LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
April 4, 2003
Ellenville, New York
To the Editor:
Five business days after the preelection publication in The Press of my criticism of the mayoral candidate who won two days after the election I was called on the phone by a newer village administrator who gave me 2 ½ hours to pay $4,393 back owed water/sewer charges for two quarters or else the village was going to turn off the water for all of my rental properties and call the health department to place 40 of my tenants in local motels at my expense (average $60/day or $2,180/day).
Never having been so viciously threatened before, I tried to find out what the new deal was. Explanations I received: 1. Ellenville desperately needs money 2. A new policy recently went into effect no longer allowing rollover of overdue water/sewer bills into tax bills.
But the only previous Notice given of such was an indecipherable comment on the 4th quarter '02 bills that in no way could have been interpreted as meaning what the caller claimed was the new policy No. 2., above (!). Whoever wrote the printed Notice either is illiterate or was told to write something on the bills different than the threat I received over the phone (!)
I then asked how many other people/businesses were being given this ultimatum, in an effort for me to feel a little better, not being singled out in the crowd, hopefully, in this way. (My mouth went so dry during the harangue I had difficulty speaking), hoping there were others than myself being extorted (to force money or information etc. from a person by intimidation or abuse of authority). The new administrator balked more than a few times to give an answer, even after I pressed for a "ballpark" figure. This points to a very high possibility and probability that I was being singled out.
Not having suffered a stroke or heart failure despite having felt the brunt of such a venomous verbal attack, I asked to speak with a woman administrator who knew my mother and who is brilliant at deflecting what would otherwise be identifiable as a very tense business interaction verging on psychic rape, hoping to garner some degree of ameliorization of the heavy handed demand.
Even she could pull no clout in this instance, confronted with the new administration's overbearing, cold-hearted aggressiveness. But before I called them back in an hour (at their request) to tell them if I came up with the $4,392.71 in full or not (whether they would close down my whole business or not) I checked the actual water/sewer bills and did the arithmetic.
Turned out that abusively haranguing front-man caller, while itemizing correct individual property dollar amounts owed, gave a false total, demanding more than was actually due a $988.93 overcharge, possibly hoping I'd pay it out of fear of his violent intimidation without question. Such is common practice in the unsavory underworld.
With (luckily) my (married) lady friend's efforts and a loan from my shell-shocked family allowed a one-half payment up front within 24 hours that kept the dog at bay and my tenants in housing.
There would have been a much more socially acceptable, civilized, and even genteel way of accomplishing the same effect.
The way was treated should not, however, strike apprehension and fear in other Ellenville residents and businesses that you'll be treated in the same cutthroat cruelness and reprehensibly heinous spitefulness by our newly elected and employed village administrators, because it looks like I was singled out, let's hope.
Paul T. Johnson
Ellenville and NYC