What is this “audit” thing my opponent
tries to use against me?
THE LAKE GEORGE WATERSHED COALITION STORY
The issue of my “hiding” an audit from the Town Board was invented by Doug Irish, 3rd Ward Town Board Councilman, Chairman of the town’s Republican Committee and on my opponent’s elect team.
He claims that I did not share this “audit” with him. That is not true. I informed him of this audit and the other issues the town was having with the Lake George Watershed Coalition. The “audit” referred to grants and handling of the grants that preceded my term as town supervisor. So why would I hold this information from my Town Board. It makes no sense.
Around 1999, desiring to provide for the “further protection and enhancement of the lake” and “on behalf of all the municipalities along the lake,” Secretary of State Alexander Treadwell offered a Lake George Plan which in turn inspired the entity we now call the Lake George Watershed Coalition (LGWC). The New York State Department of State (DOS) established itself as this organization’s chair and overseer.
As designed by the DOS, this organization would have a “Coordinator” position. The DOS defined this position in the following way: Among other things, coordinate and keep records, assure compliance with grant requirements and keep accurate records of expenses, report to the DOS. The DOS initiated a search and secured Dave Decker as Coordinator; a position, that over the years, has also been referred to as Project Manager and/or Director. Dave Decker ran the LGWC for the past 17 years; he did the grant applications, grant administration, project design, project management, committee and agenda coordination, etc.
The intent of the LGWC was to be an umbrella organization for all the Lake George entities: Nine municipalities, three counties, the Lake George Association, the Fund for Lake George, the Lake George Park Commission, the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, the Lake George Land Conservancy and others. The overall mission of the LGWC was to serve as the coordinating entity that would provide a common communication forum and help assure effectiveness in protecting and enhancing Lake George’s water quality. The LGWC Director would help secure grant funding that would work to achieve this mission. And, as initially envisioned through document and practice over the years, the grant administration was done for the DOS by their appointed director.
The LGWC was not an entity that could sponsor Department of State grants, but member municipalities could. Because they had the will and ability, three municipalities came forward to share the burden of sponsoring grants. These were the village of Lake George and the towns of Bolton and Queensbury.
MY ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND RESPONSE TO THE LAKE GEORGE WATERSHED’S WEAKNESSES
• When I began my job as Town Supervisor, I realized that there appeared to be a deficiency in the LGWC grant understandings of the rules and roles of DOS by all involved (Dave Decker, LGWC and municipalities), I called for a meeting of these parties with the DOS, to discuss mechanisms that would better accommodate coordination and compliance. Sandra Allan, Deputy Secretary of State for Planning and Development attended that meeting. We agreed that the finger pointing could go to all involved but it was more important that we work more cooperatively. We all agreed that Lake George’s environmental health was at stake.
• Proactively, I asked the NYSDOS to allow a portion of any future grants to be used to secure a grant administrator and that we should have a right to secure our own grant administrator. They approved both requests. As a result of my efforts, we now have a 15% grant allocation (up to $50,000) for each grant that we can dedicate towards grant administration and we can select our own grant administrator.
• Proactively, I asked the town board to support the hiring Kathy Bozony to administer future LGWC grants, and to remove Dave Decker from that responsibility. Knowing all the involved issues, the town board supported me and we passed a town board resolution agreeing to hire Kathy Bozony. Moving forward, Kathy will work directly with the town board in administering any future grants, as per town board agreement/contract with Kathy.
• It appears that my efforts were, at least in part, successful. All grant payment requests, except the last one (which approval also appears likely), have been fulfilled to the satisfaction of both the Department of State and Office of Comptroller, we (Dave Decker and the town) have demonstrated that any, and all, DOS concerns have been satisfactorily addressed.
• Working with LGWC Director Dave Decker and others, our submission for funding a Lake George Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan was successful. We were assured of $243,000 through NYS DOS Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan. This DOS contract, # C1000678, will be administered by a town-dedicated grant administrator, Kath Bozony.
• In addition to the above, I have had frequent communications with the other members of the Town Board. Through formal and informal meetings, emails and documents, I informed the members of the Town Board of all issues dealing with the LGWC. I firmly believe in transparency and strongly pursue an open government.
The fact is that I was not negligent in handling the grants. The “audit” referred to grants and handling of the grants that preceded my term as town supervisor. And, as I already noted above, Dave Decker ran the LGWC for the past 17 years; he did the grant applications, grant administration, project design, project management, committee and agenda coordination, etc.
As to this audit, I say that because there was a constant auditing being done (therefore, many audits), and because I was fairly new to the Town Supervisor experience, I reached out to others to better understand the LGWC/Grant administration situation. This outreach included talking to the Town of Queensbury Accounting Office, Executive Director and grant administrator of the Lake George Watershed Coalition (Dave Decker), Town Counsel Bob Hafner, other members of the Watershed Coalition.
Through document and practice, it has been clear to all involved that the grant administration was to be done by the DOS’s appointed LGWC Director.
Cindi Denick’s October 20, 2015 letter promised a final report. Interestingly, I did not receive that report until I requested it – not received until June 6, 2017.
Was the Town Board informed as to this document and this situation? Yes, the town Board was fully informed as to the Dave Decker/LG Watershed Coalition/DOS grants situation. My conversations with the Town Board members on this matter has been frequent and thorough.
Does every document that goes across my desk get copied to town board member? No.
Do I share the substance of all important issues with members of the town board? Yes, absolutely, as I did in this situation.