Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Town Supervisor, your statements seem to be a little disingenuous…

We have been taking a little rest from blogging during the busy Christmas season, but we just had to blog about the Observer Dispatch article regarding tonight’s Public Hearing to adopt a local law giving Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman a pay raise for 2014.

According to the article Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski said:
That position hasn’t realized a raise in I can’t tell you how long,” said town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski. “We thought it was time that we just made up the difference.”
Oh, come on Supervisor Tyksinski, if you really felt that way why didn’t you just give Rick Sherman the raise during the normal budget process? Clearly, Mr. Sherman included a request for a pay raise in his 2014 Budget Worksheets.

As we are sure you know Supervisor Tyksinski, Mr. Sherman became the Highway Superintendent in October 2008 after Roger Cleveland retired. At that time, the town board set his salary at $60,000.

Since 2008 other elected officials (Town Clerk, Tax Collector, and Judges) have each received 3% pay raises every year except 2010 and 2011. Yet, Rick Sherman’s salary is still $60,000 according to the 2014 Adopted Town Budget.

However, shortly after the elected officials’ salaries were posted in the legal notice for the 2014 Preliminary Budget, you now claim that it is time to make up the difference to Mr. Sherman?  That means that by town law, the only way Mr. Sherman can receive a raise for 2014 is adoption of a local law which incidentally only gives him the raise for 2014 unless you also include it in the 2015 budget.   

Please, Supervisor Tyksinski, cut the b/s!    You know very well that Mr. Sherman has never received a pay raise since he became Highway Superintendent even when other elected officials did and you had the opportunity to include Mr. Sherman’s pay increase as part of the normal budget process along with the raises you included for other officials, but you didn’t.

Perhaps you wouldn't mind telling the taxpayers in New Hartford the real reason you neglected to give Mr. Sherman a raise in the 2014 Tentative budget also known as the Supervisor's budget?  Just what happened between the adoption of the Preliminary Budget and the 2014 Adopted Budget other than your re-election?

Incidentally, while we are taking a little down time right now, we are still attending and videotaping town meetings. You can watch the videos on our YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Still Waiting...Thirty-four (34) Business Days and counting....

No deposit ticket, no certification as to whether the letter on plain paper and the deposit ticket received on September 25th were true town documents...absolutely no proof of 2013 town property taxes being billed and paid on The Hampton Inn has been provided in answer to our September 12, 2013 FOIL request...

Monday, October 28, 2013

2014 Town budget discussions...

took place at the Wednesday, October 23, 2013 town board meeting.



A public hearing has been scheduled for November 6 2013.

According to a note from the Town Clerk this morning, she has yet to receive the Preliminary Budget. We will publish the 2014 Preliminary Budget as soon as it becomes available.

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Hartford Public Library...from the magazine racks!



Visit us on YouTube!

Any day now...

That’s when we can expect to receive the deposit ticket, and proof of deposit of the $7,115.08 property tax payment reportedly made by The Hampton Inn which was FOILed by Ms. Lawrence on September 12, 2013. No further documentation has been received and the town supervisor has failed to certify that the tax bill and receipt already given to Ms. Lawrence are true town documents.

Mr. Wiatr also followed up by requesting to review the documents during regular business hours in town offices. Mr. Wiatr spoke during the public portion of Wednesday’s town board meeting.

According to Town Attorney Cully at Wednesday’s town board meeting, he only works part-time and therefore has not had enough time to check the documents to see if anything needs to be redacted such as account numbers.

Redact account numbers? Now THAT is funny! My how things have changed over the four (4) years Tyksinski has been in office…

In 2011, we FOILed all the documents regarding the Fees In Lieu of Mitigation paid by Mr. Adler for the Hampton Inn. In response, we received the town's bank deposit ticket, a copy of Mr. Adler’s check, and numerous other documents, nothing was redacted.

Last night, Town Attorney Cully said that the tax payment was actually received electronically. Really? Why would the town supervisor’s secretary write out a receipt for an electronic transfer of funds?

How did Mr. Adler get the town’s bank account number and other pieces of information needed so he could tell his bank where to deposit the funds he wanted to electronically transfer to the town? Is it customary for the town to give out their bank account number to Adler, while at the same time telling town residents the number must be redacted? Just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe we just don’t understand electronic deposits into the town’s bank account.

Oh, by the way, we have received many receipts from the Town of New Hartford. The town uses a two part receipt. The top part that is given to the “customer” is white and the bottom part that stays in the town’s receipt book as a town record is yellow.

Did you ever try to photocopy yellow paper? The copy that is produced will be shaded a dingy grey color.

Look at the receipt we were provided…it is not shaded at all. Obviously, it is a copy of the top part of the receipt that is on white paper. Why make out a receipt if the top copy wasn’t even to be given to Mr. Adler? Was this receipt for our benefit…to make us believe that the payment was made?

The town attorney has done almost all of the talking regarding this FOIL request. Why would that be? The town clerk is the records access officer…this is a routine FOIL request, isn’t it?

Why would the town attorney and town supervisor carry things to this extreme when all they have to do is step back from the situation and let the town clerk do her job to produce records that according to Tyksinski should be readily available? The answer appears to be more and more obvious as each day goes by.

Here is the conversation between Mr. Wiatr, Attorney Cully and Supervisor Tyksinski at last night’s town board meeting:



Also discussed at Wednesday's town board meeting was the 2014 Tentative Budget.

Kudos to Councilman Richard Woodland!


Councilman Woodland discovered almost $200,000 of revenue that was not reported in the 2014 budget proposed by Supervisor Tyksinski.

Tyksinski's proposed tentative budget, according to his figures, included a 6% decrease. We have to say; however, that we were not able to come up with that percentage when using the numbers from the 2013 budget compared to Tyksinski's 2014 budget. We actually figured Tyksinski's proposed savings to be more like 4.75%. Maybe we used different numbers than he did.

At any rate, with Woodland's additional revenue find, plus revenue added in the budget by the other councilmen, it should reduce 2014 town property taxes by up to 10% over the 2013 town budget.

Of course, nothing is final until the 2014 budget is adopted by the town board after the November 6th public hearing.

We will be posting the video from the budget discussions that took place last evening shortly.

Just a reminder...Woodland will be running against Tyksinski for the town supervisor seat in the November 5th election.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Checkmate...?

Checkmate… an act or instance in chess of maneuvering the opponent's king into a check from which it cannot escape...

It’s been eleven (11) business days since Ms. Lawrence asked that Supervisor Tyksinski certify that the letter asking for payment of 2013 property taxes sent to LT Group, LLC, owners of The Hampton Inn, and the receipt dated September 4, 2013 were true records of the Town of New Hartford.

An email from the town clerk's office stated that the certification would be provided by October 16, 2013...tomorrow. Is it really that complicated to sign a piece of paper?

Ms. Lawrence also asked for documentation that would prove that the $7,115.08 was deposited into a town account; that documentation should be readily available, but it does not appear to be forthcoming.

The Freedom of Information Law is very clear…a person can ask that the documents received be certified as to their validity. The town’s record access officer [in this case, the town clerk] is charged with seeing to it that town personnel provide the certification when requested.

To date, Ms. Lawrence has not received anything from the town and the documents are long overdue according to rules and regulations of the Committee on Open Government. How long does it take to acknowledge that FOILed documents weren't manufactured?

Did The Hampton Inn pay 2013 property taxes or was Supervisor Tyksinski’s remarks to Councilman Backman a ruse to give the impression that everything was in order? We will keep you updated as the situation progresses.

Hopefully, Supervisor Tyksinski will either own up to giving misinformation to Councilman Backman and Ms. Lawrence or provide proof that important town documents provided in answer to a FOIL request can be relied on without exception. The choice is his!

