Is the Chairman of the New Baltimore Town Planning Board
Guilty of Conflict of Interest and Abuse of Public Office?
Is his wife, sitting Town Board Member Shelly VanEtten, accessory to the criminality of her husband?
Are the New Baltimore Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso and Deputy Supervisor Nick Dellisanti and the Town Board involved as well?!?
Based on documents, records and information received under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law, and based on the Town of New Baltimore’s refusal to provide information exonerating the suspects, we think that several resignations are in order and that the alleged criminal activity in Town Hall should be prosecuted by the Greene County District Attorney, Joseph Stanzione.
As the saying goes, if you pick up rocks, you’re liable to find snakes. Well, we’ve been picking up rocks in New Baltimore, New York, and we’ve found snakes, a lot of snakes. Here are just a few:
Several months ago we reported on some disturbing facts about the Town of New Baltimore Assessor, Gordon Bennett, and the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review, headed by Donna Degnen (members include: Donna Degnen, Linda LeClair, Bernie Jones, Ronna Smith, Lynn Taylor). Based on our initial findings, we continued our investigations and have received confirming information in the form of documents produced by the Town of New Baltimore in response to a resident’s Freedom of Information Law demands.
Not only is the Assessor’s Office under Gordon Bennett operating under some very creative assessment procedures and is very likely guilty of abuse of office, the Board of Assessment Review, as we have already reported is incompetent and corrupt as ever. But more details on Bennett and Degnen in a follow up article devoted completely to them and their keepers, New Baltimore Town Supervisor Jeff Ruso, his deputy supervisor, former town supervisor Nick Dellisanti, and the New Baltimore Town Board. Bennett is one of their hirelings, and the Board of Assessment Review is a town committee appointed by the Supervisor and Town Board. The incompetence and corruption is gargantuan but more on that later. Right now we’d like to take a closer look at one property owner who got special treatment under the Board of Assessment Review and with Gordon Bennett’s blessing: William Brandt, owner of the Bristol Manor Senior Housing Project in the Town of New Baltimore, and who is represented by local Ravena sheister Michael Biscone, so you know something has to be crooked about the whole business once Biscone gets involved. Well, we won’t disappoint you on that item.
The Brandt project had been languishing in the New Baltimore Planning Board for several years. It got our attention when we started investigating the New Baltimore Board of Assessment Review and found, after reviewing the documents and the taped recordings of the proceedings, that Brandt was granted a substantial reduction in his tax assessment, and that he was supposed to have submitted a number of documents, including receipts, to support his claim for a reduction. Michael Biscone clearly states that he will provide the receipts within two weeks of the Board’s hearing, those receipts were to have included receipts for work done by “VanEtten construction.”
The first problem we found was that the Board of Assessment Review made all of their determinations on the evening of the hearings. In other words, they didn’t wait for any further discussions or for any receipts to arrive from Mr Biscone; they just doled out the reductions in assessment to their friends. We’ll report on the details in that promised follow-up.
The name VanEtten raised our interest because Shelly VanEtten is a sitting member of the New Baltimore Town Board and her husband Robert VanEtten owns VanEtten Excavating out of Ravena (1314 Saw Mill Rd, Ravena, NY 12143 (518) 756-3517 / 424-8854). Robert VanEtten is also chairman of the New Baltimore Planning Board, and has been since at least 2017. Before that he was a member of the board.
[Editor’s Note: In all fairness, we have attempted to obtain information from the Town of New Baltimore in order to either eliminate any involvement of Van Etten or to confirm his alleged misconduct. The Town of New Baltimore on at least two (2) occasions has refused to provide confirmation or any information about Van Etten in response to our inquiries. In fact, both the New Baltimore Town Clerk and the Clerk of the New Baltimore Planning Board, Ms Marjorie Loux, have denied having any telephone number or other information on Mr Robert “Rob” Van Etten. We find that incredible (unbelievable) that no one in New Baltimore Town Hall has any information on a member of a Town committee, particularly an individual appointed by the Town Board to the position of chairman of the New Baltimore Planning Board. Too many secrets in New Baltimore Town Hall, don’t you think? Now, Readers, do YOU believe that the Town of New Baltimore doesn’t have as much as a telephone number for Mr Robert Van Etten or for sitting board member Shelly Van Etten? Aren’t they both getting checks from the Town of New Baltimore? The snakes are thriving in Town Hall and the lies and corruption don’t seem to end! Note that the Town did not respond by saying “We cannot disclose the requested information,” they responded that they did not have the information. Now either that’s a lie or it’s complete incompetence, neither of which belong in Town Hall.]
