Addressing his comments to Councilman Mark Aquino at the recent Lancaster Town Board meeting, resident Henry Gull declared he would like to rebut some of the comments Aquino made at the previous meeting regarding the police facility project.
“I will debate you here, before this board, not outside as you suggested at the last meeting,” said Gull.
Gull stated that prior to the purchase of the Colecraft Building the town contracted Trautman & Associates on May 19, 2003 to perform feasibility study. The feasibility study took place 42 days after the purchase of the Walden Avenue Colecraft Building.
Councilman Aquino interrupted Gull and asked when the closing of the purchase sale took place. “Do you understand what the difference is between a purchase contract and a closing,” Aquino asked Gull. “The closing took place in July. May is before July.”
Gull: “So what’s your point?”
Aquino: “My point is your saying this (study) was done after the purchase, it was done before the purchase. The contract was in place, then the study was commissioned, then we closed. Those are the facts.
Gull: “It’s in the Town of Lancaster minutes, on page 345.”
Aquino: “You are saying wrong things again. It was closed in July of 2003. I can get the deed for you tomorrow.”
Gull: According to your letter Mr. Aquino, “Unfortunately, a lawsuit commenced by town residents against the purchase of the Colecraft site. That is absolutely false. Myself and four other citizens in this town took it upon ourselves, with attorney counsel, to object to the town board spending $15,000 to do a study to determine the best option for the location of a police station, when in fact a contract for purchase was already in place and where bonding was approved. The three options are described in this letter from Supervisor Giza to Trautman Associates on May 20, 2003; requesting a study of Colecraft, the Village Municipal Building and a new build. The cost of the study was to be $15,000. Do you remember that letter Mr. Giza?”
Supervisor Robert Giza: “I don’t remember writing that letter, but I may have done it.”
Gull showing Giza the letter: “Is that your signature Mr. Giza?”
Supervisor Giza: “No, it does not.”*
Gull: “It doesn’t look like yours?
Gull showed the letter and signature to several other board members who chose not to comment.
When asked by the Town Attorney what his point was, Gull read the correspondence. It requested Trautman to perform a feasibility study to determine which of the three options were best suited for locating the newly combined town and village police forces. The letter also states that the Village of Lancaster would be obligated to pick up half the cost of the study.”
Supervisor Giza: “Your time is up Henry. The 5 minute buzzer sounded.”
Gull: “My time is up? A previous speaker just spent 10 minutes.”
Supervisor Giza: “I wasn’t aware of that. The official timer says your time is up.”
Gull: “Well, I will tell you this. You gavel me tonight and I will continue this exchange with Mr. Aquino ad finitum. Is that fair? I will continue this until the truth is out. What Mr. Aquino is saying is a pack of lies.”
Aquino: “I will not retract one statement in my letter (to the Lancaster Bee). I already put my neck out and I am not going to say another word. You want to talk about 2003, go ahead and talk about it, I mean 2011. I read all the documents. The first thing you got wrong is the date of the closing. You are never going to agree with me so I am just going to put this to bed.”
After Gull was told he was playing games, he stated that everything he says and indicates is backed up by documentation.
It was at this time that the writer spoke out and declared it was time to put this matter to rest. “I understand your point, Mr. Aquino at the legal end of it. The closing didn’t occur until July. However, when you look at the initial contract agreement that was signed by the Supervisor on April 9, 2003, wasn’t it an irrevocable agreement where the only way the contract could be declared null and void was if only both sides agreed to void it?
Aquino: “I think there was a contingency period there. I don’t remember the number of days. There was a time frame to investigate; a time for this town and the seller to do so, as I recall.”
Chowaniec: “I would request you go back and look at the purchase agreement. Because some believe it was an irrevocable agreement.”
Aquino: “Don’t say it was irrevocable because if it was irrevocable there would be no contingency. So, we need to clarify that. It might have been irrevocable if there were no contingency, but I have to look into that. But my recollection is that there was a contingency.”
Chowaniec: “Like all other contracts, it is important to determine whether the purchase contract agreement was binding and the purchase was already in place.”
Aquino: “I think there was a contingency in there, Lee.”
Chowaniec: “Just take a look at that, Mark.”
Aquino: “I will.”
Had Gull been allowed to continue, he he declares he would have next addressed the fact that a formal appraisal had never been performed on the Colecraft Building prior to or after the contract agreement to purchase the building.
Gull produced a copy of a Freedom of Information Law request response he had received from Lancaster Town Attorney John Dudziak on July 7, 2011. It read:
"Please be advised that this letter serves as my denial of your request for information or copies of records related to the information you request. The reason for this decision is as follows: Mrs. Johanna Coleman, Town Clerk, responded to your original request on June 16, 2011 wherein she explained that “the records you are requesting cannot be found using the manual and electronic search of indexes maintained by her office and the office of the Town Supervisor.” Mrs. Coleman further explained that because she was unable to locate the records you requested she cannot provide you with copies of such records."
"Based on my investigation and my conversation with Mr. Coleman, I must deny your request as the information you seek does not exist. Furthermore, Section 86(4) of the Freedom of Information Law, defines the term “record.” You have not specified what “records” you are specifically seeking. An agency is not required to create a record in response to a vague request. However, you are welcome to review the entire file you are interested in the Town Clerk’s office.”
Mr. Gull asserts he made it quite clear in his FOIA that he was interested in an appraisal document and that he did visit the Town Clerk’s office where he spent time perusing documents. ‘I found no document that ascertained that an appraisal was performed that confirmed that the purchase price was fair; meeting market value.
* I have seen Supervisor Giza’s signature on numerous documents and in my opinion the signature on the document Gull showed the board does not appear to be Mr. Giza’s.
However, it was still an official town document (letterhead) sent to Trautman & Associates.
Next: Part II: Contract contingency
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