After the initial two stories about the Authorities Budget Office report on the Genesee County Economic Development Center's compensation practices, some readers wanted to know what local legislators thought of the issue.
In the second story, we had comments from Chairwoman Mary Pat Hancock and Legislator Hollis Upson, who also sits on the GCEDC board. Below are responses from the other seven members of the Genesee County Legislature.
Raymond F. Cianfrini
District No. 1
Towns of Alabama and Oakfield
Legislator Cianfrini said he was disturbed by the ABO report.
"In terms of oversight, I was not aware until I read the report of the way in which they allocate resources for salaries and bonuses," Cianfrini said.
He said he doesn't believe public employees should receive bonuses, but acknowledged there is some question as to whether GCEDC employees are truly public employees.
"As for the size of the pay, should Genesee County have the highest paid director of an EDC -- should we be 'leader of the pack'? I'm not sure I have a full handle on how the GCEDC board has justified paying these kind of salaries."
In terms of oversight, he said he would like to see the legislature review the GCEDC's budget to ensure the county portion of its revenue is being spent appropriately.
"I wonder if our portion of the budget is being used wisely and whether any portion is funding bonuses," Cianfrini added.
He does believe GCEDC has done some good projects for the county and he's a big supporter of GCEDC's efforts to move the STAMP project forward in Alabama, which is part of his district.
"It's an important project that needs to be developed," Cianfrini said. "GCEDC took the initiative to keep the ball rolling and for that. I'm grateful and want to see it continue."
Robert J. Bausch
District No. 2
Towns of Elba, Byron and Bergen
Legislator Bausch said he's supportive of the GCEDC and believes the agency has helped improve Genesee County's economy and wants to see its work continue.
"Having been a lifelong resident of Genesee County, I know one of the major complaints over years and years and years, is that we weren't doing enough to support industrial development, bringing jobs into the county and so forth," Bausch said.
"When John Dwyer took over as head (of economic development) and really got that organization going, we finally started to see some results and I think Steve (Hyde, current CEO) has done an excellent job of following his lead."
As for the compensation issue, Bausch said that's a matter for the GCEDC board to decide.
"I know most of the members," Bausch said. "They are hard-nosed businessmen, so I've got to trust their judgment."
He said that a recent state report on the Genesee County Animal Shelter, knocking the conditions there, and the ABO report knocking the GCEDC board, "tell you about all you need to know about the state of New York State."
"Here's one place getting a negative audit because it is trying to be successful and here's another about a place trying to keep costs down by using volunteers, but they get complaints because it isn't exactly perfect," Bausch said.
As for legislature oversight, Bausch said the legislature has a liaison on the GCEDC board and he doesn't see any need for more oversight than that.
Annie M. Lawrence
District No. 3
Towns of Pembroke and Darien
Legislator Lawrence said she's satisfied with the current level of oversight the legislature provides the GCEDC board. How they compensate staff is really up to the board, she said.
"That goes back to micromanaging," Lawrence said. "I think we have qualified individuals who sit on that board. They know better than we do the day-to-day goings on. I trust these individuals to do their job."
As for the ABO report, she said it was long and involved and it's possible that the bonuses should have been handled differently, but ...
"The thing is, in Genesee County we have had a lot of wins with GCEDC and a lot of positive things have happened as a result," Lawrence said. "We’ve had those jobs created. We’ve helped existing businesses and we’ve helped new businesses.
"Through this downturn, yes, our unemployment has been high, but it could have been higher if we didn't have the projects we had."
Jerome J. Grasso
District No. 5
Town of LeRoy
Legislator Grasso said when he first read the ABO report, he found it pretty stunning.
"You read it and the language it uses kind of takes your breath away in the fact that it's so negative," Grasso said. "But then you look at what Harris Beech (GCEDC's law firm) put out and realize it's all just opinion."
Before the legislature takes a position on the report, however, Grasso said members should wait for things to settle down and then try to get more information and see what's really going on.
"I think we should have the full truth," Grasso said. "We need transparency. I'd like to wait and get the full picture."
However, he does believe GCEDC fully cooperated the the ABO investigators and maybe not all of the information has been released.
"I don't think the GCEDC has attempted to hide anything," Grasso said. "When the ABO people came in, whenever they asked for anything, they got it. I don't think there was an attempt to not be transparent with the auditors."
As for legislative oversight, Grasso thinks the legislature does have the power to make changes if they don't like what they see going on with the GCEDC. He said either board appointments could be changed or the county's portion of the budget could be withheld.
District No. 6
Towns of Alexander, Bethany and Pavilion
The GCEDC has Legislator Leadley's full support.
She called the ABO report one-sided and singled out the Batavia Daily News and The Batavian for providing only one-sided coverage of the issue.
"I think the GCEDC has done an excellent job in bringing companies here to Genesee County," Leadley said. "The bonus money was not taxpayer money. I'm convinced of that."
As for oversight, she said the legislature provides a good deal of oversight -- between Upson's position on the board, Hyde regularly appearing before the Ways and Means Committee and the various other reports the legislature gets from GCEDC throughout the year.
Robert J. Radley
District No. 7, Wards 1 and 6
City of Batavia
Legislator Radley, an engineer and planner by trade, said he approaches GCEDC as a business issue.
"I have five business development people working for me from Maine to North Carolina and I look at this from a business development perspective," Radley said. "First, it's typical in business development to pay salary plus bonuses. But putting that aside, I don't see how a report can look at someone's salary without looking at the results.
"If our director has a salary that is twice, say, of Erie County, but he's bringing in four times the revenue, then he's worth the money. To me, to do this right, somebody has to say we're going to compare salaries and we're going to compare results. Then you have a meaningful comparison."
As for legislative oversight, Radley said it pretty much ends at appointing the right people to the GCEDC board.
"It's incumbent upon us to appoint a board with the right qualifications, the experience and the expertise to direct that agency," Radley said. "I don't think it's incumbent upon us to get down into the nitty-gritty."
Edward DeJaneiro Jr., 2nd Vice Chair
District No. 9, Wards 4 and 5
City of Batavia
According to Legislator DeJaneiro, the GCEDC could maybe use some additional legislative oversight, but it's important to remember how vital economic development is to the county.
"We want to keep in mind that GCEDC is one of the few tools we have to concentrate on bringing in new business and making it easy for new business to come into the county," DeJaneiro said. "I don't think we want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to make sure that their bonuses and compensation are in line with what we expect for our community, though."
While the legislature has only limited oversight of the GCEDC, he said he would like to keep a close eye on them.
He said he was rather surprised by the level of compensation staff was getting.
"I want to know what they’re doing, because I think it’s out of the ordinary to give those kinds of wages and bonuses that are so out of line with the rest of the community."