The Building Permit 2017-65 issued by the New Baltimore Building Department (Allan Jourdin) to Mr Brandt was based on the information provided in the Application for Building Permit approved by Marjorie Loux on November 15, 2017. The Application names “VanEtten Construction” as the general contractor doing the work on Brandt’s building. Was this the same VanEtten construction as the VanEtten construction owned by sitting New Baltimore Planning Board and husband of sitting New Baltimore Town Board member, Shelly VanEtten? When we looked up some information, the picture got grimmer and grimier by the minute. You see, Robert VanEtten’s business is exactly what you’d expect a local general contractor to be and is described on VanEtten’s website as “Excavation Contractors, Landscape Designers & Consultants, Tree Service, Drainage Contractors, Utility Contractors, Concrete Contractors, Foundation Contractors.” Now that alone doesn’t make VanEtten’s activity criminal in any way but what we found in the Planing Board minutes does.
You see, New York State law forbids a sitting member of a Planning Board to vote on any project in which that member has an interest. So, if Robert VanEtten is a member of the New Baltimore Planning Board and has accepted work from a developer whose project was before the planning board, and the member votes on that project, then the member has committed a crime.
We demanded the Planning Board Minutes for the meeting at which the Brandt project was finally discussed and approved. Guess what we found! You guessed it!
At the 2017 Organizational Meeting of January 1, 2017, and reported in the approved minutes of that meeting on January 9, 2017, Mr Robert VanEtten was appointed by the New Baltimore Town Board (in a motion by then Supervisor Nick Dellisanti and passed by board members Dellisanti, Ruso, Briody, and Irving. S. VanEtten abstained since they were appointing her husband) to be Chair of the Planning Board. So, Robert VanEtten was a member and chairman of the New Baltimore Planning Board in 2017, and reapppoitned on the motion of Supervisor Jeff Ruso (passed by board members Ruso, Briody, Downes, and Irving; S. VanEtten again abstained). Robert VanEtten was again chairman of the New Baltimore Planning Board in 2018. Having established that fact, we then examined the Minutes of the New Baltimore Planning Board.
In the Minutes of the Town of New Baltimore Planning Board Regular Monthly Meeting of June 8, 2017 (Approved on November 9, 2017), the meeting was called to order by “Rob” VanEtten, and the meeting was opened with board members Jean Horn, Bob Court, Pat Bruno, and Lee Salisbury present. Board members Vadney and Boehlke were excused and absent.
Under the heading “Old Business” we find “William Brandt – Bristol Manor Assisted Living Facilty [sic] – Site Plan.” According to those official minutes, Mr Robert VanEtten presided as chair and voted to approve the site plan together with board members Court, Salisbury, Horn and Bruno (members Vadney and Boehlke were excused and absent).
If Mr Robert VanEtten who is a sitting member of the New Baltimore Town Planning Board is the same Mr Robert “Rob” VanEtten who owns VanEtten Construction, and if Mr Robert VanEtten as owner of the VanEtten construction company voted to approve the Brandt site plan, and if that same VanEtten construction company is the same “general contractor” named in the Application for Building Permit, and VanEtten construction did the preparation work for the Bristol Manor Senior Living Facility on Route 9W in the Town of New Baltimore, then Mr Robert VanEtten has violated New York State law and is guilty of profiting from a conflict of interest.
Given the fact that the then Supervisor, Nicholas Dellisanti, and present Supervisor Jeff Ruso, were on top of the Brandt project all along. And given the fact that Dellisanti and Ruso appointed VanEtten to be on the Planning Board and to be chairman of the Planning Board, and S. VanEtten, wife of Robert VanEtten and sitting Town Board member, was aware of all these goings on, Dellisanti (currently Ruso’s appointed “deputy supervisor”), Ruso, the entire Town Board, and especially Shelly VanEtten, as the wife of Rob VanEtten and a sitting board member, are all implicated in serious abuse of office.
Consequently, there are two options: (1) Either Robert VanEtten, Shelly VanEtten, Nick Dellisanti, and Jeff Ruso come forward and deny these allegations, and provide proof that the facts so presented and based on the documents provided by the Town of New Baltimore were incorrect and the documents misleading. This is unlikely because the Town of New Baltimore, according to New Baltimore Town Assessor Gordon Bennett, is in “lawyer mode“, meaning that they’re scared shitless and won’t say a thing because it might incriminate them. Despite our efforts to get more information the Town has been silent — in Bennett’s “lawyer mode” — and has not provided any other information, not even confirming VanEtten’s telephone number!!!
The second option, (2): Robert VanEtten must resign from the New Baltimore Planning Board and the Town of New Baltimore must notify the Greene County District Attorney, Mr Joseph Stanzione, of the facts of Mr VanEtten’s suspected criminal activity. Furthermore, VanEtten’s wife, Shelly VanEtten must resign her seat on the New Baltimore Town Board because she knew or should have known of her husband’s alleged conflicts while chairman of the New Baltimore Town Planning Board. Jeff Ruso and Nick Dellisanti, both responsible for recommending Robert VanEtten to be chairman of the New Baltimore Planning Board, were and continue to be responsible for his activities while on the Board, and, consequently should be forced to resign from public office for their abuse of office and failure to ensure the lawful operations of the Planning Board they appointed and which the New Baltimroe Town Board approved!!!
