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Wayne Post
  • City of Canandaigua denies access to mayor’s records

  • A request for communication between the mayor and the group involved in spurring lakefront development, the Canandaigua Area Development Corporation (CADC), has been turned down by the city.



     
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  • A request for communication between the mayor and the group involved in spurring lakefront development, the Canandaigua Area Development Corporation (CADC), has been turned down by the city.

    The request was filed by Messenger Post April 17. It was denied April 26 — after the mandatory five-business-day response requirement had expired.

    The CADC group is a not-for-profit, a 501c3, which makes it eligible for state and federal tax exemptions. It consists of five members: The group’s president, George Hamlin IV; Mayor Ellen Polimeni; Constellation Brands, Inc. Chairman of the Board Richard Sands; Wegmans Food Markets CEO Danny Wegman; and former Canandaigua City School District Superintendent Steve Uebbing.
    The state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) allows members of the public to access records of governmental agencies.
    The CADC is a 501c3 and not a government entity, but — according to Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government — since the mayor, a government official, is a board member of the group, any correspondence she has with the CADC can be obtained through a FOIL request.
    The not-for-profit’s role is to serve as a project “facilitator,” Hamlin said in a March 31 Messenger article regarding the not-for-profit and its involvement and investment along the lakefront. 

    The estimated $140 million project is slated for roughly 21 acres of land along the north side of Lakeshore Drive between Booth and Muar streets. It has been a controversial subject because, so far, a number of longtime buildings have been demolished by property owner David Genecco of Canandaigua but very little information has been conveyed to residents.Boosters have said the plan would include a mix of residential and commercial/retail buildings. The CADC and Genecco have been largely mum regarding their dealings: In the 20 months since the CADC got involved with the lakefront project, in September 2011, the group has held one meeting to update the public on its progress. That meeting took place May 24, 2012.

    Following receipt of the FOIL denial, Freeman reiterated that as mayor, Polimeni’s correspondence with the CADC — including emails — should be made available to the public. Any correspondence with CADC made at City Hall or with city property would also be obtainable via FOIL, Freeman said.
    The city’s denial states: “The CADC is not an agency under the purview of FOIL and Ellen Polimeni was not appointed to the CADC Board by the City Council and the City Council has no control over her appointment or representation; further she does not report to the City Council with respect to the actions of the CADC nor is she accountable to the City Council.
    Mrs. Polimeni’s involvement with the CADC is in her individual capacity and such is outside the control and authority of the City of Canandaigua.”
    Page 2 of 2 - However, the mayor has made public presentations in her official capacity as a representative of CADC.
    For example, in the June 2012 Ontario County Local Development Corporation meeting minutes, Polimeni is referred to as “Mayor Ellen Polimeni, Canandaigua Area Development Corp.” Additionally, in the minutes for the August 2012 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, Polimeni is listed as giving an update on the CADC as “Mayor Ellen Polimeni.”
    Messenger Post has filed an appeal with the city manager’s office.
    At a city meeting this past week, when approached by a reporter, Polimeni was advised by City Attorney Michele Smith to not comment on the subject.
    “As a matter of policy, all employees and officers are advised not to speak to opposing parties without counsel in matters that may lead to litigation,” Smith said.

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