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February 22, 2010 - 11:48pm

Sale of 9 Willow in Batavia approved, but not without more discussion

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council, landlords.

The much-disputed sale of a tax-foreclosed property at 9 Willow St., Batavia, reached a resolution tonight as the city council approved the sale of the house to Stafford resident Tom Englerth.

bob_bialkowski.jpgHe was the second-highest bidder for the property -- contrary to a previously published report by the Batavia Daily News that Habitat for Humanity placed the second-highest bid -- with a bid of $20,500, which was $500 less than the highest bid by Michael Pullinzi.

Pullinzi's bid was rejected by the council two weeks ago for apparently having been cited too many times for code violations. (Pullinzi has noted that his violations are not nearly as numerous as some local landlords and that some of the alleged violations were actually on neighboring properties.)

The contentious decision carried over to tonight's meeting as Councilman Bob Bialkowski asked the council not sell the property to Englerth, but instead re-auction the property at an upcoming county auction.

Bialkowski's motion failed 2-7 with only Councilman Sam Barone backing the motion.

“It’s unfortunate that nobody asked the high bidder what his intention for the home was," Bialkowski said, noting that Pullinzi has previously gutted and remodeled homes on North Lyon and in Le Roy and is current converting a two-family apartment building into a single-family residence on Fisher Park.

kathy_briggs.jpgCouncil President Marianne Clattenburg expressed concern that since Englerth had probably been notified of the council's pending vote, to switch directions at the last minute might expose taxpayers to a costly lawsuit.

Councilwoman Kathy Briggs also showed some exasperation with Bialkowski's motion.

"We didn’t accept the first one, now the proper procedure is, we go to the next bidder," Briggs said. "End of discussion."

Councilman Frank Ferrando spoke at length for the council to come up with a better policy for dealing with the sale of tax-deliquent properties.

“I don’t know what alternatives we have, but there have to be better alternatives relative to the vision we have to make our neighborhoods better," Ferrando said.

Ferrando didn't expect an answer tonight from City Manager Jason Molino, but he asked him what the city was doing to hold tenants more accountable, echoing a theme of a recent story on The Batavian.

After Bialkowski's motion failed, the council voted unanimously to sell the property to Englerth.

Pictured, Bialkowski, top, and Briggs.

Julie A Pappalardo
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"Council President Marianne Clattenburg expressed concern that since Englerth had probably been notified of the council's pending vote, to switch directions at the last minute might expose taxpayers to a costly lawsuit." I'm sorry, but what these people did to Mr. Pullinzi exposed the Taxpayers to a HUGE lawsuit!!! What is Councilman Clattenburg trying to say? Am I reading this right?
Howard B. Owens
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Not taking a position here, nor trying to speak for Marianne, but I could see a line of reasoning that goes something like: -- The code that allows the council disapprove the sale to a particular bidder for any reason or no reason, was or should have been known by the bidders. -- The council followed a procedure allowed under law. -- The council previously announced it would go to the second highest bidder. -- That second highest bidder was vetted under the same process and found to have no in-city violations -- therefore, there is no legal cause not to award the property to that bidder, and therefore the bidder could make a case of being unfairly deprived of the property (in a way, in this line of thinking that the previous high bidder cannot). Again, not taking side here, just laying out how I think some people might see it.
John Roach
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Julie, How is the city exposed to a lawsuit? Unless the City Attorney lied (and no council member or landlord has said he has) then every bidder got a copy of the bidding code/rules. True, this is only the 2nd time a bidder has been denied, but the denial was allowed in the rules. I didn't like the first time it happened, but he was an out of town guy, and nobody cared. What do you tell the court? I was given the rules, but never thought the city would use them? And since it happened before, to Dr. Chess, you can't even say it never happened before. In fact, he was the only bidder 3 times, and still denied. Now, if the City does not use the same vetting system each and every time from now on when a property is auctioned, you might make a case. We have to wait and see, but I bet they do.
Michael Pullinzi
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There were NO such bidding rules given to any bidder at the auction that stated any citations or histories would be considered in evaluating bidders. NONE! Yes, the contract did state that City Council had the right to vote no for any reason, but there was no indication or rule that dicussed what was done to me and their ability to reject a bid does not free them from liability in Slander, Lible, and Defamation as was done to me. The City Attorney intially misrepresented that bidders were informed that citation histories would be used to disqualify bidders, but as you can read in the Daily News today, he now retracted that and admits that there was no such written rules so I hope that puts an end to this false contention. Since Council has rejected my high bid, I am fully in favor of the second bidder getting this property. He wants to rehab and fix it up and Council should be happy to have anyone that is willing to invest in and rehab City property. Even the landlords that acknowledged they have received over 300 citations in the same 7 year period have greatly improved all of their properties since they purchased them and deserve praise and support for improving this community. I have a solid record of rehabing and reselling such properties and have done several in the past and am in the process of doing one now in the City that will be a show place when done especially compared to when I purchased it. The problem with this whole mess was how some on Council went about it all and their logic is majorly flawed. They contend I had too many citations with 13 violations (really only 8) over the last seven years. I only had 2 citations in the last two years for 10 units so you have to ask yourself why did they pick the 7 year period and were Clattenburg and Briggs looking for a reason to disqualify me to favor someone else? The noted Police contacts at my properties were mainly for emergency medical care. These Council members have been exposed in that they made errored assumptions on that and only had a number of contacts with no details, but made decisions based on numbers alone. The two tenants that required that care have both passed away in the last few months and I am sure those Council members are happy they will now not be making any more such calls for medical care. I have also learned that an ARC client that is a tenant at another property of mine constantly calls Police over minor matters and I can not control that. I wasn't even aware of it before this because no one told me it was occuring or was a concern. They are otherwise great tenants. I should bring my ARC tenants and the relatives of the two deceased tenants before Council to embarass those Council members for implying those contacts were for criminal matters. Some of my tenants have had domestic matters, but I have never had any reports of criminal activities at any of my rentals and would act promptly to any such concern. NOW Council says because the second bidder has no property in the City that he is Ok, but this appears very flawed as they have not looked at his property outside the City and say that is not their concern. As far as they know he could be a major problem outside the City. I happen to know this is likely not the case and see this same person at the same building supply auctions I go to etc. and am confident he will do a great job, just as I would have done, to this property. I just hope he is aware of all the rules in the City and that he can't do his own plumbing, has to have a licensed City plumber, etc. and has to have all the work inspected etc. as this is not the case in most areas outside the City. These Council member's actions also cost the City taxpayers $500 in accepting this lower second place bid. Certain members of Council have been shown over and over again to have not been forthcoming in this matter: 1. Council minutes show Clattenburg had asked for only information on bidders with back taxes and open citations. (I have none) 2. Clattenburg admits she herself has citations. Other of the five also have citations. 3. Clattenburg purported to have "other information" of details of Police contacts leaving innuendo of criminal activities at my properties. There was no such information and the only "hard data" they had was a list of numbers of contacts and very few details on even the citation matters. (the info on the citation matters however was enough that they should have been able to see they were only minor matters) Of course they didn't care about that and only listed the number again implying a much worse situation than they knew existed. At best, they were recklessly misled/misinformed and made errored assumptions. At worse, they purposely trumped things up. In addition, none of them bothered to contact me to ask any questions so they could be informed and instead chose to spring this all on me as a last minute surprise public attack defaming me with unfounded and irresponsible allegations. 4. Pacino purported I only fix things when getting a citation. How do you come to that concluesion when I only have 8 citations for 10 living units for seven years??? Especially, when the citations are for minor items and not actual building concerns? Surely she has to realize that more than 8 things go wrong at ten living units in seven years? 5. The City Attorney publicly purported all bidders had been duly notified prior to auction that a review of citations etc. would be done and used to disqualify bidders. This implied such an attack was warranted as we were informed it would happen. Now he acknowledges there was no such notification. Seems the City does not have a very good record in this matter all the way around.