As an aside, the Committee on Open Government has highlighted a recent court case:
"New York County Supreme Court handed down a judgment on June 11th awarding the Exoneration Initiative, a non-profit organization, $49,276.94 in attorney fees payable by the New York City Police Department after the NYPD “repeatedly missed deadlines imposed by [the Freedom of Information Law] for responding to petitioner’s requests” The Exoneration Initiative v. N.Y.C. Police Dep’t., N.Y. Cnty., (June 2013)"
According to the write-up found on the Committee on Open Government website:
"The court rejected both arguments of the NYPD, that the delay in responses was due to the large volume of FOIL requests that it receives, and that responding to these requests would “divert resources from its core mission.”

The NYPD has stated that it will appeal both the initial holding and the award of attorney fees.
Very interesting...the NYPD tried to use the same excuse often used by Town Attorney Cully, but the court disagreed awarding almost $50,000 in attorney fees to the non-profit organization! We'll be sure to keep our eyes on this case!

Below is the September 11, 2013 meeting where Councilman Backman asks Supervisor Tyksinski if a tax bill has been sent for The Hampton Inn and the bill has been paid. As you watch the video, please keep in mind that school personnel advised us in September 2013 that there is no escrow account to hold tax payments made by The Hampton Inn and in April 2013 county personnel advised us that they had not billed The Hampton for 2013 county taxes:



Stay tuned...

Friday, October 4, 2013

"...attempt to marginalize Ms. Lawrence..."

That's what Strike wrote as a comment on our last blog, "Town Attorney obfuscates in response to Town Resident’s FOIL Request and Appeal…"

We couldn't have said it better ourselves, Strike! It is a sad day in New Hartford when a town resident is not even given a chance to defend their FOIL appeal in front of the town board, the designated FOIL Appeals body, and they are merely referred to as "a town resident" by the town attorney. Must be getting "hot in the kitchen" with Election Day right around the corner!


Yesterday afternoon, Ms. Lawrence received an email from Supervisor Tyksinski with a letter from Town Attorney Cully as an attachment. Supervisor Tyksinski also copied Robert Freeman.

According to Attorney Cully's letter he seemed to believe that Ms. Lawrence was merely objecting to the fact that the 2013 Hampton Inn property tax bill supplied by the town supervisor in response to Ms. Lawrence's FOIL was written on plain paper not letterhead, was not dated and the deposit ticket [Attorney Cully's description of what was received...actually, it was merely a receipt from the town supervisor's secretary] had no account listed as to where the money was to be deposited.

Here's a copy of Attorney Cully's letter to Ms. Lawrence...


To view a larger print pdf of the letter, click here!


Then, there's Ms. Lawrence's response to Attorney Cully...


To view a larger print pdf of the letter, click here!


Bottom line...Ms. Lawrence couldn't give a crap if the letter to LT Group, LLC is written on toilet paper! All she is asking is for Supervisor Tyksinski to certify that the records provided thus far are true records of the Town of New Hartford, a right she has under the Freedom of Information Law. She is further asking for the proof of deposit as was requested in her September 12, 2013 FOIL request...a receipt signed by the supervisor's secretary doesn't cut the mustard!

There...is that so difficult? Apparently it must be...just checked our email and we did not receive anything from the town today!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Town Attorney obfuscates in response to Town Resident’s FOIL Request and Appeal…

When questioned by Councilman Backman at the September 11, 2013 town board meeting, Supervisor Tyksinski said he had billed the owners of the Hampton Inn for 2013 town property taxes and in return payment was received from the owners.

One day later, on September 12, 2013, we filed a Freedom of Information request for what, by all accounts, should have been readily available documents.

It was a simple FOIL request…
I would like to FOIL copies ALL tax bills or letters asking for PILOT tax payments that were sent to the owners of the Hampton Inn.

I also would like to FOIL verification that the tax bills have been paid either by a copy of the cancelled check or a deposit slip or any and ALL documents that exist that would verify that the taxes have been paid and deposited.

Please send these documents to me electronically.

If no such documents exist, please provide me with a certification to that effect.
The town clerk’s office said the FOILed documents should be available by September 27, 2013. Twelve days is somewhat unreasonable given that these documents should be readily available; however, we waited patiently.

September 27th and still no answer to our FOIL request. Rather than wait until the next board meeting which isn't until October 23rd, we decided to submit a FOIL Appeal to the town board for their decision at last night's town board meeting as to whether or not to release the documents.

A few hours before the town board meeting, we received an email from the town clerk with a memo from Supervisor Tyksinski and attachments in response to our original FOIL request.

The attached documents did include a letter requesting the payment of town taxes for 2013; however, we noticed that it was written on a plain sheet of paper…not on the town supervisor's letterhead…and the letter was not dated.

Accompanying the letter was a receipt signed by Carol E. Ryan, Supervisor Tyksinski’s secretary; however, she apparently uses the title of account clerk according to the signed receipt. Also, the place on the receipt where one would detail the town account that the money would be deposited in was left blank.

Ms. Lawrence promptly replied to Melody in the town clerk's office with an email, copied to all town board members, asking the town supervisor to certify that the documents were true records of the town. According to opinions of Robert Freeman from the Committee on Open Government:
Pursuant to §1401.2(b)(5) and to implement §89(3) concerning an agency's duty to provide certification, the records access officer has the duty of ensuring that Town personnel certify that copies of records are true copies.
Ms. Lawrence also stated in her email that not all the documents requested in her FOIL were provided. Ms. Lawrence asked for proof that the money had been paid and deposited in a town account. As a CPA, Supervisor Tyksinski should know that a receipt is meaningless and certainly is not proof that money has been deposited in the proper town account or even received for that matter.

Apparently, Ms. Lawrence’s email hit a nerve on the 2nd floor of Butler Hall that resonated all the way downtown, because the town attorney came to last night's town board meeting prepared to expound on Ms. Lawrence's FOIL appeal using more bull excrement.

When it came time to discuss the FOIL Appeal, the town attorney took over the meeting. Actually, it is odd that the town attorney felt the need to control the discussion since it was such a simple FOIL request that should have been dealt with by the town board since they actually have the final decision regarding FOIL appeals; not the town attorney. The "town resident" wasn't even given a chance to speak as is customarily done with FOIL appeals. Sadly, not one person on the town board felt compelled to ask questions or speak up on behalf of "the resident", as Attorney Cully kept referring to Ms. Lawrence. The town board just sat and listened to the town attorney babble on.

At one point Attorney Cully stated that he did not feel that there was an appeal because the records had not been denied; we beg to differ. The records that were provided, only after the receipt of a FOIL appeal, did not answer the FOIL request; there was no indication that additional records would be forthcoming and the time to respond was unreasonable given the availability of the records.

Attorney Cully ended his diatribe by saying he would write to Robert Freeman and “the resident” regarding the appeal so we should be receiving something from the town attorney by October 11, 2013 if he plans to comply with the FOI Law. Our FOIL appeal was filed with the town clerk's office on September 27, 2013 and a written reply has to be received within ten (10) business days of the appeal being filed.

Fact is...Supervisor Tyksinski was videotaped at the September 11, 2013 town board meeting; he clearly stated the documents exist in answer to Councilman Backman’s questions. The town supervisor, without interference from the town attorney, could have just provided the correct documents along with certification that they were true documents and life would have gone on. But he and the town attorney decided to do otherwise.

If anything, after Attorney Cully’s diatribe, we have to question if the documents that Supervisor Tyksinski supposedly said he had when questioned at the September 11, 2013 town board meeting really exist. Have the 2013 town taxes on the Hampton Inn really been paid? Why would the town attorney get involved with a simple request for documents that, according to Supervisor Tyksinski, are clearly available?

