Judge frees NY mayor jailed in kids camp dispute
NEW CITY, N.Y. (AP) — After spending four days behind bars as the result of a feud over a children’s day camp, a suburban mayor walked out of jail Tuesday with stubble on his chin and re-election on his mind.
Spring Valley Mayor Demeza Delhomme, who has been in office eight months, said: “I was elected by the people. I was going to do four years. I’m going to do 12.”
The mayor was jailed for contempt on Friday when state Supreme Court Justice Gerald Loehr found he had not complied with an order to open a village civic center for use by a day camp.
Delhomme had suspended the village’s long-time youth director, who usually runs the camp, citing disciplinary issues the mayor would not identify. The village attorney then said there was no other employee certified to operate the camp. The mayor also said renovations at the civic center were ongoing.
But a three-trustee majority overruled Delhomme, rehired the director and took the mayor to court to get the day camp opened.
He appeared Tuesday in Rockland County Court in a rumpled suit, his hands cuffed in front of him, and told the judge through his lawyer that he had turned over the keys. He also agreed to several conditions: He will repair surveillance cameras at the civic center, authorize payment for the youth director and for supplies and stay away from the camp himself.
“The families are concerned the mayor will do something to disrupt the camp,” said Dennis Lynch, an attorney for the trustees. The judge then warned Delhomme, “We don’t want this to flare up again.”
About two hours after he left the jail, the mayor was just three doors down from the civic center, getting a haircut at a rundown barbershop on Spring Valley’s Main Street. He had changed into another suit.
Upon his release from the county jail, he said he agreed with the judge’s finding that the camp must be opened.
“It was a misunderstanding by staff,” he said. “People don’t know what other people were doing. ... I have no grudges against anyone, no hard feelings.”
He would not take questions.
One of his opponents, Trustee Vilair Fonvil, said outside court: “It’s all about the kids. We wanted a day camp for the kids. He opposed it. ... It didn’t have to come to this.”
Village attorney Jerrold Miles expressed hope for detente: “A large part of what we’re seeing play out here is a political struggle and the personalities involved in that struggle. ... I am hopeful that this was the culmination of that and at this point we will begin to see a bit of a settling and an understanding.”
Lynch said the camp would open Wednesday.
Delhomme and the trustees are Democrats. He was elected last year to replace Mayor Noramie Jasmin, who was arrested with five other politicians on federal corruption charges and is awaiting a trial in the fall.
AP Photographer Seth Wenig contributed to this report.