Online News. Community Views.

>> Download <<
The Batavian Mobile
Droid | iPhone

Recent comments

Site Sponsors

Howard B. Owens's blog

January 20, 2011 - 4:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC.

A state report critical of compensation practices of the Genesee Economic Development Center is neither fair nor accurate, county and agency officials are saying today.

"We've done nothing wrong," said Jim Vincent, vice chairman of the GCEDC board of directors. "Nobody likes to be criticized, but we stand by what we've done. We are being criticized for our success."

The Authorities Budget Office report strongly condemns how more than $344,000 in bonuses have been awarded to GCEDC staff since 2005 and also expresses concerns about the $153,000 annual base salary paid to Director Steve Hyde. (Read: Previous Story)

Vincent said everything the GCEDC has done was cleared by an attorney and performed in accordance with state law.

"This is a difference of opinion," Vincent said. "They (the ABO) thinks we did it the wrong way. We think we did it the right way. We truly feel we have a dynamic organization.

"We've done everything legally, properly and transparently, and we continue to produce results."

While referring most questions to Vincent, the director said everything about compensation is a board decision and Vincent should speak for the board. Hyde was also critical of the ABO report.

"The report is using only half-truths in a lot of ways and disregarded a lot of the facts and information we provided them," Hyde said. "But that's the regulatory environment we live in."

Hyde said the ABO disregarded performance models provided by GCEDC and a compensation survey that showed his salary was right in line with 26 other similar IDA's across the nation.

The GCEDC claims it has generated $409 million in capital improvements for Genesee County businesses (full list, PDF).

In a memo released by the GCEDC late this afternoon, GCEDC attorney Robert J. Ryan said the ADO's report is wrong in stating the board didn't have the authority to set compensation as it sees fit and issue bonuses according to its own guidelines.

Ryan:

... the ABO Report concludes that the Agency does not have the legal authority to pay incentives or additional compensation. This is the opinion of the ABO and not based in law. The General Municipal Law explicitly provides the Agency the ability to establish and pay compensation out of Agency funds. We are unaware of and the ABO has not provided any legal authority that would prohibit the Agency’s compensation package being based upon salary and a performance incentive.

ABO Director David Kidera said his agency was really trying to get across two points in its report:

  • First, that the GCEDC is really dealing in public funds, "even if they don't see it that way," and the kind of profit-sharing plan the board has been using isn't appropriate or legal.
  • Second, that while the GCEDC board says it has followed procedure and been transparent in its compensation practices, the board can't really produce any documentation to support its claims.

Because the bonus payments were not appropriate, Kidera said, the report recommends that the payments be "recovered."

That means, he said today, the board should ask employees to return the $344,000 in bonus payments they've received since 2005.

He implied he realizes that isn't necessarily a realistic expectation.

"I think we're required to say that because these bonuses were paid inappropriately, that because in the absence of any proper procedures for paying bonuses -- and these are taxpayer funds -- the board should seek to rectify that," Kidera said.

"Is that going to happen? I don't know. I realize we're talking about employees here and this might not happen in the private sector, but we would be remiss in our responsibilities if we just said, 'it's wrong,' and then let it go."

Kidera acknowledged that the ABO has no real authority to enforce its recommendations. It's up to the GCEDC board, he said, whether to implement its recommendations, or up to the legislature to replace the board if it doesn't like the board's response to the recommendations.

Otherwise the only thing the ABO can do is issue a follow-up report on the board and county's response to the initial report.

He did say a copy of the report was sent to District Attorney Lawrence Friedman with the idea that the DA's office could investigate any potential legal wrongdoing.

Friedman said that he's received the report but that it's really too soon to say if any sort of legal proceedings would follow.

Mary Pat Hancock, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature, said it is not the legislature's role to act in an oversight capacity of the GCEDC. She said the procedures put in place creating IDAs, put the IDAs at arm's-length from county legislatures. The legislature doesn't approve the budget or operations of the GCEDC. 