What was really bothering Attorney Cully and Supervisor Tyksinski...the FOIL appeal that Cully claims isn't really an appeal or the fact that we used our rights under the Freedom of Information Law to obtain records that may or may not be available and then further asked for certification as to whether or not the documents provided were true documents of the town?

Here is Town Attorney Herb Cully reacting to the FOIL request/FOIL appeal of the nameless “town resident”:


Friday, September 27, 2013

New Hartford Public Library...

We just returned from a NHPL Personnel Committee meeting held in Butler Hall...a meeting that was a pleasure to sit in on.

Normally, we return from NHPL board meetings with a headache, but this meeting was different.

The purpose of the meeting was to try to reach consensus on the benefits to include in the package to be offered to the person that was selected for the Library Director position. The committee will present their findings for approval by the full board at their next meeting on October 16, 2013.

The meeting was conducted by Ed Flemma who came prepared with equipment to project images of the Personnel Policy on a screen for all to review. Each member was given an opportunity to speak without interruption. There were some differences of opinion, but the committee talked it out amongst themselves without any discourse or anyone being treated like an outcast. Basically, this meeting was run the way a board meeting should be run. It was a very productive meeting and within an hour they were able to get a consensus on what they will propose be adopted by the full board.

Now if only the next time the full board meets, they could all leave their personal feelings outside the boardroom, treat each other with respect and listen to all members opinions without snide comments, this library might have a chance to turn things around.

We look forward to the day that every board meeting is run like today's meeting. Kudos to Ed Flemma for his leadership.

The members of the Personnel Committee who were in attendance included Mary DuRoss, Rich Evans and Ed Flemma.

Because the library is in negotiations with the next library director, we will refrain from posting the video of the meeting.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Hartford Public Library and their Childish Games of…

SMOKE & MIRRORS

On April 22, 2013, Connie Stephens resigned from the New Hartford Public Library.

Shortly thereafter on June 13, 2013, Earl Cunningham resigned from the New Hartford Public Library.

In both instances, the trustees cited their inability to work with Trustee Wiatr.   Somehow, their unusually descriptive resignation letters were received by the Observer Dispatch and they became the subject of news articles.

Connie Stephens resignation       Earl Cunningham’s resignation

At the beginning of last evening’s New Hartford Public Library Trustee meeting, Board President Linda Romano Petralia suggested that perhaps the board should consider honoring Earl Cunningham by bringing him back as Trustee Emeritus.

Shortly thereafter, Mary DuRoss suggested that the same designation be extended to Connie Stephens. This would allow them to sit at the table with the current Board of Trustees and participate in discussions, but they would have no vote. The question was raised by one of the board members if that would mean they should be allowed to sit in on executive sessions. Attorney Romano Petralia wasn't sure, but she said she would do some checking.

Usually emeritus is an honor bestowed on a retiree. These are not retiring members of the board...they quit the board, but not before making it appear that Mr. Wiatr was the root of all evil. Not very professional letters of resignation on their part.

We found several articles regarding emeritus status. One such article says:
Trustees emeriti (who should not have voting privileges) should limit their participation at board meetings to the governing board’s official “annual” meeting. When they do attend board meetings, trustees emeriti should be appropriately deferential to current board members and board leadership;

Board by-laws should reflect specific criteria for selection as a trustee emeritus, honorary, or life board member as well as responsibilities and expectations;
We checked...the library by-laws do not include emeritus status criteria and the library has no official policy on the subject. How many will be named? Can they attend executive sessions? Just what criteria should be used to name someone emeritus?

It is indeed ironic that Attorney Linda Romano Petralia would think that the two resigning board members would even want to sit on the same board as Mr. Wiatr because as Ms.Stephens wrote in her resignation letter..."I am unwilling, if not unable, to continue to tolerate Mr. Wiatr's treatment of me and other Trustees".

Mr. Cunningham stated in his letter, "Although my action is partially based on family (wife) health needs, I would be remiss in not addressing another significant factor; that is, the existence of Trustee Edmund Wiatr on the Library Board."

There are currently eleven (11) members of the board of trustees, more than enough to discuss library business. Now all of a sudden they want to expand the board to thirteen (13) if you include the two (2) proposed emeriti who supposedly will not be allowed to vote. Yet, during the re-chartering vote, they thought it best to limit the board to seven (7) members.

When it comes to this board you have to ask, what is the real reason for the sudden decision to bring back board members who left mid-term due to their alleged inability to work with one particular board member who still happens to be on the board?

Perhaps in their minds, publicly maligning Mr. Wiatr seemed to be their only hope of getting him off the library board and now "resignation regret" is starting to set in or perhaps they are merely preparing for some other farce yet to be unveiled.

Undoubtedly, where there’s smoke, there’s fire!


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Town Attorney loses his cool over an audience member mention of bull excrement…

…Town Supervisor Tyksinski joins in the fray!

Under the Town Attorney's item on the Wednesday, September 11th town board meeting agenda, was FOILS.

We note that the topic of FOILs didn’t appear on the agenda that was released prior to the board meeting...apparently it was added sometime the afternoon of the meeting.

Maybe it was after Mr. Wiatr appeared before the Oneida County Board of Legislators earlier in the day and spoke out about the $500,000 photo opt that appeared in the Observer Dispatch a day before Primary Day and several other items of town business.

At any rate, Mr. Wiatr also visited the Assessor's Office the same day to once again ask to inspect two records. We had been trying to inspect these two records for over a week, but we have continually been met with dilatory tactics. Real Property Tax Law requires that these records be on file in the Assessor’s Office.

Anyway, in what appears to be an attempt to once again thwart our efforts to view the records, Attorney Cully felt he needed to make the town board aware of complaints by two town employees. We would guess the complaints came from the two employees who work in the Assessor's Office.

During Attorney Cully’s FOIL diatribe, Mr. Wiatr said BULLSH*T to the person sitting next to him...not out loud, in fact it is barely audible on the videotape and the camera was right next to Mr. Wiatr, but apparently the attorney heard it anyway.

Suddenly Attorney Cully jumped out of his chair to challenge Mr. Wiatr and the shouting match began between the audience member, Attorney Cully and Supervisor Tyksinski. Not very professional, Attorney Cully!

Toward the end of the fracas, Councilman Backman asked the Town Attorney if the town was in compliance with the FOI Law. The town attorney answered, “We are complying with the FOI Law..yes!"

We beg to differ, Attorney Cully.

We refer you to the Committee On Open Government Regulation 1401.4
1401.4 Hours for public inspection.

(a) Each agency shall accept requests for public access to records and produce records during all hours they are regularly open for business.
We never mentioned to the Assessor that we wanted copies; obviously we have been around long enough to know that would be done in an email through the Town Clerk's Office.

Perhaps when you are on the "hot seat" to produce records you don't have, details tend to get skewed. The request was to INSPECT what should have been readily available records. There were no demands made; and at no time was there shouting. We made several visits over the course of a week to inspect these records; twice being told that the person who knew where they were was unavailable.

Finally, on Friday, September 6th, a time was agreed upon when the records would be made available; the assessor was supposed to call back on Monday, September 9th to confirm that the records could be viewed...we received no such phone call.

You may not like it Attorney Cully, Supervisor Tyksinski may not like it and town employees may not like it… however, ALL person(s) have the right to inspect town records during normal business hours. That's a fact! Mr. Freeman has several opinion letters on the right to inspect records during normal business hours.

Furthermore, since February 2012, the town is required to make any records to be discussed that are accessible under FOIL available PRIOR TO a town meeting either on the town website or at the meeting. The town is currently not in compliance with that section of the law either. Documents are frequently not available until several weeks AFTER the board meeting and then only after they are FOILed.

Attorney Cully stated that he would contact Mr. Freeman to see what can be done about the FOILS. Please by all means do, Attorney Cully, but be sure you get the facts straight before you speak to Mr. Freeman. It has been our experience that how you ask a question determines the answer you get!

Here it is...


Friday, September 6, 2013

Don't forget to vote...Tuesday, September 10th...



To watch on YouTube, Click Here!



Where Do I Vote?

New Hartford voters...Click here to locate the polling place for your particular address!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Republican Primary Day - Sept. 10, 2013...

The choice is clear...



To watch the video in full screen mode, visit YouTube and click on the full screen icon at the bottom of the video!

To view as a pdf file only, click here!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

“PILOT Allocation Agreement…what is the status Pat?”

That’s the question Councilman Backman asked Supervisor Tyksinski at the August 14, 2013 town board meeting.

However, before Supervisor Tyksinski could utter even one word, Town Attorney Herb Cully butted in to answer the question for him.

We’ve been around politics long enough to know that when a town attorney interrupts an elected official in order to answer the question that was posed to the elected official, it is usually because the attorney feels that a well-crafted answer needs to be given lest someone find out what the “real” answer is!

In July 2013, Supervisor Tyskinski converted almost $3 million of Bond Anticipation Notes to serial bonds; twice the amount of money he claims to have in the “rainy day” fund. About $600,000 of that borrowing was to pay for the right in, right out to the business park from 840 and the Clinton Street Extension that was supposed to be financed by an Allocation Agreement between LT Group, LLC [Adler], the school, the county and the town.

Remember the vote in March 2009, when Earle Reed said the business park wouldn’t cost taxpayers any money?


According to the signed Allocation Agreement to cover the $2.3 million borrowed in 2009 for infrastructure in connection with moving The Hartford to the business park, no further debt was supposed to be incurred by the town to build the additional access roads UNTIL another PILOT Allocation Agreement was signed by ALL parties so that taxpayers would not end up paying to build roads to the business park.

A February 21, 2011 article in the Observer Dispatch, Increased access to New Hartford Business Park on the horizon, quoted Tyksinski as saying:
The construction work for the access will be paid for primarily by the town bonding for it, Tyksinski said. But the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements for the park businesses will cover the costs of paying off the bonding and also likely will result in some surplus money for the town, he said.
According to the article, Councilman Backman was the only town board member to vote “nay” to support the business park.
“I’m not going to ask First Ward residents to put 5 cents more into the business park out of their property taxes,” he said.

Backman believes the business park can be a positive force of development for the town, but at this point, he thinks it needs to succeed on its own, he said.
That same article left readers with the impression that the New Hartford Central School District was not totally on board.
The New Hartford Board of Education referred the issue to the school attorney and its Budget and Finance Committee, and a decision hasn’t been made yet, Superintendent Robert Nole said.
However, absent a signed agreement for repaying the debt, in July 2011, Supervisor Tyksinski decided to borrow $600,000 in Bond Anticipation Notes so that construction could begin on the roads to Mr. Adler’s business park asap. Apparently, Tyksinski didn’t think it was necessary to have a plan for repayment prior to borrowing $600,000. Mr. Tyskinski had a mission…to see to it that Mr. Adler got what he wanted.

In September 2011, a 100% property tax exemption was added to Mr. Adler’s Hampton Inn parcel. The theory behind a PILOT Allocation Agreement is that a letter would be sent from each of the taxing authorities to bill Mr. Adler for the amount of taxes due and that money would then be used to pay back the $600,000 of bonds.

The problem is, to date, there is still no signed Allocation Agreement. Attorney Cully has presented different documents that supposedly were drafts of the agreement, but when we read them, it was quite obvious that the documents were hastily put together probably just before the town board meetings; we'd like to give the attorneys involved more credit than to believe that any of these documents were a result of their hard work!

The PILOT agreement signed between Larry Adler and Oneida County Industrial Development in September 2011 states that the Allocation Agreement has to be signed within 90 days of the close of the transaction or the agreement is null and void. A lease was signed between Oneida County Industrial Development and Mr. Adler on September 20, 2011 and filed in the Oneida County Clerk’s office. Ninety days has long gone by; Attorney Cully tried to say that everyone has agreed to extend the PILOT agreement; you will hear his explanation on the videotape.

Oneida County and the Town of New Hartford have thus far honored the PILOT and have not billed Mr. Adler for property taxes due on The Hampton Inn. Since Mr. Adler currently still has a 100% exemption from town property taxes, infrastructure costs related to the business park are also being borne by taxpayers.

On the other hand, the New Hartford Central School has been billing for taxes due and our information is that Mr. Adler has paid those taxes to the school, but without an Allocation Agreement, the school is not obligated to turn the money over to be used to pay the bond principal and interest.

FOILed copies of New Hartford school attorney invoices indicate that by March 2012, shortly after the rezoning of the business park to allow retail, the school was contemplating whether or not they were willing to give up over $65,000 of property tax income each year.

Since school district property taxes equal the largest piece of the tax pie, without the cooperation of the school district, there would not be enough money to repay the bond debt [principal and interest] without using taxpayer dollars. However, the question is, should the New Hartford Central School District use taxpayer dollars intended for our children’s education to build roads in support of retail development?

The whole deal seems to be surrounded by stalling, half-truths and pure b/s. We stopped counting how many times the town attorney at town board meetings has tried to make it appear that everything is in order. Attorney Cully told Councilman Backman at the August 14, 2013 town board meeting that all the attorneys are on board and an agreement is almost ready to sign.

Tied up in the middle of all this is Attorney Linda Romano Petralia who is the attorney for Oneida County Industrial Development. Ms. Romano is also the President of the New Hartford Public Library Board of Trustees. Perhaps the connection might explain Supervisor Tyksinski’s lack of desire to deal with the library fiasco.

Bottom line… as it stands right now, it looks like it is going to cost us all in the end. (pun intended).


Unless Tyksinski suddenly pulls a rabbit out of the hat, ALL taxpayers will be paying to retire the debt for the $600,000 prematurely borrowed without a signed PILOT Allocation Agreement in place. Even if all taxing jurisdiction are on board, it is probable that there will not be enough money generated from property taxes to cover the bond debt that has to be completely repaid by 2022.

Running for Town Supervisor on the Republican line is current supervisor Pat Tyksinski v. current Ward 1 Councilman Don Backman. This might be a good year for all Republicans, even those who don’t normally vote in the Primary, to get out and vote on September 10, 2013.

Here's the video:


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Assurance – New Hartford Public Library style…


Assurance...
A statement or indication that inspires confidence; a guarantee or pledge.


The New Hartford Public Library held their July meeting at noon in Butler Hall on July 17, 2013.

During the meeting, a discussion on reporting of circulation numbers turned to questions regarding the Annual Report for Public and Association Libraries that is supposed to be sent to Mid York and eventually filed with the State each year.

Trustee Wiatr inquired if the report came before the board prior to being submitted to Mid York and Anne DuRoss answered “no”. Discussion then ensued as to whether it should come before the library board prior to being filed with Mid York.

Board President/Attorney Linda Romano Petralia responded that it will be given to the board at the next meeting, but she felt it was not necessary to show it to the board prior to being filed. According to Attorney Romano, the report is “operational” there is no need for the board to approve the contents of the report prior to the filing.

Several board members agreed with Ms. Romano. We would venture a guess that most library trustees, including Attorney Romano-Petralia, have actually never read the report or know what it contains; yet, like cattle being lead to slaughter, they followed right along with what Ms. Romano said.

Board President/Attorney Linda Romano Petralia did eventually ask Anne DuRoss, who is temporarily filling in for retired Director Hans Plambeck, to check with other libraries to see what they do.

