Feb. 13, 2008: Illegal contract
To The Editor:
I recently attended the second Shandaken Town Board meeting of the year conducted under the leadership of Peter DiSclafani which included a resolution to hire Ferrandino Associates, a Westchester County consultant, to prepare comments on behalf of the Town of Shandaken regarding the scoping document for the Belleayre Resort.
Supervisor DiSclafani offered an explanation of the need for these services. In early January it seems the supervisor was solicited by this firm with an offer to provide comments. Since the deadline for submitting comments was rapidly approaching, the supervisor chose not to call a special town board meeting or prepare his own comments. Rather, he telephoned board members seeking their approval to go ahead and contract for $3,000 with Ferrandino. This is a clear violation of town law and the need to conduct town business in open, publicized meetings.
For $3,000 the town received two pages of comments, the majority of which address Belleayre Mountain Ski Center‚Äôs Unit Management Plan. None of the comments raised new issues. In the public discussion, it was further revealed that Supervisor DiSclafani now understood that these actions were illegal. However, the voucher had been signed and the Ferrandino check was already mailed! With no apparent regard for the law, the town board then proceeded to vote (4-1) to approve the resolution authorizing the hiring of Ferrandino. This came days after Ferrandino was already paid. Only Councilman Rob Stanley, who objected throughout the whole process, voted no.
There is so much wrong with this, it is hard to know where to start. But let‚Äôs begin with the timeline and the supervisor‚Äôs great need to rush. It doesn‚Äôt make sense to me. In early September when the Agreement in Principle was announced, Peter DiSclafani was serving as a town councilman and running for supervisor. He was elected supervisor in early November. The public scoping session was held in early December. The deadline for comments was set for five weeks later, January 14. Since he was already serving as a councilman, and since he apparently believed there was a pressing need for the town to have its own comments, why not develop comments over the course of the many weeks that elapsed this past fall?
Once the supervisor and board understood that their actions (with secret meetings and ill conceived contracts were improper) why did they go ahead and approve it? What happened to open government? Transparency? Fiscal responsibility? Common sense?
Why are we spending $3,000 for rehashed comments? For that matter, why are we spending our tax money to challenge the state‚Äôs plan to improve and invest millions in the Belleayre Ski Center, the economic engine and single largest employer in the town?
Since when does the product of illegal meetings and improper procedures lead to documents delivered to the state in the name of the entire Town of Shandaken?
I believe the town needs to be reimbursed. The supervisor and the three board members who were so willing to authorize illegal contracts can each ante up $750 to pay Ferrandino, and maybe next time they won‚Äôt be so quick to squander taxpayer money.