Now that the Times Union disclosed the FBI are looking into three questionable deals orchestrated by City Hall – sidewalks in North Central, King Street demolition and Scolite – everyone is wondering what happens next.
It’s really anyone’s guess. Generally, the Feds take a look when something doesn’t quite pass the smell test and then determine if it stinks enough to warrant a full blown investigation or not.
We saw that process play out the Feds took a look at voter fraud, former County Executive Henry Zwack, former state Sen. Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, former political boss Ed McDonough and most recently the conduct of police during the Jan. 25 melee at Kokopellis.
Everything may not be peachy keen, but I think it’s safe to say the FBI will not proceed unless they think they and the Justice Department can get a conviction in federal court. Bruno may be the exception to that rule, but after nearly 10 years the Feds found themselves in too deep to back off now.
Anyway, according to the Times Union, City Engineer Russ Reeves and Corporation Counsel Ian Silverman were invited to Albany to answer some questions about the three aforementioned projects. It wasn’t the mayor, deputy mayor or the head of the Planning Department, Bill Dunne, the central figure in all three projects, it was people on the fringes who would know what happened.
If we look at the projects, they each have their respective odors:
|Fire Chief Tom Garrett|
-The new sidewalks in front of Freedom Square were initially said to be paid for by federal Community Development Block Grant money. It was later determined it was not included in the Council approved projects and – and I’m not certain of the sequence – the Sanctuary of Independent Media would pick up the tab, the city would pick up the tab and J.R. Casale would pay for it out of the goodness of his heart.
(As an aside, I’m hearing that’s not the only tab Casale offered to pick up as he has a new found penchant for helping out with weddings.)
-Someone ordered Fire Chief Tom Garrett to order an emergency demolition of the King Street properties adjacent to Bomber’s Burritos while Reeves was out of town. As the TU article pointed out, by declaring it an emergency saved the owner, attorney Don Boyajian, tens of thousands in asbestos abatement. Garrett doesn't get along with Dunne or Reeves and it's doubtful he would take such an order from either one of those two so it had to come from higher up - my guess is Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan or Mayor Lou Rosamilia.
The question is why it was declared an emergency when the buildings have been sitting vacant for years and there are others in the city in a worse repair and arguably should have been demolished before the King Street properties.
|Mayor Lou Rosamilia|
Another twist is that the Local Development Corporation, headed up by Dunne, came under fire by the state Comptroller’s Office, for giving Bombers in excess of $2 million without any collateral – in other words, Bombers doesn’t own the building or have anything else to borrow against.
-The city certainly has bent over backwards to sweeten the Scolite property for the company awarded the bid, R.J. Valente.
First, it changed the zoning before the property was sold, then it said it would build a new $9 million road, then it said it would allow Valente to put a down payment on the property and allow it to work the property, then it said it would take another chunk of land from Ludlow Valve and give it to Valente.
All those tangible benefits were not in the initial Request for Proposal issued by the city and as such were not extended to the other bidders, who, according to at least one bidder, would have bid the project differently. The Council’s Finance Committee passed the deal by a 6-2 vote and is expected to formally address it at its regular meeting on Thursday.
|Times Union Photo: Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan |
has a mess on his hands
I guess the questions are: did any money change hands, was favoritism granted for whatever reason (usually that one goes back to the first question) and who is going to take the fall should the FBI continue its probe? That last one should be fun since that's generally when the finger-pointing begins.
One more thought, it’s disheartening to have to read about an FBI probe in the Albany Times Union rather than the Troy Record. There was a time, not long ago, when The Record would have been all over it but instead we get how to dress while travelling as its main Sunday story. I heard about it last week but The Record took my Rolodex and with it, obviously, a number of my numbers.