Here is the videotape of the board discussion:



We did a quick check of the internet and found a cached copy of the 2012 report in Google.

Toward the end of the report, on page 20, is the following:

ASSURANCE


12.41 The Library operated under its plan of service in accordance with the provisions of Education Law and the Regulations of the Commissioner, and assures that the "Annual Report" was reviewed and accepted by the Library Board on (date - mm/dd/yyyy). [emphasis added]
According to the filed report, the answer to that question is that board reviewed the report on April 17, 2013.

That is not a true statement. We videotaped the April meeting; the report was never even mentioned at the April 17, 2013 board meeting. Besides, in the video above Anne DuRoss states that the report did not come before the board prior to being sent to Mid York for filing with NYS. Since 2010, the report has never been presented for board approval and we suspect the same is true prior to 2010.

Obviously, the NYS Education Dept. feels that board review is necessary prior to the filing or they wouldn't have asked for assurance. Assurance would imply MUST not MAY, but only if you would like to review it with your board.

On page 2 and 3, the report asks:
1.42 For the fiscal reporting year (questions 1.6 and 1.7) was all or part of the library's budget either subject to a public vote(s) or from a previous appropriation(s) which was approved by public vote(s). Enter Y for Yes, N for No. If yes, please complete one record for each vote held. If no, go to question 1.44.

1. Name of municipality or district holding the vote
2. Indicate the type of municipality or district holding the vote
3. Was this a Chapter 414 (Ed. Law §259.1.b)?
4. Dollar amount
5. Was the vote successful?
6. Date the vote was held (mm/dd/yyyy)
The library report to the State says that there was no vote held during 2012 and marks questions 1-5 as N/A, not applicable.

We seem to remember a vote in August of 2012 asking taxpayers to approve a school district library with a million dollar budget. How could the person(s) completing this report overlook that vote? Did they forget that the vote was defeated by 1,532 to 750?

Ask the majority of the members of this dysfunctional board what Trustee Wiatr has done to them and they will tell you that he asks too many questions. Is that the reasoning for the report not being presented to the board for approval prior to the filing? Time and time again library board actions prove that the questions clearly need to be asked of this library board and it's unfortunate that Trustee Wiatr seems to be the only one asking the questions.

According to the “Statement on the Governance Role of a Trustee or Board Member”, available from the NYS Education Department:
“One of the most important responsibilities of a trustee or board member is to ensure that financial resources are being used efficiently and effectively toward meeting the institution’s goals, in compliance with applicable law and regulation, and that its assets are properly safeguarded. The area of fiscal governance is one in which board members may feel the least qualified and rely entirely on the CEO for guidance.
The NYS Education Dept. publication continues:
Trustees/board members should be cautious about relying completely on the guidance and judgment of the institution’s CEO and management. Members have ultimate responsibility for governance of the institution’s resources and their primary role of protecting the public interest. In monitoring the institution’s budget, board members should ask questions about the assumptions made in preparing the budget. What types of data are used to prepare the budget? How were estimates developed for such expenditures as payroll, supplies and materials, travel and conferences, capital outlays, etc.? Are accounting and/or management processes adequate to ensure accurate and reliable data? What will be accomplished by passing this budget? How will outcomes be measured, evaluated and reported? How will the board hold the CEO accountable for budget outcomes? How are variances from expectations handled?

Trustees/board members should also ask questions about the institutional year end financial statements. Inquire as to what they mean; what is the fiscal condition of the entity? If the auditors’ issued a management letter, request to review the letter.

Similar questions may be raised about other areas, such as the institution’s system of financial controls, processes employed to comply with applicable laws and regulations, accountability with performance results, etc. Board members should be aware of an institution’s internal control system. The existence of adequate systems of internal controls is also critical for the protection and oversight of the institution’s assets. Internal controls are systems to protect the assets of an organization, create reliable financial reporting, promote compliance with laws and regulations, and achieve effective and efficient operations. “
Trustee Wiatr appears to be doing exactly what the NYS Education Dept. expects of ALL trustees. It's puzzling as to why some of the trustees, who constantly profess to have the best interests of the library at heart, don't like Trustee Wiatr for doing exactly what the NYS Education Dept. requires of a trustee or board member.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shhh! New Hartford, NY is a MS4 regulated municipality…

And has been a MS4 since 2003 during the Ralph Humphreys administration.

Public participation is necessary for a successful program, however, judging from the town's conduct each year when the Annual Report is due, it's apparent that the Town of New Hartford is sorely lacking in the public involvement arena. But what else is new? Open government is not a priority in the Tyksinski camp!

WHAT IS A MS4?

MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System and is a State mandated initiative that grew out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (US-EPA) Federal Clean Water Act. Currently, the MS4 program is being administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation [D.E.C.].

As an MS4, the town is required to have a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan designed to address a wide array of stormwater pollution issues and concerns in an effort to protect our local water resources. Stormwater Management is an important part of the program.

To gauge the effectiveness of the Plan, an Annual Report which identifies achievements and evaluates overall success in terms of meeting the Minimum Control Measures must be prepared and submitted to the NYS D.E.C. by June 1st each year.

There are six (6) minimum control measures; one of them being public involvement. To satisfy that measure, a public hearing is supposed to be held with time given to the public for comment. Any public comments are to be incorporated into the report that is submitted to the D.E.C.

Recently we FOILed and received a copy of the adopted May 22, 2013 town board minutes from the Town Clerk’s Office. We were flabbergasted when we read the minutes regarding the 2013 MS4 report.

According to the May 22, 2013 town board minutes, the town has satisfied the public hearing requirement by reporting on the MS4 report at that town board meeting. It takes a lot of chutzpah to make that statement.

Usually a public hearing is announced to the public; how else will anyone who is interested know to attend? We have noticed other towns in the area that have either put a legal notice or sent a press release to the Observer Dispatch letting residents know the time and place of the Annual Report discussion PRIOR to submitting the report to the D.E.C. The Town of New Hartford May 22, 2013 town board meeting agenda made NO mention of a discussion or public hearing on the MS4 report to be held that evening.

According to the May 22, 2013 town board minutes, which was unanimously approved by the town board [Councilman Miscione was absent], Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman gave quite an informative presentation explaining MS4 measures and reporting requirements.

Here are the minutes of the May 22, 2013 town board meeting regarding the MS4 report:

To view the document as a full size pdf, click here!


Who wrote those minutes? Were they at the same meeting that we videotaped?

Compare those minutes to the video we took at the May 22, 2013 town board meeting…



Videos don’t lie. Mr. Sherman’s presentation doesn’t even come close to the adopted town board minutes. Again, who wrote these minutes?

Here’s a copy of the 2013 MS4 report. We used our Adobe software to make the report searchable. Reports for other years are available on the town’s website.

On page 23 the report asks..."Was an Annual Report public meeting held for all MS4s contributing to this report during this reporting period?" Answer…yes

Then the report asks...Were comments received during this reporting period? Answer…No

There were no copies of the MS4 report made available for the public to read prior to or during the meeting. The Freedom of Information Law requires documents that are to be discussed by a public body to be made available on the town website BEFORE the meeting or available at the meeting. The Town Clerk, town attorney and town board are well aware of this requirement.

Mr. Sherman stated that the report would be online the next day. No comments, really? Were they even looking for public comment at the May 22nd town board meeting? Based on Mr. Sherman's limited presentation, how could anyone possibly comment on the report that evening? No one was even asked if they had any questions about the report.

Mr. Sherman didn’t write the report alone; Joann Faulkner Humphreys, who works for Oneida County Soil and Water Conservation, wrote the report with him.

