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”: