There are some credible grumblings in New Baltimore, Greene County, focusing on the Greene County IDA, the organization which is established and governed by New York State Municipal law and which is supposed to be supervised by the Greene County Legislators. But it seems that for some time now, the Greene County IDA has not had a real report-to person; in other words, although the Greene County IDA is supposed to report to the Greene County legislators and the Greene county legislators are supposed to be keeping an eye on the IDA, this doesn’t appear to be happening.
“Working in partnership with the Greene County Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Planning and Great Northern Catskills Chamber of Commerce, we offer a variety of financial and incentive based tools and management flexibility to help foster success. The IDA works towards our goals in conjunction with local communities, state and local governments, the business community and numerous regional partners with sound planning, sensitivity to the environment and the preservation of our quality of life. The Greene County IDA strives for success utilizing a positive economic development image and track record while setting the standard of Visionary Growth!” (from the “Mission Statement” of the Greene County IDA)
We attended a recent New Baltimore Republican Club gathering at which Mr René VanSchaack, executive director of the Greene County IDA, answered questions about the Greene County IDA and what it might be able to do to put the town of New Baltimore on the map. The bottom line conclusion after that meeting was that there was very little, in general, that the IDA can do for New Baltimore as the IDA, although Mr VanSchaack generously offered to assist smaller businesses in whatever way he can, the IDA is geared more to larger companies. We were convinced that Mr VanSchaack was sincere in his offer to support but at the end of the gathering one attendee stated directly to Mr VanSchaack:
Our Question is this:
Is the Chairman of the Greene County IDA Involved in Questionable Ethics?
There are some credible allegations that the current chairman of the Greene County IDA, Mr Eric Hoglund, has been involved in some suspicious land-grabs, and that his property acquisitions are raising suspicions that he may be abusing his office, violating the IDA’s own code of ethics, and could be involved in illegal transactions, violating Article 18 of the Municipal Law of New York State, the law that governs the Greene County IDA. Article 18 of the Municipal Law deals with various forms of conflict of interest in the many organizations that fall under its regulation.
The provisions of the Greene County IDA Code of Ethics that apply to these allegations and this suspicion reads:
“8. Endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that he or she is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of his or her trust. Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, nothing shall prohibit any director, officer or employee of the Agency from acquiring property adjacent to or otherwise proximate to the lands in which the Agency has an ownership interest provided that such acquisition is not based upon the use of confidential information obtained by such director, officer or employee of the Agency in his capacity with the Agency as determined by such member after consultation with Chairman of the Agency and Counsel to the Agency.” (Code of Ethics adopted on March 17, 2011)
Apart from the gobbledegook, double-talk, blather of this part of the Ethics Code, which we doubt many of the IDA board members can read and understand, much less the average locally schooled resident, the point it makes is that (1) IDA officers must not do anything to raise suspicion of abuse of their office (You can be certain they’ll try to stay out of sight; there’s no one watching them.), (2) IDA officers can acquire property adjacent to IDA properties (Why else would they do that but to snatch a profit or seize a financial advantage?), (3) IDA officers can’t use “confidential” information obtained in their work as IDA officers, (4) this is all determined after consultation with the chairman and the IDA lawyer. What a load of unintelligible steaming bullshit! Well, this paragraph is not the only paragraph in the IDA’s Code of Ethics that is in gobbledegook, double-talk, blatherese that may have been violated, there are others in that Code that may be affected but we find that this paragraph applies most directly to our point: That the conduct of the Greene County IDA chairman, Mr Eric Hoglund, does indeed “raise suspicion among the public that he…is likely…engaged in acts that are in violation of his…trust.” The suspicion is that he may have used “confidential information obtained” as an officer and employee of the IDA.
if anything anywhere else in this so-called Ethics Code says otherwise, that’s all dumped and this applies…
But the real clincher is the phrase, “Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary…“, which for those of you who were exposed to RCS English classes would be meaningless, actually means this: “despite anything in this Code that says otherwise…” or “although something in this Code may say differently…” or “if anything anywhere else in this so-called Ethics Code says otherwise, that’s all dumped and … applies”. So, in paragraph 8 of the IDA Ethics Code, this “notwithstanding” phase literally says IDA officers can buy up land they know will turn a profit for them, because who’s going to be able to say they used “confidential information” obtained in the course of doing IDA business? And it’s the chairman and the IDA lawyer, if they’re ever even consulted, who make that decision. But what if it’s the chairman is involved in the dirty dealing? Or the IDA attorney? Or another board member or officer? No one is checking up on him or her and his minions. Who is watching Mr Eric Hoglund other than his cronies on the IDA board? Answer: No one. Until now. So the Greene County IDA, in it’s present form, is like a private investors club getting insider information to use themselves or pass on to someone who can use it for them, or do them a favor later. Who knows? Who’s regulating them on the IDA board?
Mr VanSchaack wants to keep his job as executive director and is unwilling to be the people’s messenger to chairman Hoglund
When the question was asked, Mr VanSchaack visibly lost the confident composure he had otherwise shown when presenting the IDA’s operations during the Q&A, and he became somewhat defensive asserting that he was “lily white” and that he made great efforts to be and to stay that way. The chairman of the Greene County IDA is his (VanSchaack’s) boss, and Mr VanSchaack expressly stated that “If you go to Stewart’s and have a complaint about the coffee, you don’t tell the kid behind the counter to tell his boss the coffee is lousy; he just won’t do it if he want’s to keep his job.” That’s tantamount to saying that Mr VanSchaack wants to keep his job as executive director and is unwilling to be the people’s messenger to chairman Hoglund for fear of losing his job. Is that the way Hoglund runs the IDA, “Kill the messenger?”
Mr VanSchaack went further to say that if there was a complaint, a suspicion, that whoever is making the complaint should do his or her homework, and get the facts. Well, we strongly diagree with Mr VanSchaack and would argue that it’s not for us to do the “homework” or to gather the facts of the case but that it’s the job of the elected officials who are elected and who have the responsibility to oversee such organizations as the Greene County IDA: the Greene County legislature and the Greene County District Attorney, in collaboration with the Green County Controller. Then the complaint or the suspicion should be brought before the Greene County legislature, the bunch who is supposed to be overseeing and monitoring the IDA. We’re doing that now.
It was really bad planning by the officers of the New Baltimore Repubican Club, a party that espouses faith and family values, to have scheduled and held its meeting during Christian Holy Week and on the eve of the Jewish Passover feast! What were they thinking? Few Christians and no Jew would consider spending Holy Thursday or the evening before Passover listening to an IDA spokesperson chant his capitalist, materialist, immoral mantras on how to be the worst possible stewards of creation. (Although some of us did but for the best of reasons: to protect, defend and safeguard the interests of our families, friends, community, and town. Our elected officials don’t seem to be interested in doing that.)
It’s interesting that Mr VanSchaack did a Pontius Pilate act right on Holy Thursday, the very day on which we celebrate, remember and commemorate Jesus Christ’s symbolic washing of his disciples’ feet, demonstrating service to those you serve and lead; in other words, servant leadership. We’re writing this on Good Friday, the day Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus Christ but washed his hands of the situation. Pontius Pilate has been remembered as a coward — as not having stood up for what was morally right and legally just but caving to the mob — ever since.
The mantra was “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.” The reality was lies, Lies, LIES.
We have some excellent lessons to learn from Ravena and Coeymans. The Coeymans town board was bamboozled into a controversial re-zoning fiasco to cater for the likes of Carver Laraway and Carver Companies and TCI, a waste-management operation, and the Tappan Zee bridge project. The mantra was “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.” The reality was lies, Lies, LIES. And voters and residents in Ravena-Coeymans swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker! No one in the town of Coeymans can give a figure on the number of new jobs “created,” much less how many of them are local and how many are permanent! But it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see the damage done by wide-eyed blindness on the part of the fast-talking used-car salesmen and the hick elected officials: a drastic decline in the quality of life in Ravena-Coeymans, ridiculous increases in heavy truck traffic, new hazards and risks to residents, damage to infrastructure due to the heavy truck traffic and the vibrations they cause, dust up and in the kazoo, and population continues to decline, homes going up for sale everywhere (Example: on New Street in the hamlet of New Baltimore 50% of the homes are empty and/or up for sale!), no new [small] businesses, and the list goes on. Who’s sorry now?