The Town of New Hartford used to have a Stormwater Committee that usually met every month. We “Googled” Stormwater Committee website pages for other town’s in NYS. They put our progressive “economic engine” to shame! Most other towns charge their stormwater committee with MS4 reporting, looking for grant opportunities, public education, along with a myriad of other duties. Take a look at the Stormwater Committee website for the Town of Lewisboro, NY.

The Town of New Hartford Stormwater Committee has been disbanded, and Supervisor Tyksinski apparently doesn’t have an appetite for bringing it back. Actually, the committee never really had a mission other than to figure out how to spend the $2 million dollar stormwater bond which is now just about depleted.

According to the MS4 report filed for 2013, the Town of New Hartford has a website for disseminating stormwater information, Town of New Hartford Stormwater.

To be honest, we couldn’t find a link to this page anywhere on the town's website [the one they tell you to check if you want to know town-related information]. The only way you would know this town stormwater website exists is if you read the report; the report that you probably didn’t know existed because the town has failed miserably in the public involvement part of the MS4 regulations.

The town was designated a MS4 in 2003 and it took until November 2011 for the town to adopt legislation to establish minimum stormwater management requirements for all new construction. There's been a lot of new construction since 2003. It's time to figure out how to handle the stormwater run-off from the development that is already in place and take a serious look at any new development.

Why do we videotape meetings? By now the answer should be obvious!

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Something I wanted to bring up and I forgot about it..."

so said Supervisor Tyksinski after the board closed the executive session and reconvened the public portion of the July 10, 2013 town board meeting.

Over two hours of residents expressing their frustration at the stormwater flooding of the last two or three storms, some were actually residents in the vicinity of Whitetail, but Supervisor Tyksinski 'forgot to mention" one little thing about work to be done in Whitetail Meadows.

Let's back track a little. The issue of stormwater from the Whitetail development first came into discussion at the "May 15, 2002 town board meeting.

We first heard of Mr. Barkett at the August 6, 2003 town board meeting when it was mentioned that he and his attorney approached the town board and asked that they create a stormwater district in Whitetail.

By September 3, 2003, a public hearing was held and a resolution was adopted creating the stormwater district in Whitetail.

Minutes of the "September 3, 2003 town board meeting state:
At the August 20, 2003 Town Board meeting, the Board had received information from Bond Counsel that a prior Town Board had created a town-wide storm water drainage district; however, since that meeting, Attorney Rossi has been told that the Town doesn’t have a town-wide district and so it’s appropriate to go forth with this district in the event the Town needs to perform some work in the future; only the people in the district would share in the cost of improvements – only those benefited, said Attorney Rossi [emphasis added].
The district was comprised of the owners of property within the Whitetail Meadows subdivision.

The next time we heard of Mr. Barkett was in 2008 when we FOILed records from the town because we heard via the Stormwater Committee that Mr. Barkett was submitting invoices to the town for the purchase of a lot and work that his company had supposedly performed to install a stormwater detention basin on the lot in his development that he was billing the town for because, we were told, he had an agreement with Roger Cleveland.

According to those documents, sometime in 2006, during the Earle Reed administration, then Highway Superintendent Roger Cleveland apparently made a "gentleman's agreement" with John Barkett, the owner of the Whitetail development. That was just about the time that the town was expecting to bond $2 million for stormwater.

The discussion regarding the agreement to purchase the lot never came to the town board prior to the agreement made between Roger and Mr. Barkett. A resolution was never adopted by the Earle Reed admnistration to purchase the lot. In fact, there is no trace of any paperwork other the the bills submitted to the town by John Barkett. It was in every sense of the term, a "handshake" deal made behind closed doors. The bills never got paid during the Earle Reed administration.

Enter Supervisor Tyksinski in 2010. After several executive sessions and many discussions during Stormwater Committe meetings, Supervisor Tyksinski finally convinced most of the town board in April 2012 to approve $35,000 to be paid to John Barkett to purchase a lot where the detention basin was supposedly constructed by Mr. Barkett, but not maintained by either the town or Mr. Barkett.

End of story....UNTIL...

the recent storms. Now all of a sudden, since Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman is too busy with other stormwater clean-up duties to complete the work needed on the detention basin that will supposedly alleviate the flooding in the area of Whitetail Meadows, Supervisor Tyskinski said that Rick Sherman suggested that the man for the job is none other than John Barkett, the developer of the Whitetail Meadows subdivision; the person who approached the town board in 2003 and asked that a Stormwater District be created in his development to cover the cost of future improvements necessary to alleviate flooding.

Tyskinski says Barkett will be paid a discounted rate of $110 per hour to do the work in his own development.

Councilman Backman suggested that a ceiling be put on the amount to be paid to Mr. Barkett and when the ceiling is reached, the town board will review before any further work is allowed. No one agreed with Councilman Backman.

Councilman Miscione suggested that Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman be given the authority to oversee the work and determine the hours needed to get the job done. The vote was unanimous...Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman will oversee the work of developer John Barkett and determine the amount of work needed to complete the job.

We sincerely hope that this alleviates the problem for the residents being severely affected by the run-off from this development. They definitely need the relief; however, we have to ask...just how much is this going to cost and where is the money coming from? Councilman Paul Miscione asked last night if it would come out of Rick Sherman's budget, but Supervisor Tyksinski was vague in his answer.

AND...what happens if this "fix" doesn't work? Who is responsible....Mr. Barkett for doing the work...OR...the town because they own the property where the detention basin is located?

What is troubling is the fact that this is an open-ended contract that did not go to bid. The work is to be done by the developer in his own development; work that should have been done when the development was created or paid for by the Whitetail Stormwater District.

Did Superviosr Tyksinski forget to bring this subject up during the main part of the meeting or was the "packed audience" of frustrated and angry town residents a good reason to forget? You decide...here is the video after the executive session of the meeting, when the board reconvened the public portion of the meeting.





For those that are interested, we are also posting the video [almost 2 hours] of residents' comments regarding their flooding problems.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Metamorphosing Blog...

A while back we gave fifteen minutes of fame to a library employee who is using a blog name similar to ours to put out propaganda, as he puts it, in defense of the New Hartford Public Library.

Since last September when the blog was created [shortly after the library rechartering was defeated], this blogger has changed the verbiage of his blogs several times after they were already posted to even now include changing the name of his blog.

At this point, the blog has begun making statements against certain candidates running for town supervisor and asking that they be "punished" at the polls. Actually, according to this blogger, none of the candidates seem to be worthy of a vote. But then again, anyone who asks for accountability from the library as to how public funds are being spent seems to be the subject of this employee's rantings. By the way, this person makes about $25,000 a year at his part-time library job.

The latest iteration of this blog now includes a disclaimer:
This blog is intended to inform and to counter misinformation about the New Hartford Public Library. This blogger is an employee of the New Hartford Public Library but no writing was done on the library premises and no library resources were employed. The contents were entirely created in my own home, using my own equipment, and contracted internet services. No member of the Library Board of Trustees or any other employee of the library have sanctioned, encouraged, or contributed to this blog. All statements I have made derive from direct observations or facts that are in the public domain.
Here's the problem...
He includes a picture of the library logo on his blog; we actually "grabbed" the above logo right off his blog. The blog used to be called "New Hartford Public Library"; it's now called "In Defense of the New Hartford Public Library".

Depending on which day you may have recently visited his blog, he even said that he is writing on behalf of the library trustees. This logo and his past writings could easily be misconstrued as being written on behalf of the library, their employees or board members. It's a little late at this point to try to convince people that the writings are done on behalf of one lone library employee.

As an employee of the New Hartford Public Library, this person is representing the library in his writings whether he chooses to believe it or not. His rantings regarding his dislikes of the candidates running for town supervisor are borderline problematic for the library.