While GCEDC board members are appointed by the Genesee County Legislature, the time for dealing with issues related to any appointee are when it's time to renew a term or make new appointments.

The county just finished a budget process that required sacrifice from several departments and nearly led to the elimination of the county's nationally recognized, pioneering restorative justice program, Genesee Justice. In order to save the program, the agency's director, Ed Minardo, volunteered to resign.

Hancock said the county's share of funding for GCEDC was cut by 15 percent, reducing it to about $266,000, and Hancock said that is money well spent.

"It has been demonstrated that the magnification of each dollar we put into GCEDC, because of their success in attracting business, we've found that contribution has come back to us many times over," Hancock said.

Legislator Hollis Upson, who is also a member of the GCEDC board of directors, also defended the agency as an important engine of economic growth in Genesee County.

"Arguably, Steve Hyde brings something of value to Genesee County," Upson said. "The compensation and bonuses came strictly from performance and results. (Staff) compensation came out of generated income"

Pointing to a previous post on The Batavian listing the salaries of the top 25 public officials in Genesee County, Upson noted 20 of the top 25 were education executives.

"The superintendents and officials at BOCES work a lot fewer hours, I would suggest, and they don't generate income," Upson said. "We are helping them (school officials) by generating a tax base.

"So while the perception would be that (Hyde makes a lot more money than other officials in the county), someone who would look at it from only that standpoint, well there's a lot more to it."

January 20, 2011 - 11:50am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, alexander, Darien, Ron Wendt.

Ronald J. Wendt, convicted last year in the drinking-and-driving death of an 18-year-old Dansville girl, appeared in County Court today to have his sentence on two of his charges corrected.

On two charges of assault, 2nd, Wendt was given two-and-a-half to seven years as an "indeterminant" sentence, meaning he could serve any portion of that range and be eligible for parole. 

Since his initial sentence, however, authorities realized that on charges of assault, 2nd, a defendant cannot receive an indeterminate sentence.

Today, Judge Robert C. Noonan sentenced Wendt to a two-and-a-half years determinant sentence on those charges.

The change doesn't effect Wendt's sentence on other charges and since the sentencing on all 11 counts were concurrent, Wendt could still be eligible for parole in little more than a year (he served more than a year in jail while awaiting trial prior to his conviction).

For previous sentencing coverage, click here.

Also in court this morning, Patricia Hardesty, accused of shooting her husband in the knee during a domestic dispute in August, entered not guilty pleas to three felony charges, including assault, 1st, and assault, 2nd. Hardesty is out of jail and under the supervision of Genesee Justice. Her husband requested that no order of protection be placed in the case, so none was issued. The couple continues to reside together in their County Line Road home.

January 20, 2011 - 11:22am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy.

Jody B. Gillett, 50, of Pine Hollow Drive, Batavia, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .18 or greater. Gillett was arrested after allegedly being observed by Le Roy Police Officer John Duyssen driving at an excessive speed and spinning the car around in the Tops Market parking lot.

January 19, 2011 - 11:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC.

The Genesee County Economic Development Center should recover more than $344,000 in bonus payments to employees made from 2005 through 2009, according to a report issued Wednesday by New York Authorities Budget Office.

The ABO is responsible for fiscal oversight of certain local agencies, including industrial development agencies.

In a scathing report (pdf), ABO officials say that GCEDC made bonus payments that do not comply either with state law or guidelines.

In the case of one bonus payment, the report recommends the matter be referred to a local law enforcement agency for further review.

"GCIDA (aka, GCEDC) officials justified its bonus practices as proper and comparable to bonus incentive plans in use by private industry," the report reads. "GCIDA officials continue to show a lack of understanding that the GCIDA is a public entity and not a private industry."

The report is also critical of the $153,000 annual salary for Executive Directory Steve Hyde. Hyde's base salary is the highest in the state for any IDA, the report states, and significantly higher than any IDA director in Western New York, and higher by far than any other public employee in Genesee County.

