Shandaken leader admits error in awarding a no-bid contract

By Jay Braman Jr.
He’s done it before, but some expect that he won’t do it again.
Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani, a Democrat nearing the end of the first year of his first term, was called on the carpet Wednesday night by his predecessor Robert Cross Jr., and one Republican watchdog, both of whom complained that a sewer plan project was given to one contractor without the work being offered to others.
DiSclafani raised the issue at the town board meeting and apologized for his actions, but that wasn’t good enough for Cross and fellow Republican Jack Jordan.
Jordan, who ran unsuccessfully for town board last year, noted that since DiSclafani took office 11 months ago there have been at least four instances where the supervisor has either deliberately or accidentally ignored procurement procedures by single-handedly authorizing expenditures.
“Is it arrogance,” Jordan asked,” or ignorance?”
Cross, who was criticized for similar actions during his four-year tenure, publicly submitted a Freedom of Information Law request to Town Clerk Laurilyn Frasier, saying that he intends to review all the documents pertaining to the hiring of Rennia Engineering Design, a Dover Plains based firm that DiSclafani contracted to prepare the preliminary design of an alternative technology sewer system for the hamlet of Phoenicia.
Rennia will receive between $8,000 and $12,000 for the work, and perhaps another $4,000 for additional services under consideration. All of the funding comes from a grant supplied by the Environmental Facilities Corporation.
Noting that procurement policies need to be adhered to, Cross said DiSclafani can no longer use the excuse that he is new to the job as he did in January when he spent $3,500 for a consultant to prepare comments on the proposed Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park. That action was not authorized by the town board back then.
“This is in excess…,’ Cross said. “This needs to go Albany for review because this is inexcusable.”
In defending himself, DiSclafani said Rennia was hired after he had called several companies who do this kind of work, and they all gave verbal estimates for the work that were higher than Rennia’s estimate. He also said that, given the nature of the work, all the potential bidders were comfortable with a verbal description of what was needed and replied with estimates that did not make them competitive with Rennia’s lower estimate.
Regardless, DiSclafani admitted that he actually made a motion a few months ago to send the work out for a request for proposal and that it was wrong to not follow that course.
“I made an error,” he said.