The library board of trustees need to take heed...

The New Hartford Public Library is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. As such, according to the IRS website:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. [emphasis added] Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.[emphasis added]
The library could actually lose their 501(c)(3) status as a result of this library employee's political activity. Is he writing based on his own personal opinion or is he writing as a library employee? Are other employees and trustees involved behind the scenes?

Comments we have received suggest that this employee is doing the New Hartford Public Library more harm than good! Perhaps it's time to consider changing the blog yet again. Perhaps he could blog on the latest best sellers that are available at the library!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Flooding in the Town of New Hartford - June 28, 2013

Below is a video of several areas in the Town of New Hartford beginning with the Sherman Hills area, moving to the Burrstone Road area, Commercial Drive area and ending with total destruction on Royal Brook Lane in New York Mills as the result of flooding of Mud Creek. Approximately 30 minutes of video.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The New Hartford Public Library - Peeling back the onion...

A Letter to the Editor in today's Observer Dispatch, "Don't blame Ed Wiatr for New Hartford Library fuss", fairly sums up one of our recent blogs.

You can view copies of the cited emails by visiting..."Should we try to discredit him at every opportunity?"

However, let's peel back the "proverbial onion" a little more.

Let's look at emails sent a day "BEFORE" Board President Attorney Linda Romano Petralia's email to the two former trustees.

On January 12, 2012, the day after the Town of New Hartford January 11, 2012 town board meeting, Library Trustee Kevin Kelly writes to Linda Romano:
Click on the image to view the document in larger print!

Trustee Kelly reports in his January 12, 2012 email to Romano:
"Dave asked me if we had letters from the resigning directors giving a cause for their actions."
The very next day, January 13, 2012, Attorney Romano-Petralia wrote emails to the two trustees [one actually resigned in mid 2011; months before this email exchange]..."To the extent you feel comfortable blaming your resignations on the "controversy" please send me an email detailing".

So it would appear that prior to Councilman Reynold's inquiry to Trustee Kelly, Attorney Linda Romano Petralia didn't have any "damaging" letters of resignation, but that didn't stop her from asking the two individuals to "manufacture" one! "Would seriously appreciate" she writes at the end of her email.

Further, according to Mr. Kelly's email to Attorney Linda Romano Petralia, Councilman Dave Reynolds "reported the Town Board's discussions regarding Ed"; discussions that were held in executive session during the previous night's town board meeting.

We're not saying that a councilman can't discuss what goes on in executive session, but why would Councilman Reynolds be reporting executive board discussions regarding a particular individual when it is against the town's ethics code to even mention the name? What was Councilman Reynolds' motive for reporting the town board's discussion of a private matter to a member of the New Hartford Library Board? Were the two boards, the town board and the library board, working in tandem to try to remove Trustee Wiatr? Why?

Councilman Backman was the only board member to vote "nay" on the resolution adopted at the end of the January 11, 2012 executive session held by the New Hartford Town Board, so don't expect the majority of this town board to intervene in this fiasco any time soon.

On January 11, 2012, when the resolution was read by Supervisor Tyksinski, he looked straight into our camera as he publicly identified Trustee Wiatr, completely disregarding New Hartford Town Code regarding identifying anyone who is sent before the Ethics Board. And the town's attorney sat in silence...

Given the emails that were sent between Library Board President Attorney Linda Romano Petralia and others, why should anyone believe that the recent letters of resignations blaming Trustee Wiatr were not also contrived just as they were in 2012? We have had several people ask some of these trustees what the have against Trustee Wiatr. All they say is that he asks too many questions. It sure sounds like there is something that these trustees don't want uncovered. Perhaps, just perhaps, it's time to answer the questions!

The funny part about this matter, if there is a funny part...the town board has no authority to remove Trustee Wiatr from the library board for any reason, much less a "trumped up" reason. And even if they wanted to send someone to their Ethics Board, the town's ethics code is so old it doesn't give them the authority to remove anyone!

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Hartford Public Library...Deviation from written Personnel Policy

At the May library board meeting, Library Board President, Attorney Linda Romano Petralia, assembled an HR Committee to evaluate and make recommendations to the full board regarding retirement medical benefits for the NHPL retiring Director.

Appointed to the committee was Ed Flemma, Chairman; with Les Cortright, Richard Evans and Heather Mowat as committee members. Mr. Flemma presented the library board with minutes of the meetings and their recommendations at the June 19, 2013 library board meeting. The minutes are quite telling and they are available here.

The majority of discussion at the June 19, 2013 library trustee meeting was regarding the payment of monies to "retirng" library director, Hans Plambeck.

About eight (8) minutes into the discussion in open session, an executive session was called to supposedly continue the discussion on whether or not to deviate from documented Personnel Policy in order to give health benefits to Mr. Plambeck for up to five (5) years or until he is eligible for Medicare; whichever comes first. The executive committee meeting lasted approximately 45 minutes.

As we have already blogged, discussion of policy is not a legitimate reason to enter executive session regardless of whether or not a trustee feels "uncomfortable" talking publicly.

Question is, did the trustees call an executive session in compliance with allowed exceptions under the Open Meetings Law?

A newly appointed trustee referred to HIPAA Law as a reason to go to executive session. We'd like to know what section of the HIPAA Law she refers to because the U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services explanation of the HIPAA Law doesn't seem to fit this scenario. Furthermore, there is no such exemption in the Open Meetings Law as "under the HIPAA Law".

According to another page on the HHS.gov website, HIPAA applies to Health plans; Health care clearinghouses; and Health care providers who conduct certain financial and administrative transactions electronically. Mr. Freeman agrees in his opinion 17905.

The exemption to the Open Meetings Law that possibly could have been used by the library trustees is "the medical history of a particular person", but they never mentioned that as a reason. At any rate, Mr. Plambeck's purported health issue has already previously been discussed in public session and videotaped...no need for secrecy there.

Litigation was a word mentioned by board president Attorney Linda Romano Petralia as a reason. What litigation? There was no attorney present to represent the library. Robert Freeman states in his opinion 2705:
...I believe that the exception is intended to permit a public body to discuss its litigation strategy behind closed doors, rather than issues that might eventually result in litigation. Again, §105(1)(d) would not permit a public body to conduct an executive session due to a possibility or fear of litigation. As the court in Weatherwax suggested, if the possibility or fear of litigation served as a valid basis for entry into executive session, there could be little that remains to be discussed in public, and the intent of the Open Meetings Law would be thwarted.
Did they discuss Mr. Plambeck's retirement in general? That's not executive session material unless maybe there was something about his retirement that might have qualified as one of the allowable exemptions to the Open Meetings Law.

Did he really retire or could it be that he was he asked to leave? Possibly the employment history of a particular person would have been more appropriate, but they didn't say that was the basis for going into executive session.

What was the real reason for discussing the spending of public monies behind closed doors? No one on the library board is talking.

The Committee on Open Government website references a recent decision of the Appellate Division, Zehner v Board of Education of Jordan-Elbridge Central School District [Stephen Ciotoli, Esq., of O'HARA, O'CONNELl & CIOTOLI; For Petitioner, and Frank W. Miller, Esq. of the Law Firm of FRANK W. MILLER for Respondent] confirming that a motion to conduct an executive session should include information sufficient to enable the public to believe that there is a valid basis for closing the doors; in this recent court case attorney fees were awarded to the Petitioner.

This court decision should further emphasize the need for public bodies to make sure that their board members are cognizant of the Open Meetings Law and what is necessary to be in compliance...and insist on compliance by their board members! Otherwise, it could cost them money...