In 2009, GCEDC paid out $91,000 in bonuses, with $60,000 going to Hyde.

The report is critical of how the board of directors arrived at its bonus structure, not using an individual's performance goals set at the beginning of a calendar year, but instead basing bonuses on available funds at the end of the year and whether overall group goals were met.

The report says that criteria violates a state comptroller's advisory opinion issued more than 10 years ago, though the state law governing IDA's does not specifically address bonus compensation.

According to the report, up until 2010, an informal subcommittee of the GCEDC board would meet and determine the bonus amount and structure for the agency's employees. Generally, the decision would be made in December with bonuses paid at the beginning of January. But in January 2007, more than $54,000 in bonus payments were disbursed even though the bonuses were not approved by the board until a month later.

While officials told ABO investigators that bonuses were paid based on agency performance, the report states that in 2008 the GCEDC did not meet its job creation goals, yet $91,000 in bonus payments were approved; and, for 2005, $55,000 in bonus payments were approved, even though GCEDC met neither goals for job creation nor capital investment.

For 2008 a $500 bonus was paid to a consultant even though there was no provision in the $60,000 contract for a bonus.

"Although we make no judgment as to whether such an expenditure of public funds is legal," the report reads, "we are referring this to local law enforcement officials for further review."

The report recommends that the $500 be recovered from the consultant. The consultant is not named in the report.

The report notes that Hyde's salary has increased from $82,950 in 2004 to $153,000  in 2009. In comparison, the IDA director in Orleans County earned $58,000 in 2009 and the Erie County director received $133,911. Among other Genesee County public employees, the District Attorney has the highest salary after Hyde at $118,187.

The report reads:

The GCIDA justified its practices, both in regard to bonus payments and salary structure, by referring to private industry standards and principals, and pointing out that GCIDA has its own private revenue source, and that payments are made with private funds. We are disheartened by this attitude and perspective.

The GCIDA relies extensively on Genesee County for financial support. For the five-year period 2004 through 2009, the GCIDA received more than $1.3 million in operating funds from Genesee County, almost 20 percent of its total operating revenues. Salary and compensation are part of the GCIDA's operating budget. So, directly or indirectly, the taxpayers of Genesee County contribute to the cost of supporting the GCIDA.

According to the GCEDC's 2011 program budget, anticipated revenue is $1.5 million with $266,217 coming from Genesee County. The remaining revenue is comprised of fees, grants -- including $475,000 from National Grid and $750,000 from the Town of Pembroke (over three years) -- and other unspecified sources.

The budget statement says that through August 2010, GCEDC supported 16 economic development projects, generated commitments for 50 new jobs over the next three years and $18.5 million in capital investment.

Among its ongoing projects: Gateway II, Buffalo East Technology Park, Med & Tech Park, Apple Tree Acres, Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park and WNY Stamp.

January 19, 2011 - 9:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Elections, Board of Elections.

Genesee County's six village's could face a substantial expense if they want to use the Board of Election's modern voting machines, Election Commissioner Richard Siebert told the Ways and Means Committee this afternoon.

The exact cost per village hasn't been determined yet, but it starts with more than 56 cents per ballot to feed into the machines and includes staff support and security.

Only certified staff can supervise the machines in order to ensure there is no tampering, Siebert said.

While school districts can continue to use the old lever machines through the 2012 elections, villages and fire districts are prohibited from allowing voters to pull on the old levers from now on.

The Board of Elections will bring forward a resolution to the Legislature to declare the lever machines surplus property, at which point they can be donated to school districts, if they want them.

For villages and fire districts, they have two choices: shoulder the costs of using the new election computers or use paper ballots.

Legislator Bob Bausch said that Bergen will use paper ballots for its next election.

January 19, 2011 - 8:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Budget.

A proposal to license home improvement contractors who do work in the City of Batavia is being put on hold while further research is done into how the proposed law should be implemented.

The matter has been referred to City Attorney George Van Nest.

