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Lancaster resident questions Walden Avenue building appraisal process
By Lee Chowaniec
Jul 7, 2011, 10:27
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Shea.s Performing Arts Center

At Tuesday evening’s Lancaster Town Board meeting resident Henry Gull read a letter he had addressed to Town Attorney John Dudziak regarding whether documentation/information existed on a purchase appraisal of the Walden Avenue Colecraft building in 2003. He asked whether Mr. Dudziak was in receipt of his letter and whether he had conducted any investigation on the matter.

The 3949 Walden Avenue Colecraft building was purchased in 2003 to house the newly combined Town of Lancaster and Village of Lancaster police forces. It was chosen by the town over two other options – a new build or the use of the Village Municipal Building.

Mr. Gull declares he favored a new build from the beginning and had serious reservations about the purchase of the Walden Avenue building – how the option was determined to be the best option, the structural concerns of a 50 year-old building, the initially understated renovation costs, and since then the waste of taxpayer dollars to repair and maintain a building that only houses the detective squad.

Town Clerk FOIL

Mr. Gull had FOILED the Town Clerk’s office for appraisal documents on May 26, 2011 after reading a Lancaster Bee article where Supervisor Giza stated such appraisal had been part of the process in purchasing the Walden Avenue building.

In a written response to Gull on June 26th, Town Clerk Johanna Coleman declared:

As I explained to you on May 27, 2011 and June 2, 2011 these records cannot be found using the manual and electronic search of indexes maintained by this office and the office of the Town Supervisor. I also explained to you, Mr. Giza told me that the record to which he was referring is the Feasibility Study authorized by the Town Board on May 19, 2003. Because I am unable to locate the records you requested I cannot provide you copies of such records. An appeal of this determination can be made to Mr. John Dudziak, Esq., Town Attorney of Lancaster, New York 14086.

Town Attorney FOIL

After receiving such response from the Clerk’s office, Gull proceeded to write the Town Attorney to pursue receiving information as to whether an appraisal was ever conducted before building purchase. The only time Gull and others heard any mention of purchase price was by Supervisor Giza when he stated, “The owners of the Colecraft building wanted $1.9 million, but we bought it for $1.6 million.

Gull read the correspondence he had submitted to the Town Attorney:

Dear Sir,

On May 26, 2011, I submitted a freedom of information law request to the Town Clerk regarding a statement made by Supervisor Giza and published in the May 26, 2011 issue of the Lancaster Bee.

In this article he stated, “We canʼt buy anything unless we get it appraised” in regards to the purchase process for the Colecraft building at 3949 Walden Avenue.

The request was left unfulfilled, with the Town Clerk stating in her letter of June 16, 2011 that she had no records of an appraisal, and further stating that the Supervisor informed her that he meant to refer to the feasibility study in the article.

I assert that this study was undertaken after the purchase of the building was completed, thus making the Supervisor’s statement in the article a lie. Please consider this an appeal to obtain any and all documents relating to the validity of Mr. Giza’s statement and the timeline of the purchase of the Colecraft building.

I expect that through your good office, my request will be satisfied. Thank you.

Gull questions Town Attorney

Gull then asked Town Attorney Dudziak whether he has made a decision and is ready to reply to the letter request as is called for under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIA).

“Not at this time,” replied Dudziak.

“When can I expect a reply,” asked Gull?

“When my investigation is completed,” responded Dudziak.

“When will that happen,” asked Gull?

“When it’s complete,” answered Dudziak.

“You are aware that there are rules (timelines) governing those replies,” Gull responded.

“There are also other avenues that you can proceed,” Dudziak told Gull.

“I intend to do that should I not hear from you,” countered Gull.

“I will send my reply to you, but as you know we have had a holiday weekend,” interjected Dudziak.

“I understand that, that you have a number of working days to respond,” interjected Gull.

“So I am not beyond my time limit to respond,” said Dudziak.

“You will be in a couple of days,” Gull declared.

Gull then made it known that he is in constant contact with the State Attorney’s fraud office and the State Comptroller’s office on said issues.”They have been alerted as to what is going on in the Town of Lancaster and they will be investigating. I am confident that the government waste that has taken place here will be looked at by these agencies.”

Gull went on to quote from the letter he received from the Clerk’s office where it stated, “Mr. Giza told me that the record Hank Gull was referring to was a feasibility study of May 19, 2003.

Mr. Gull was notified his 5 minutes were up and was not allowed to make his closing statement.

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