Further, we wonder...there are opinions of the NY State Comptroller citing law that says a library may only spend public monies in furtherance of a library purpose. Does providing monies to a retiring employee against established personnel policy serve a library purpose or would it be considered a gift of public monies that is prohibited under the NYS Constitution?

Trustee Flemma and Trustee Wiatr are the only trustees who voted against the board resolution to spend taxpayer dollars to supplement the "retiring" library director's health insurance for the next five years. You will be able to hear their reasons for a 'nay' vote as well as Library Board President Attorney Linda Romano Petralia's reasons for an affirmative vote at the end of the second videotape.

Listen to the two (2) videos and decide for yourself what is really going on.

Below are the two videotapes of the discussion; Part 1 - Before the executive session and Part 2 - After the Executive Session and the Board Vote.


Before the Executive Session...





After the Executive Session and the Board Vote:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It takes all kinds...

We received word from Blogger tonight that "Anonymous" has left a new comment on our post "Dear Mr. Robert Freeman...":

"Freeman feels this Blog and it's writers Lawrence and Waitr are idiots and have no idea about Open Meeting Law. Please contact him!! He'll give you an earful-I did. The question is-will the idiots post this?? If not, stay tuned."

Well, isn't that special!  According to Anonymous, he [or she] talked to Robert Freeman and Mr. Freeman thinks we are idiots that know nothing about the Open Meetings Law. That is so laughable we just had to post it for all to see.


To the "Anonymous" writer...

Well Anon, we actually might have something in common; we also contacted Mr. Freeman...the same day we wrote that blog.

He even wrote back to us:
From: Freeman, Robert (DOS) [mailto:Robert.Freeman@dos.ny.gov]
Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2013 8:21 AM
Subject: RE: robert freeman is not the guru of Freedom of Information

I may not be a “guru”, but I appreciate your kind words nonetheless.

Our opinions may be instructive, but more important is the language of the law. In this instance, particularly relevant is section 87(2)(g)(iv) of the Freedom of Information Law, which specifies that external audits are accessible to the public.

Best to all,

Bob Freeman
Anon...in our humble opinion, you should be the last one to call someone out for being an idiot. You posted that comment tonight on a blog written almost a month ago...back on May 23, 2013. If not for the fact that we feel everyone deserves their fifteen (15) minutes of fame, chances are that no one would even have seen your childish comment in the first place.

After ROFLMAO while reading your comment, it was decided that you truly are deserving of the coveted Jackass Award for 2013!

Have a nice life!

Like HELL the New Hartford Public Library was built with private funds!


On June 13, 2013, Earl Cunningham sent a letter of resignation to Library Board President Linda Romano Petralia. Below is his resignation letter:

Click on the image to view Mr. Cunningham's letter in larger print!


In particular, take note of the part of Mr. Cunningham's letter that we have highlighted in yellow:
...construction of a privately funded $4,000,000 library facility...

As a Town of New Hartford taxpayer for over forty (40) years, this writer takes offense at your assertion that this library has been privately funded. It was supposed to be; that's what the taxpayers were told in the 1990s after the defeat of the bond issue to build the library.

Mr. Cunningham, do you really want to try to convince Town of New Hartford taxpayers that the $4,000,000 (?) New Hartford Public Library over the years has been privately funded?

Isn't it a fact that most of the land that the library sits on was bought with a member item from Senator William Sears and only 1 acre was donated?

Isn't it a fact that if one looks through copies of town board minutes from the 1990s and early 2000s, they would find out that many town employee hours were paid for by taxpayer dollars to assist the library in the planning of the library and clearing of the land?

Mr. Cunningham, would you not agree that since 1983 the taxpayers in the Town of New Hartford have been providing over 80% of the funds necessary to keep this $4,000,000 library open and in additon the town, at taxpayer expense, has been providing in-kind services?

Mr. Cunningham are you going to deny that there have been thousands of dollars in grants given in support of the building of this library from governments to include the New Hartford Village, Oneida County and New York State; i.e., public dollars that were used to either build or repair the New Hartford Public Library building?

Lastly, Mr. Cunningham, are you going to deny that the library is still applying for, and receiving, state funds to supposedly repair parts of the library building that were not properly constructed in the first place?

How dare you say that the New Hartford Public Library was built with private funds! Just because it is run like a privately-funded organization doesn't make it one!

"Should we try to discredit him at every opportunity?"

“A sure sign of ineptitude and malice is manifested when one's attacker is willing to cover himself with mud in order to try and make some of it adhere to his target.” ― Christopher Hitchens


The Free Dictionary defines smear campaign (against someone) as:
  • a campaign aimed at damaging someone's reputation by making accusations and spreading rumors.
The headline in the Observer Dispatch reads...Second New Hartford Library trustee resigns. The point of the story is that two (2) long-time members of the library have resigned and cited Trustee Wiatr as one of the reasons for their resignation.

The Observer Dispatch received a copy of the resignation letters because Library Board President and Attorney Linda Romano Petralia felt it necessary to cc OD reporter Sara Tracey on emails sent to the library trustees informing them of the resignations with copies of the resignation letters attached to the emails. Not very professional on Attorney Romano-Petralia's part.

Actually, the information in the article is inaccurate; four (4) trustees have resigned and blamed Mr. Wiatr for their resignation. More than likely, the last two wrote their resignation letters based on the recommendation of Attorney Romano-Petralia just as two previous resigning trustees.

Among the FOILed emails, Email Page 451 of 817 to be exact, it is revealed in an email dated January 13, 2012 from Attorney Linda Romano Petralia to the two trustees who resigned previously:
"Hi lisa and Sue-

To the extent you feel comfortable blaming your resignations on the "controversy" please send me an email detailing. Would seriously appreciate.

Thanks- Linda"
Click on image to view in larger print!


Hmmm...January 13, 2012? Wasn't that just about the time you conspired with Supervisor Tyksinski to try to remove Mr. Wiatr as a library trustee based on a supposed Ethics violation? How did that work out for you Attorney Romano-Petralia?

Then a few months later, Connie Stephens [one of the trustees who recently resigned and blamed Mr. Wiatr] writes to Linda Romano:

In a message dated 4/28/2012 4:41 :01 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, murphy22@roadrunner.com writes:
"Yes, you are probably right, Linda. Not sure what we can do about it. Should we try to discredit him at every opportunity? Publicly? Have to think about it some more. Connie"
Should we try to discredit him at every opportunity?? Ms. Stephens, certainly you can't be so naive as to believe that Mr. Wiatr is being discredited by your childish letter of resignation. People can see right through the b/s. Lest you forget, had the school district library vote succeeded, Mr. Wiatr would still be a library trustee, while you were voted "off the island" by the taxpayers in the New Hartford Central School District!

Most people knew that Earl Cunningham was eventually going to resign...he had been telling people that for months. One FOILed email dated December 18, 2012, that Mr. Cunningham sent to Board President Linda Romano Petralia, states he is retiring because:
"This is long overdue and with some regrets due to my long association with the Library. However, my personal situation at home demands it."
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No mention of Mr. Wiatr...Mr. Cunningham merely says his situation at home demands it!

Malarkey, Mr. Cunningham...Mr. Wiatr is not the problem. The problem is a group of people who think they can get away with whatever they want...that was until Mr. Wiatr was unanimously appointed to the library board of trustees by the town board.

Since Board President and Attorney Linda Romano Petralia made Mr. Cunningham's diatribe about Mr. Wiatr public by sharing with the Observer Dispatch, we will likewise be sharing Mr. Cunningham's diatribe in our next blog. We will also be sharing facts that prove why Mr. Cunningham's assertions are hogwash!

Mr. Wiatr, keep up the good work. Obviously, there are many secrets that need to be exposed for they are fighting too hard to keep you from getting information!

Stay tuned everyone...