City Manager Jason Molino told the City Council about the change in direction during the budget review meeting at City Hall tonight.

While Councilman Bob Bialkowski spoke out against the proposal and Councilwoman Rosemary Christian said she's received a lot of calls on the matter, Council Bill Cox said given the trouble he had with a contractor last year, he leans toward support the proposal.

The proposal was included in the 2011/12 budget. The plan was to impose a $125 annual license fee for contractors doing a variety of home improvement projects, from painting to driveway paving and several other types of improvements.

Christian said there was a lot of confusion about the proposal, such as some people calling her expressing concern that the kid who mows lawns during the summer would have to pay the city $125 per year.

Molino said it's those kinds of definitions that the city attorney will clear up in the research and review process.

There's no timeline for when the proposal might be brought back to the council for consideration.

January 19, 2011 - 6:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

Police are looking for a hit-and-run driver who struck a pedestrian on Ross Street on Tuesday night.

The 16-year-old girl who was struck was treated for minor injuries at UMMC.

The car is described as a dark colored "old style" sports car. The driver is described as a dark-skinned male.

According to Batavia Police, the pedestrian was walking east on Ross when the car, which was heading east on Washington Avenue, failed to stop at the stop sign. The driver made a right-hand turn to head south on Ross and struck the pedestrian.

Anybody with information that might help with the investigation is asked to call Batavia PD at 345-6350.

January 19, 2011 - 5:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A Batavia mother who admitted that she tried to smuggle oxycodone into the Genesee County Jail for her son will spend five years on probation, County Judge Robert C. Noonan ruled today.

Kathleen Catino, 60, of Seven Springs Road, entered a guilty plea in November. She tried to bring the drugs in September to Cain Catino, 39, who had recently been arrested for an attempted robbery of prescription drugs from the Oakfield Pharmacy.

I’m sorry," she told Noonan. "Would I do again? No. It’s very hard to watch your child suffer. It’s been a very long 15 years."

Dressed all in black, Catino also complained to the judge that  officials at Oneida State Prison are not providing her son -- serving one-and-a-third to three years for attempted robbery -- with the substance abuse treatment Noonan ordered.

He responded that in some areas the legislature has not granted him the power to require corrections officials to do everything he might require of a convict.

"Short of that authority, they're on their own and know more about the business they conduct than I do," Noonan said.

As for Catino's actions, the judge told her "You have to understand, and everybody needs to understand, that just because you see somebody suffering you can’t take the law into your own hands to correct the difficulty."

Noonan did allow Catino, who has no prior criminal history, to retain her driver's license, finding that taking it from her would have posed a significant hardship.

As part of the plea agreement, Catino agreed to be searched or have her home searched by probation at any time.

January 19, 2011 - 3:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in photos, weather, Tonawanda Creek.

falls_weather01.jpg

This is the view of the Tonawanda Creek behind the court house at about 3 p.m.

The weather advisory is lifted.  There is about a 40-percent chance of snow showers tonight.

January 19, 2011 - 12:29pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

A Batavia man accused of forcible rape can get out of jail while he awaits further legal proceedings if he can raise $10,000 in either cash or bond.

mug_patrick_donahue.jpgPatrick J. Donahue, 21, of 44 Williams St., appeared in City Court today with his attorney, Kevin Earl, who argued that Donahue should be released under the supervision of Genesee Justice.

Earl also asked for a felony hearing to challenge the validity of the rape in the first degree charge. The hearing was set for 10 a.m., Friday.

Donahue is accused of raping a 30-year-old woman at a residence on Walnut Street on Jan. 10.

Assistant District Will Zickl argued that some amount of bail should be required because of the seriousness of the crime. He also noted that Donahue is currently serving a five-year probation term for a previous, unspecified, conviction.

Earl noted that Donahue has only three months left on the probationary term and has met all of his obligations while on probation.

