The City Council voted, by a count of 6-3, to allow President Rodney Wiltshire to issue subpoenas in the ongoing investigation into demolitions on King Street and at the King Fuels site and the administration’s oversight of the Code Department.
The ordinance was passed without discussion, but Councilwoman Lynn Kopka, D-At Large, asked some pointed questions of Wiltshire at the Finance Committee meeting prior to the regular meeting. She, along with Councilmembers Erin Sullivan-Teta, D-At Large and Gary Galuski, D-District 6, voted against the ordinance.
Kopka asked how much money it was costing – mainly for the stenographer to make a record of the five public hearings - and where the money was coming from since the Council budget is already “in the red.” Wiltshire said he didn’t know. And Kopka said “I can tell you it’s over $5,000.”
“Where is the funding to pay these bills?” Kopka asked.
“We’ll have to move some money from the general fund,” Wiltshire said.
“So you saying the Executive Branch will be transferring the money to our budget,” Kopka said with a hint of sarcasm, alluding to the expectation that Wiltshire will subpoena Mayor Lou Rosamilia, Deputy Mayor Pete Ryan and Corporation Council Ian Silverman.
“It’s our duty to perform the responsibility as a Council and performing these hearing is something that is our right and something the citizens deserve,” Wiltshire said. “You can’t put a cost on that.”
“In other words we don’t have the funds,” Kopka fired back.
She later asked about other agencies that are looking into the demolition projects – like the FBI, the state Department of Labor, and Department of Environmental Conservation and the Environmental Protection Agency. Wiltshire wouldn’t verify any of them, but said there are other agencies taking a look.
“Those outside agencies have far more experience … why is the city Council continuing our own investigation?” Kopka asked.
“Our investigation is for processes and procedures that occur within city government, which is within our purview,” Wiltshire said. “The investigations that the other agencies may or not be performing are criminal in nature. And we are not conducting criminal investigations.”
“Can you verify that they are conducting criminal investigations?” Kopka asked.
“I will not verify that at this time,” Wiltshire answered.
“In July you told us met with the FBI, can you tell us details of that meeting?” Kopka asked.
“I can tell you it occurred,” Wiltshire said.
“What other state or federal agencies have you met with?” Kopka said.
“I’m not going to answer that,” Wiltshire said.
“And who initiated the meetings?” Kopka asked.
|KING STREET DEMO
“The unverified agencies initiated them,” Wiltshire said before asking if anyone else had any questions.
A Sept. 18 deadline to issue the subpoenas was also approved, adding a week to the deadline in the initial ordinance that failed to pass at a special meeting because there were only five votes in favor. Since it was introduced the same night it needed six votes and Councilwoman Anastasia Robertson, D-District 2, was absent. She joined Wiltshire and Councilmembers Jim Gordon, R-District 1, Dean Bodnar, R-District 3, Bob Doherty, D-District 4 and Ken Zalewski, D-District 5.
It remains unclear when the Council will call the next hearing.
In previous hearings a number of city employees testified without having been issued a subpoena thanks to a deal Rosamilia struck with Wiltshire. They include Fire Chief Tom Garrett, Planning Commissioner Bill Dunne and his assistant Andrew Kreshick. Others who testified include Don Boyajian, the owner of the now demolished King Street property, officials from the companies who performed the demolition and former City Engineer Russ Reeves, who resigned amidst the controversy.
At issue is why the emergency demolition of the King Street buildings occurred while Reeves was on vacation, and why demolition crews failed to follow engineering instructions while they knocked buildings down there. Asbestos was not abated on King Street and the adjacent Bomber’s was allowed to remain open during the demo. Asbestos was also found scattered around the King Fuels site.
The Code Department came under fire when 51 Third St. was shuttered for not having a Certificate of Occupancy while the building was being used as a meeting place for people planning to protest allegations of police brutality during the Kokopellis melee. The building had been occupied for about a decade prior.