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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.

Sunday, July 14, 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!