We simply don’t have the population to support any substantial job demand
As for the subject of jobs we simply don’t have the population to support any substantial job demand; and why should we foot the major part of the bill and suffer the inconveniences so that people from outside the community and outside the county can come in and fill the jobs?
Business is not going to move to New Baltimore or anywhere else to fill the town treasury or to offset residents’ taxes
While Mr VanSchaack booms on about tax revenues and development, it seems he’s comparing apples with oranges. First of all the low current tax revenues are due to the fact that much of New Baltimore is still agricultural and pays an agricultural rate. Residential property would pay more, and commercial/industrial even more. That’s true. But what he seems to be overlooking is the fact that a business is not going to move to New Baltimore or anywhere else to fill the town treasury or to offset residents’ taxes; they move to an area and invest in it because there’s something in it for them, not for the area. Let’s not be the fools that Coeymans and Ravena were when Carver Laraway bamboozled the Coeymans town board. At least Ravena mayor Bill “Mouse” Misuraca had something to gain by making backroom deals with Laraway, it got Misuraca elected (for all the good that did for Ravena), the only one’s that benefitted from that thieves’ bargain were Misuraca and Carver Laraway.
What Mr VanSchaack and the town board of New Baltimore have to do is wake up and meet reality eye-to-eye. Maybe Mr VanSchaack’s figures, however manipulated they are, do show a net $35,000 a year increase in tax revenues, what he’s not factoring into that figure is how much it’s going to cost every year for the town and county residents and taxpayers to repair the damage to the infrastructure done by the increased traffic, etc. And what about the quality of life in the town? Look at what Coeymans and Ravena have to deal with now! Sorry, but it doesn’t add up to an improvement when you do the math. And we’re not ready to give our community or our traditions away for a pittance.
It’s the duty and the obligation of the Greene County Legislature and the Greene County District Attorney to look into these allegations levied against Mr Hoglund
Well, we are hereby serving notice on the Greene County Legislature and the Greene County District Attorney that this suspicion exists and that it needs to be investigated immediately. The allegations are no longer under wraps but are now public and it’s the duty and the obligation of the Greene County Legislature and the Greene County District Attorney to look into these allegations — to do their homework, as it were — by examining Mr Hoglund’s performance and his recent purchases of real estate. After the mandatory investigation then to make a public statement of their findings and of any action to be taken. If there is any ethical violation or law-breaking going on it’s to be thoroughly and conscientiously investigated and prosecuted. The residents and voters of Greene County and New York state have a right to know and a right to ethical conduct and integrity in our public agencies.
The water park that has been tossed around for the past several years…The project is stagnant. It’s going nowhere.
We’d like to close with a short note on the water park that has been tossed around for the past several years. When asked about the status of the water park project, Mr VanSchaack did some hemming and hawing, but ultimately talked himself into a corner and had to admit that the project is stagnant. It’s going nowhere. So, people, forget it for now. It was a lousy idea in the first place and apparently the corporations who were playing with the idea of putting it in New Baltimore have other plans. Hell, if it were such a great idea in the first place don’t you think that any corporation would have literally jumped on the idea and make it a reality. Sorry, but it’s a load of smoke and mirrors until proved otherwise.
In the meantime, join us in demanding a thorough and conclusive investigation of the Green County IDA and it’s chairman, Mr Eric Hoglund, and at the conclusion of that investigation, regardless of the results, to establish an executive office that is responsible for supervising and accounting for the operations of the Greene County IDA. At this time, the IDA is not sufficiently supervised or monitored and operates pretty independently. It’s very suspicious when the chairman of any organization is the person who is responsible for determining ethics, especially when that chairman is the subject of allegations of misconduct.
Stories in the works: Our investigation of Mr Jerry Perrine of Ravena-Coeymans notariety and the special treatment he has received in terms of services, assessments, and code violations from his friends in Ravena village hall and Coeymans town hall. He’s apparently a mutant created by splicing genes from Cathy Deluca, Nancy Warner, and John Bruno—but sneakier and better at using the old backstabbing, ambush technique. Laverne “Larry” Conrad and his cronies may have thought they could keep their secrets … but it all comes out when the right questions and the right people are asked. There’s truth in the saying that “There’s no honor among thieves,” and they throw each other to the sharks as soon as the water starts getting hot around them. But that’s all coming to light and ready for exposure. Stay tuned!