plans to speak out in the future. In a public Facebook post on Wednesday, he said, “God's work is needed from everyone. Im tired! I need everyone to pick me up I took the steps for change In my community and I’m weak mentally and physically but I’m here to keep fighting for a reason.”  

Sommers and Jones were not available for comment on Friday, though the Mayor did release a statement Thursday in regards to rumors that he too was resigning: 

“I did not resign from my position as Mayor of the Village of Monticello and have no intention of leaving my position now or any time soon. I look forward to serving my community daily and for the next four years.” 

For many, Jones’ resignation is not enough. 

“It’s just unacceptable for nothing to be done by these officials here in Monticello. We don’t know what is being done to prevent this situation,” Staten said. “The main step now is voting him out.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Monticello DPW employees are represented by the Laborers' International Union.

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