Earl argued that the release under supervision evaluation should have given more weight to Donahue's employment. Donahue has held down a seasonal job with the same employer for three years and even though he is currently drawing unemployment, he is scheduled to go back to work Jan. 31.

Judge Robert Balbick said that while Donahue may have fallen a point short on the RUS evaluation, it's not all about points. The evaluation does not take into consideration the seriousness of the crime.

Donahue, who appeared in court in a jail jumpsuit and shackled, with a paragraph-long tattoo on his upper left arm, is a lifelong Batavia resident and graduate of Batavia High School.

Eight or nine family members, along with Donahue's girlfriend, were in the courtroom for the hearing.

"I think that shows the support my client has and what they believe about the viability of this charge," Earl said. "They don't think my client would do these things."

January 19, 2011 - 10:32am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, accident, East Main Street.

plow_v_car_emain01.jpg

A city plow struck a passenger car in the area of 400 E. Main St. in Batavia shortly after 10 a.m.

The driver appeared conscious and alert as she was helped from the car and placed on a stretcher.

The only visible damage to the car was a shredded rear tire and busted rear window.

Office Ed Mileham said until the report is done, all he could say was that the driver was making a left-hand turn into the parking lot of H.E. Turner when the city plow struck it.

January 19, 2011 - 9:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather.

Be prepared for slick roads today.

Freezing drizzle and light snow are likely to keep road salt crews busy.

The National Weather Service issued a weather advisory for cold, damp weather until 4 p.m.

Accumulation of snow is expected to be only trace amounts, but this will make for slippery roads where they haven't been treated.

January 19, 2011 - 8:49am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, land use, Holiday Inn Express.

Local hoteliers are so opposed to a planned Holiday Inn Express -- just north of the Thruway, off Route 98 in the Town of Batavia -- that they've hired a lawyer to make their case to local officials.

hotelattorney01.jpgThomas J. Warth (pictured), of Hiscock & Barclay out of Rochester, tried to make the case against the new hotel before the Town of Batavia Zoning Board on Tuesday night. But after a spirited discussion, the board voted unanimously to grant the new hotel permission to exceed local height requirements by 10  19 feet.

With local occupancy rates averaging 45 to 50 percent, hotel owners say there is no need to build another 40, let alone maybe 80, rooms (the final plans have not been presented yet).

The $3.25-million project, located at 8360 Commerce Drive, next to an existing Hampton Inn, will make use of a banquet facility already constructed at the location and include an indoor pool, fitness area, lobby and meeting space.

The developers are seeking tax incentives from the Genesee Economic Development Center. The proposed site is part of a previously prepared industrial park, so the developer will save on construction costs by going into a "shovel ready" complex.

The government-backed cost savings, combined with variances to current zoning laws, are giving the new competition too much help, local hotel operators complain.

"Why can't they live with a 40-foot height if we can survive with a 40-foot height?" asked Vibhu Joshi, owner of Days Inn and Super 8. "The new hotel is getting all kinds of goodies and all kinds of variances. I can see maybe a use variance, but why a height variance?"

Hotel owners are concerned that the height variance will allow the developer to put in even more rooms, though it wasn't clear from the application whether the additional 19 feet was for another story on the building (making it four instead of three) or if the extra height was just needed for elevator shafts.

"The additional rooms in this marketplace will have a significant impact on everybody else," said Richard Lewis, acting manager of the Travel Lodge, which recently underwent significant renovation.

Zoning Board Chairman Gary Diegelman mentioned a couple of times during the meeting that economic issues are not part of the zoning approval process. He said the owners will need to raise those concerns with the planning board, which will have final say on the variances.

Warth argued that even economic issues aside, the developer -- who was not represented at the meeting -- has not made a case for why the height variance is needed.

Diegelman said, "point taken," but added later, "I don't see any (neighboring) businesses here objecting to the height variance."

The project will go before the planning board at a future meeting, but that agenda has not been announced yet.

January 19, 2011 - 8:04am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Mercy Flight, Genesee County Airport.

