Manorhaven residents, Popeleski ask for board cooperation for sake of village

Manorhaven residents, Popeleski ask for board cooperation for sake of village
Manorhaven Mayor John Popeleski and Trustee Vincent Costa speak during the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday evening. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

After a public display of disagreement and contention by the Manorhaven Board of Trustees at their May meeting, Mayor John Popeleski and members of the public condemned the actions of the board and asked for cooperation for the sake of the community at the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday night.

During the May 24 Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Khristine Shahipour presented resolutions not on the agenda to fire the village’s clerk, remove the position of complaints investigator and rescind the contract with C&G Inspection Services Inc.

These resolutions blindsided the mayor as a majority of the board passed them all.

“The conniving backstabbing and outside influence need to stop now,” Popeleski said. “We all need to come together now and move forward as a team. Each and every one of us needs to take accountability and correct the mistakes we have made and start over.”

The mayor called the board’s behavior at the May meeting “unprofessional and disruptive,” condemning them for meeting about the matters without his knowledge.

He said that the trustees firing staff members were “inappropriate” and was a display of their unconcern for residents and village staff.

“I’m sad to say over the past few months some of you have behaved in a manner that is unbecoming and destructive to our village,” Popeleski said. “We have failed the confidence and trust the residents placed upon us.”

Multiple residents spoke during the public comment session during the meeting, expressing their dismay with the board and asking for cooperation for the residents’ sake.

Ken Kraft, a former Manorhaven trustee from 2016-2020, said he was concerned about the diminished number of people working for the village after the board’s firing.

“With what’s going on here – I don’t know who’s fighting who or who’s on whose side – I don’t know how we can get anything possibly done,” Kraft said. “Let’s just do the right thing down here because this to me is crazy.”

During the May meeting, the Village Clerk-Treasurer Jacqueline Zimbardi was fired as Shahipour said she had a customer-client relationship with the mayor that was not disclosed prior to her employment and a conflict of interest due to her husband serving on the village’s planning board.

Shahipour also said Zimbardi was overpaid, was asking to be paid overtime to work at village meetings and lacked the credentials necessary for her position.

Zimbardi called her termination by the board retaliation, citing harassment from the village attorney and knowledge of trustee misconduct.

Popeleski piggybacked on this during his speech at Wednesday’s meeting, saying that the board’s “colluded efforts with outside help” were harassment and retaliation.

“The collateral damage you have caused, the countless hours wasted and the risk of shutting down village business operations is the price we all have to pay for your irresponsible actions,” Popeleski said.

Popeleski said that while Zimbardi is his friend, that was not an influencing factor for her employment. He said she was qualified for the position, especially since she had prior experience that contributed to her treasurer responsibilities.

He said the board was aware of their connection before she was hired. He also brought her into executive session where they were able to ask Zimbardi questions.

The mayor said she has decided to not return to the position.

Popeleski said that the board’s termination of the complaints investigator position was not allowed as it is a position protected by the New York State Department of Civil Services. He said if the board wanted to remove her from the position, they would have to set up a hearing through civil services and provide evidence for her termination.

Because no hearing was held, the complaints investigator position remains with Lori Vlahos in the position.

Popeleski said that the resolutions terminating the positions were “unjustified.”

But with a changing board of trustees after its June 20 election, Popeleski said that the board will “straighten itself out.”

Newcomer Jeffrey Stone will be joining the board, taking the seat currently occupied by Vincent Costa. Popeleski said that he and Stone have similar goals in serving the village’s residents.

“I think we’re going to be on the right track again,” Popeleski said.

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