Niagara Gazette

Columns

June 9, 2014

CITY DESK: Lawyers, IDAs and common sense

Niagara Gazette — Lawyers.

They say funny stuff sometimes.

Niagara County’s attorneys want me to sue to get my hands on documents they say don’t exist. 

County officials denied my recent freedom of information request which sought financial disclosure documents as they relate to members of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency Board of Directors. 

In a letter dated May 20, signed by Legislature Chairman Bill Ross and copied to Niagara County Attorney Claude Joerg and Assistant County Attorney John Sansone, I was informed of my right to appeal the denial by filing an Article 78 proceeding in the courts. 

The fact is that while I believe it would make sense to require NCIDA board members to file disclosure statements describing in some level of detail their personal financial investments and business dealings, the county’s attorneys tell me no such disclosures are made under the current rules. 

Besides, they’ve made it abundantly clear that they wouldn’t give me copies of these types of documents even if they did have them. Again, arguing that the law is on their side. 

According to the county’s legal staff, NCIDA board members are technically not covered under existing county policy. That’s because, while known as the “Niagara County” IDA, the lawyers insist the entity was not created by the county, but rather the state of New York. 

As per the May 20 letter: “The fact that the Niagara County Legislature filed a certificate with the Secretary of State ratifying its creation by the state does not impact our policy. The state of New York created the Niagara County IDA, not Niagara County.”

Their stance contradicts information I obtained from several other sources, including, as it turns out, the NCIDA’s own public relations firm and its own internal audit. 

The state Authorities Budget Office offered the following when asked to weigh in on the matter: 

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