In order to secure a federal grant for a new helicopter, Mercy Flight apparently needs a long-term lease for its facility at the Genesee County Airport.

During Tuesday's Public Service Committee meeting, Legislator Ray Cianfrini said he's concerned that the proposed terms of the lease are not in the county's best interest.

The proposed lease would cap rent increases at 2 percent per year and Cianfrini is concerned that in the future, the county could be losing out on a good deal of potential revenue.

"It just seems to me that 25 years down the road, this could be a pittance compared to what other people are paying for similar space," Cianfrini said. "I don't ever want to lose Mercy Flight. They're a tremendous asset. But as a lawyer, as a legislator and as a taxpayer, I think it's a horrible lease for Genesee County."

David Wozniak, deputy superintendent of county highways, pointed out that Mercy Flight leases additional space for its ambulance service which isn't tied to the hangar lease. Mercy Flight owns its own hangar, and plans to build a new one, and leases the land it sits on. Also, there's no cap on the price of fuel Mercy Flight buys from the county.

The terms of the lease require a mutual agreement to renew every five years, but because of a discrepancy between the lease language and supporting documents provided to legislators, a vote on the lease was tabled and the matter was referred to the Ways and Means Committee.

Ways and Means meets today at 4 o'clock in the Old Courthouse.

January 18, 2011 - 6:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County Emergency Services.

Genesee County will receive a $29,195 state grant to help authorities deal with pets during major emergencies.

Acceptance of the grant was approved by the County Legislature's Public Service Committee today.

In 2010, the Office of Emergency Services drafted an emergency response plan for the county that would cover a range of contingencies for natural and man-made disasters. Part of the plan involves dealing with pets' safety because people often won't evacuate a dangerous location if it means leaving pets behind.

While voting in favor of the grant acceptance, committee Chairman Jay Grasso expressed concern that the government was spending money on pets in current economic conditions.

"Don't get me wrong," Grasso said. "I love my dogs. They won the dog lottery with me. But in these tough economic times, I just don't understand spending money on pets."

The grant is funded by the NYS Division of Homeland Security.

It will be spent on the purchase of mobile pet-sheltering equipment and training.

The emergency pet plan is being developed in conjunction with regional emergency partners Wyoming and Orleans counties.

January 18, 2011 - 4:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, missing children.

missing_davis.jpgAuthorities are asking for help in locating a missing youth who may be in Batavia.

Nathaniel Davis, 15, may be in the company of a 17-year-old girl.

He was last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants.

Davis reportedly is a runaway.

He is described as black with brown eyes, 5' 3", 175lbs.

Anybody with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 1-800-346-3543.

January 18, 2011 - 4:09pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Le Roy.

mug_doris_castle.jpgA 48-year-old woman is facing two felony charges, accused of stealing $6,172 from her employer, a child-care facility.

Doris M. Castle, of 8325 Vallance Road, Le Roy, is charged with grand larceny, 3rd, and falsifying business records, 1st.

Castle is accused of pocketing funds from clients who paid in cash for child-care services.

Det. John Condidorio said Castle also allegedly altered a cash receipt journal in order to try and cover up her alleged thefts.

Castle was releasedon her own recognizance.

January 18, 2011 - 4:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

mug_patrick_donahue.jpgA 21-year-old Batavia man has been accused of forcibly raping a 30-year-old woman.

Charged with rape in the first degree is Patrick J. Donahue, of 44 Williams St.

He was jailed without bail following arraignment today in City Court.

He is accused of raping a woman at a residence on Walnut Street the evening of Jan. 10.

Pages

Calendar

S M T W T F S
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
12
 
13
 
14
 
15
 
16
 
17
 
18
 
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
 
24
 
25
 
26
 
27
 
28
 
29
 
30
 
31
 
 
 
 
 
 

Copyright © 2008-2014 The Batavian. Some Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license.
Contact: Howard Owens, publisher (howard (at) the batavian dot com); (585) 250-4118

blue button