Howard B. Owens
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Thanks for the detailed post, Mike. I just want to say, just to correct the record from my perspective -- I don't think George Van Nest has ever said that bidders were told their notices/violations would be reviewed. In fact, I'm quite certain during council meetings he has said the exact opposite. Any other news reports to the contrary, I believe, are in error. George has been quite clear that the notification to bidders was that the law allowed the council to reject the bid. I think he's been quite clear that a review of records was not part of the notification. I'm not saying to to defend the City or George Van Nest, just to point out what I believe to be the actual facts. Since I did not take notes on this particular point, I am only going off memory, but I'm pretty darn sure about this.
Howard B. Owens
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Also, Mike - during the initial meeting on this subject, the police calls were not discussed. The council was making a point to be very vague about who the owner in question was and what the nature of the complaints were. They talked in a little more detail code violations, but were pointed in saying "and other matters that we can't discuss." Until you mentioned it, I had no idea they were referring to police and medical calls. However, the thing that bugs me is that they were being intentionally dodgy about matters that are entirely public record. Police, fire and medical calls to a particular address are matters of public record and are not confidential, and the city acted as if it was confidential. That bugs me.
Michael Pullinzi
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Van Nest was quoted in the paper as saying bidders were notified. Van Nest has now said that this was not the case. If he has said otherwise before at Council meetings this is the first any media source has carried it. The biggest point here is that this is in direct contrast to the City Administrator, Clattenburg, and Briggs and repeated by others in this blog on the Batavian which I don't see anyone correcting other than myself. I was not the one to discuss Police contacts as I had no way to even know that as the information is not public and I can not even obtain such information on my own properties. I might be able to obatin a number of Police contacts, but no details and Clattenburg was purporting to many about supposedly having such info that was incriminating as her excuse to do all this. Her being "dodgy" is putting it midly as she did all that on purpose to hide behind. The City had stamped the info to Council as "confidental" and no one was willing to share the information with me until it came out that it was only a number of contacts with no details. Then I did some digging and asked tenants and found out about what the various contacts involved. Why did the City stamp it confidential if your now saying it is not? Council making VERY disparaging untrue remarks about me and eliminating me from the bid spoke for itself and their not initially mentioning my name directly in thier attacks only reflects their coyness to cover thier tracks in this matter. Does making untrue remarks about "the high bidder" really make a difference if my name is on public record as the high bidder and they provide that information to the media at the same meeting where they trash me? You didn't have to FOI that information did you? I certainly never volunteered my name as the high bidder in all of this. They did release my name as the bidder in question and were vicious and reckless in their statements and none of them has acted to undo the unfairness to me. I could accept some type of public apology to undo what they have done. No one is perfect and mistakes get made, but only they can undo what they have done. Would it really be asking so much to have them acknowledge that perhaps they acted too rashly and harshly to undo the damage to my name in this matter? None of them have even done this privately and have only stuck to their guns that they did the right thing which it is obvious they have not.
Howard B. Owens
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Mike, I'm going to stand by my memory of what I heard in council (unfortunately, I've already deleted my recording of that meeting). I haven't interviewed Van Nest on this topic. I only know what I heard in the meeting. I don't think I've reported otherwise than what I stated above. The law was known to the bidders, but not the possibility of looking into past records. That's been my understanding of the situation since the first meeting on this. I just reread my original story and I didn't address this particular point either way. Though I did quote Frank Ferrando about how it was unfair to act "out of the blue" on this. As for the order of release of information: -- Council didn't mention your name. But in the council packet the media received prior to the meeting, you were listed as the highest bidder. -- The code violation report was not part of the packet released to the media. When we asked Jason for a copy after the meeting, he said a copy would be made available Tuesday afternoon. -- That report only covered reported code violations and such. Not police/fire/ambulance calls. And that part of the concern was never directly addressed by council. The only reason that I knew there was something additional was because Bill Cox made a statement about "and other matters we can't discuss" (not exact quote, something like that). -- Routine blotter entry type information is public record -- name and date of call, location, type of incident. More details are not necessarily public record. Items that pertain to an ongoing police investigation are not public record. Once the investigation is closed, much of the police record can become public record (though, not necessarily).
Julie A Pappalardo
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This whole thing just reminds me of getting "demerits" in boarding school........Except it's like getting "demerits" for OTHER peoples behavior.

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