MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Putnam County Legislator Paul Jonke (District 6/Southeast) has filed a $1.5 million breach of contract lawsuit against the town of Carmel, claiming the town offered him the assessor’s job but then later rescinded the offer at a point when it was too late for Jonke to reapply for the town of Kent assessor’s position—the job he held at the time Carmel allegedly make him the offer.
The suit was filed last month in Putnam County Supreme Court by Jonke’s attorney Robert L. Byrne. At its June 25 meeting, the Town Board hired the law firm of Jackson Lewis in White Plains to defend the town in the matter.
Town assessors in the state of New York serve six-year terms and Carmel town assessor Glenn Droese’s term was due to end Sept. 30, 2019. Droese was asked to reapply for the position and told Mahopac News at the time that he was surprised he was asked to submit a resume and interview for the job.
“Typically, you don’t have to submit a resume; you are usually reappointed if you’re doing a good job,” he said.
Besides Droese, the Town Board interviewed three other candidates for the post, including Jonke, who says the town ultimately offered him the position, which resulted in his not seeking reappointment to the Kent job.
Droese actually replaced Jonke as the Carmel assessor, coming from the Somers’ assessor’s office after Jonke resigned in 2011.
The lawsuit, obtained by Mahopac News, lays out the alleged timeline for the case:
On July 24, Jonke is interviewed by three members of the Town Board while Jonke is still the Kent assessor.
On Aug. 14, Jonke meets again with Town Board members to discuss the terms of his employment.
On Aug. 21, the Town Board meets in executive session and agrees to offer Jonke the assessor’s job.
On Aug. 23, Jonke receives an email with an “offering letter” in which the Town Board says it needs his decision on the job offer no later than noon on Aug. 26.
On Aug. 25, Jonke emails his acceptance.
On Aug. 26, Jonke signs the “offering letter” hard copy and mails it to Supervisor Ken Schmitt.
In October 2019, Mahopac News made a Freedom of Information request with Schmitt’s office seeking a copy of the “offering letter” that was allegedly sent to Jonke. Ann Pasquerello, Schmitt’s executive secretary, wrote back, “Although Town representatives engaged in preliminary discussions with Mr. Jonke regarding the town assessor position, a letter tendering him an offer was never presented to him. As such, the requested information does not exist.”
On Sept. 4, the suit alleges, the town emails Jonke advising him the resolution appointing him to the position would appear on the board’s Sept. 18 meeting agenda.
On Sept. 12, Schmitt meets with Jonke to confirm his appointment.
Jonke’s appointment does not appear on the Sept. 18 meeting agenda.
On Sept. 19, Schmitt telephones Jonke to inform him that the Town Board has decided to appoint someone else to the position. (That turned out to be Droese, who was appointed to another six-year term.)
The lawsuit notes that Jonke’s term as Kent assessor expired on Sept. 30. The suit states that because Carmel expressed interest in hiring him, Jonke “took no action to secure continued employment with Kent or… another municipality” and thus lost out on both jobs. Kent began advertising for a new assessor on Aug. 22.
Supervisor Ken Schmitt and Deputy Supervisor Suzi McDonough said they couldn’t comment on pending litigation. Jonke and his attorney also declined to comment.
To our Beloved Community: During this crisis, we can’t continue to operate entirely as we have been doing when we are only earning a fraction of our previous advertising revenue and still have to pay 100 percent of our payroll. Without that payroll, we would be unable to serve the community with the news and important information you have come to expect. If you feel that we’ve made a positive difference in your town, we ask that you send us a contribution to keep your community newspaper alive and strong by pressing on our PayPal button HERE