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Village of Corfu

June 9, 2015 - 2:56pm
posted by Traci Turner in Village of Corfu, dissolution, pembroke.

Village of Corfu residents will not get the chance to participate in a public hearing on whether to dissolve their local government after the board of trustees voted 3 to 2 against holding a hearing Monday night.

Board trustees Al Graham, Ken Lauer and Jenny McMartin-Eck did not approve moving forward with the dissolution public hearing because they felt residents would be losing out -- on police protection, maintenance services, as well as village office, court and board services. Their main concern is that the needs of 700 Village residents would not be met by the Town of Pembroke.

Mayor Dave Bielec and Board Trustee Art Ianni were in favor of the motion to hold a public hearing because they wanted to give residents a chance to voice their opinion in an open forum.

The issue of whether to dissolve the village and combine with the Town of Pembroke has been going on for approximately a year. Then Pembroke Town Board met in March to discuss the nitty-gritty issues of dissolution.

The town board agreed to cover the cost for the village's streetlights but special districts would have to be created to address sidewalk repair and lawn waste pickup. Village repairs in the past have been completed by private contractors. For police coverage, board members discussed contracting with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office. Regarding the village's fund balance of $500,000, the board sought opinion from the state Comptroller's Office.

Next, a Dissolution Committee Meeting was held May 12th to discuss the requirements of the final plan. The committee is composed of village board trustees, town board members, and residents from Corfu and Pembroke. A representative from the New York State Department of State answered questions regarding the Dissolution Law.

As things stand, that's all moot now. (SEE BELOW)

Other topics discussed at yesterday's meeting included sewer plant updates, grant applications to fund redevelopment and a proposal for a village yard sale day.

Board Trustee Graham presented requirements that would allow the sewer pretreatment plant to move forward with the proposal to hook up two truck stops -- Travel Centers of America and Flying J. The plant requires smoke testing, dye testing, inspections, meetings, lab work and a permit to have the companies hook up to the plant. Graham also mentioned a grant proposal to make the sewer pretreatment plant larger by building another plant next to the existing one.

Lauer discussed applying for New York State grant funds to improve community development. Historical structures including the Union Hotel and Bowling Alley, recent tattoo parlor and the former Odd Fellows building are in need of repair. The government could take over the buildings or support private development. The revitalization effort would open up the possibility of creating parks, activities for youth and seniors and more downtown parking. The board approved a motion to have a grant writer work on the grant application that is due at the end of July.

Village residents proposed a community yard sale to the board of trustees. The board approved the yard sale days and will be asking private business owners to support the event as well. The yard sale will take place this summer on a weekend in August. Final details will be advertised in the Village of Corfu summer newsletter.

CORRECTION: (By Billie) I added the sentence "As things stand, that's all moot now." Village Board Trustee Al Graham pointed out in comments that that is not right. Citizens have recourse. They can petition to force a vote on village dissolution. I stand corrected and apologize for the error, which the writer of the story, our intern Traci Turner, had nothing to do with whatsoever.

July 19, 2012 - 11:48am
posted by Howard B. Owens in corfu, Village of Corfu.

The wheels of justice can sometimes turn slowly, especially, it seems, when it comes to investigating the operations of judicial departments.

Sometime earlier this year, the state's Judicial Review Commission opened an investigation into alleged financial irregularities in the Village of Corfu Court.

The months-long process, according to documents obtained by The Batavian through a FOIL request, has village officials wondering when they might be able to file an insurance claim and get reimbursed for money they suspect was stolen from the court.

The allegations of missing funds first came to light with the release of an audit by the state comptroller's office that found at least $30,000 in alleged irregularities in the amount of fines collected, bail money received and reports filed with state agencies.

The village has attempted to file a claim for at least $10,000 with its insurance carrier, but the carrier demands further documentation before it will review the claim.

Internal emails obtain through the FOIL request reveal a degree of frustration and concern among village officials over the lengthy process to settle the matter.

The State Police, according to village officials, are unwilling to launch their own investigation until the Judicial Review Commission completes its work for fear of hampering that investigation.

According to village Attorney Mark Boylan, the commission is a deliberative body that works slowly and takes its time to check and weigh every fact.

An email within the FOIL package indicates that the commission has requested and received "a lot of paperwork."

That's probably the same kind of paperwork needed by the insurance carrier.

"The insured does need to present documentation that would prove they sustained a loss from employee dishonesty for coverage to be provided," wrote Julie Diehl, a property specialist for Glatfelter Claims Management of York, Pa., in a letter to Boylan. "This does require a high level of documentation and each transaction claimed must be shown to us."

The village must also prove that the bonded employee converted the money for personal financial gain.

"The narrative of the audit report ... does not speak to employee dishonesty rather to poor record keeping and a cash shortage due to that poor record keeping. So it is even more important to present the financial records, receipts, bank statements and cashbook entries and other documentation available to show the clerk diverted the monies to obtain personal gain."

Boylan responded and told Diehl "The Village Justice maintains all of his own books and records ... and the village does not have access to those records at this time."

Until the investigation by the commission is completed, and possibly until the State Police complete an investigation, those records probably cannot be turned over to the insurance company.

Glatfelter originally demanded it receive the records by June 6, but the village has been granted a 60-day extension and may apply for further extensions every 60 days as necessary, according to the documents.

For the period covered by the comptroller's audit, Brandi Watts, the daughter of Village of Corfu Justice Robert Alexander, was working as Alexander's clerk. 

Watts was eventually dismissed by the village board after discovering under state law Watts was too close of a relation to Alexander to be working for him and an appeal by Alexander to the state was denied.

According to the FOIL'd documents, District Attorney Lawrence Friedman plans to seek the appointment a special prosecutor (or special district attorney to handle the case).

In an interview this week, Friedman declined to discuss the specific case, but explained that whenever his office might have a conflict of interest -- in this case, working closely with an arm of the judicial branch -- Friedman can petition Judge Robert Noonan to appoint a special district attorney.

The DA is usually selected from one of the surrounding counties.

Because there have been no criminal charges filed in this case, no such request has been sent to Noonan, Friedman said.

The documents received by The Batavian indicate a good deal of ongoing conflict between Alexander and the village board. Officials are concerned the situation is disrupting the normal operations of the court, which is another reason they're eager to get the situation resolved.

"We need to ensure that justice is being served and people’s cases are being heard and the job is being performed," Boylan said.

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