If the documents are misleading and, despite our good faith efforts to clarify the outstanding questions, and despite the Town of New Baltimore’s refusal to provide accurate information, Mr Robert VanEtten comes forward and provides proof that he has not been involved in a conflict of interest in the Brandt project, then we will take appropriate action.
The fact is that all of the circumstances and available facts point to a conflict of interest on the New Baltimore Town Planning Board and the Town of New Baltimore has done nothing to refute those facts is evidence enough to make the reasonable conclusions made in this article.
The further fact that the New Baltimore Office of the Assessor refused to produce the receipts promised by Mr Michael Biscone at the Board of Assessment Review hearings, receipts that Mr Biscone expressly and explicitly states on the record to be from “VanEtten” construction, further supports our conclusions. Had those receipts been provided as promised by Mr Michael Biscone, and if they were not provided we have to ask: Why did the Board of Assessment Review proceed to grant a reduction in tax assessment to Brandt? If the promised receipts were provided but not produced upon demand under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Law, then there is something the Town is hiding. We think we know what.
We think that it’s time New Baltimore Town Hall started answering some very serious questions about what’s going on in New Baltimore’s inner circle of special friends. Town Hall has too many secrets being kept from voters and residents. Town Hall is doing too many favors for special people while ignoring those with real complaints and failing to play fairly and in good faith.
When you have two individuals in the Supervisor’s office who have not been put there by a democratic vote — one who ran unopposed and took office by default (Supervisor Jeff Ruso) and the other one (Nick Dellisanti) appointed by him as his deputy — there’s something wrong with the system. When the Greene County District Attorney Joseph Stanzione — another Republican who ran unopposed — the supposedly “elected” chief law-enforcement officer for Greene County runs “unopposed” and has to recuse himself from the investigation of the New Baltimore Highway Department because of involvement with former Highway Superintendent Denis Jordan (forced to resign), there’s something wrong with the oversight in Greene County. When the brother, Alan Jordan, of suspect Denis Jordan’s former deputy, Scott Jordan, runs unopposed for the office of New Baltimore Highway Superintendent and gets into office by default, there’s something rotten in New Baltimore Town Hall. When the Office of the Assessor, the New Baltimore Building Department and the Board of Assessment Review ignore facts and hand out favors, there’s something wrong in New Baltimore. How long will New Baltimore residents and taxpayers continue to play STUPID and ignore what’s going on. But is the real question this: Are residents of New Baltimore just playing stupid or are they, in fact, really STUPID? After all, STUPID is as STUPID does.
As of this writing there are still public Town Meetings and you can ask questions — even if your elected public servants refuse to answer them — , and even if the media closes their eyes and ears to the situations that are not news but need to be covered.
The Town of New Baltimore’s calendar of “events” can be viewed here. The next Regular Town Board Meeting is on February 11, 2019, at 7:00 p.m. Please attend and get some answers.
If you’d like to contact your New Baltimore Town Officials, here is their information:
Members of the New Baltimore Town Board
Supervisor Jeff Ruso – firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Briody – (518)469-0031
Chuck Irving – (518)424-1950
Kelly Downes – (518)396-9255 email@example.com
Shelly VanEtten – 518-756-3517 firstname.lastname@example.org
Members of the New Baltimore Planning Board*
Robert “Rob” Van Etten – Chair
Ann Marie Vadney
Marjorie B. Loux, Clerk email@example.com
* The Town website does not provide contact information on the Planning Board Members. You may email the Town Clerk, Hon. Barbara Finke (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ms Marjorie Loux ( email@example.com) with your comments or complaints.
Stay tuned for upcoming reports on:
The New Baltimore Office of the Assessor and the Board of Assessment Review: Abuse of Public Office and Incompetence.
Local Government by Appointment: How New Baltimore is run by Unelected Supervisor, Deputy Supervisor, Highway Superintendent and what it means to residents.
Unelected Town Government and Appointed Board Members: Dictatorship and Tyranny at Home.
The New Baltimore Office of the Assessor, the Sole Assessor, Gordon Bennett, and Abuse of Office.
UPDATE on the New Baltimore Highway Department and Denis Jordan Investigation. Confirms all we have been saying!!!
We’ll also keep you up-to-date on the progress of the Van Etten case and what the Town of New Baltimore and the Greene County District Attorney, Joseph Stanzione, are doing about it. We hope to see some resignations real soon…or some prosecutions.
The local epidemic of running stop signs and heavy trucks pulling out in front of oncoming traffic (LaFarge, Port of Coeymans and Carver). Our question is: Where are the Coeymans cops? Or are they letting the Albany County Sheriff do their jobs while they collect their salaries and accrue their pensions? “Car 54 Where Are You?” Crandall’s Coeymans Cop Comedy.