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Government Waste

Town of Lancaster did not act responsibly on police building project say residents; Part III: Lawsuit
By Lee Chowaniec
Jul 21, 2011, 12:49
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One of the charges made by Councilman Mark Aquino in his Lancaster Bee editorial was that a citizen lawsuit delayed the police facility project from moving forward. For that reason a change in building codes over that period of time resulted in the cancellation of the Walden Avenue Colecraft building project and the change to a new build on Pavement Road.

As with Don Symer and Henry Gull, Dan Beutler was one of the plaintiffs that sued the town because the town entered into an agreement with the Village of Lancaster to conduct a feasibility study on where best to locate a police facility when in fact the town had already purchased the Walden Avenue Colecraft building.

Beutler addresses the board

“Mr. Aquino, I found your Lancaster Bee Letter to the Editor upsetting, but somewhat expected. Clearly eighteen months on the job training has been both productive in your political career and with a thought that there would change in direction in the old guard of the Town of Lancaster.”

“The records will show, and I ask you Mr. Aquino to look at the readings of the lawsuit. This board, in 2003, purchased the Colecraft building; a contract signed, sealed and delivered before any study was to be performed – look at the trail of actions. The timeframe you presented is faulty as best The 003 lawsuit was to recoup money spent on a Trautman study on the building option considered. That’s all. That’s all! And I have had Supervisor Giza admit that that was what the lawsuit was ever for – to recoup the money spent on a feasibility study. Right, Mr. Supervisor?”

After a long pause, Supervisor Robert Giza responded that he could not recall making such admittance.

“It’s on record, it’s on record,” declared Beutler.

“We will now speak Mr. Aquino on the appraisal of the Colecraft building,” said Beutler. According to Webster’s dictionary, appraisal means to purchase appraise; an act of instance to appraise the value of real estate and personal property. To this day no record exists of an appraisl being performed.”

Mr. Giza speaks of an appraisal being done at the time of the feasibility study. Feasible means to be capable of being done or turned out; a feasible plan; capable of being used.”

“I questioned Mr. Giza and Councilman Ronald Ruffino, time and time again on the status of the Colecraft building over the years. The lawsuit was completed in 2006, Mr. Aquino, not 2008 as you wrote in the Lancaster Bee. That is when it was supposed to go up for appeal. The judge said it can’t be prosecuted because of poor governance. We did not have the $25,000 to appeal the judge’s decision."

"The suit ended at that time. Whoever gave you other information, it all points to former town attorney Richard Sherwood telling them (town) not to do it, and we all agree he did wrong."

“But to say that we stopped it (project from moving forward) is absolutely wrong, Mr. Aquino. We did not stop this project from moving forward.”

“The town cannot keep blaming the residents for the town’s spending $25,000 for the lawsuit. Poor governance was all that it was!”

Mike Fronczak addresses town board

“I also believe Mr. Aquino’s Bee article contains false statements, if not all false statements and I would like to sit in on the rebuttal between Mr. Aquino and Mr. Gull if there is going to be one.”

“Mr. Aquino, you were quick to point out 2008 as the date the lawsuit appeal was open to and Mr. Beutler said it was 2006.”

“Let me tell you something,” Aquino fired back, “just because they didn’t file an appeal, they had a right to file an appeal until 2008. Until that right is extinguished, they have a right to file an appeal. That’s a legal term Mike, and I’m a lawyer trying to explain that to you. The Town Attorney told them (town board) not to do anything until that right to appeal expired in 2008. Even though they had no intent to do anything in 2006, the town is still obligated to wait for the appeal. That’s what I said in the article, that’s what I meant. That was at the direction of the town attorney, simple as that. If you don’t understand that, I will explain it to you again.”

Aquino’s response triggered a response from Dan Beutler: “That appeal was for $25,000…

Aquino: “It doesn’t matter. The board was advised by the town attorney not to move forward until the appeal date expired.”

Beutler: “The lawsuit and the potential for appeal did not stop the reconstruction/renovation of the (Walden Avenue Colecraft) building.”

Aquino: “They relied on the town attorney, I’m just telling you. The town attorney advised them not to do it. That’s all I am telling you Dan.”

Beutler: “We went after the money that was spent on the feasibility study…

Aquino: “I understand that Dan. I am just telling you…

Beutler: “Well then don’t keep telling us that we are the ones that stopped the progress…

Aquino: “I didn’t say stopped, I said the town was advised by the Town Counsel to not proceed.

Beutler: “We are tired of being accused of something we didn’t do. The lawsuit was not about the building purchase or location.”

Aquino: “The town gets accused of a lot of things to. I read the record (you referred to).

Fronczak: “Mr. Aquino, I am a common citizen and not an attorney and I believe you should write a letter and explain to the general public, dumb persons like me, what you really meant in that article, as I didn’t comprehend it as that. I comprehended it as an attack against the residents. And as you are a lawyer, there was no mention of the judge’s determination. And, the judge’s determination was that there was no criminal intent, just bad governance. You didn’t want to mention that and I don’t understand why you didn’t mention it because that’s what the judge’s decision was, namely, bad governance. And you say the town acted responsibly?"

Aquino: “The suit was dismissed, Mike. There was no cause of action. The town was forced to pay $25,000 because of the lawsuit. There are a lot of other facts. It took me two months to whittle the article down (to required word allotment).

Comment: Mr. Aquino fails to mention that the town’s insurer refused to pay for the court hearing expenses and therefore the town had to pay out-of-pocket for related court costs.

Lawsuit appeal window of opportunity

It is my understanding that the lawsuit applicants were led to believe by their attorney that Beutler assumes correctly that the lawsuit ended in 2006. As the litigants choose not to spend another $25,000 on appeal, their attorney sent a letter to the court declaring no appeal would be filed.

At the time (August of 2006) the lawsuit decision was rendered by Justice Christopher Burns, applicants had 30 days to file an appeal. Had they filed such appeal they would have had 90 days to get their appeal application submitted. Their attorney sent a correspondence to the court declaring no appeal would be forthcoming. Thus the lawsuit ended there and then.

Regardless, as all five speakers attested, the lawsuit had nothing to do with stopping/delaying the project process (renovation/reconstruction of the Colecraft building. Mr. Aquino opened a can of worms he should not have. It appears the former town attorney who advised the town not to move forward is now being blamed for giving bad advice and for the building project delay, and the millions of dollars wasted in the eight year interim.

In addition, the structure of the building was questioned from day one, there is no official record of appraisal, and the Colecraft building purchase process remains suspect as to value and best option chosen.

$12 million and counting to now build a 26,900 square foot police and courts facility when a new police/courts building of 35,000 square feet could have been had for $6 million in 2003; a time when the great majority of residents favored a new build. Eight plus years later the town is constructing a 26,900 square foot building and a separate shooting range of six lanes in the current police garage - a six lane shooting range with a cost estimate of $300,000 to $500,000, like we need this with three other ranges in the area and with the economy such as it is.

All this waste in time and money and Mr. Aquino dares to tell us that the town acted responsibly. I think not!

Why you put your foot into this cesspool, Mr. Aquino, is beyond me.

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