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The law is better than promises

October 7, 2012
The Leader Herald

More evidence has been revealed that the private Fulton County Center for Regional Growth should be deemed a public agency.

The CRG, formed earlier this year, is the parent corporation of the Economic Development Corp. and Crossroads Incubator Corp., both of which have been in existence for years.

The EDC manages revolving loan-fund programs, while the CIC serves as a real-estate development and management company.

Recently, Gloversville Mayor Dayton King disclosed he made a request several months ago to have the existing $3 million loan pool that's dedicated to Gloversville switched to the city's control. Years ago, the city allowed the EDC to manage the loan pool and approve loans for small businesses in Gloversville. Today, the loan pool has 14 separate loans totaling more than $1.5 million and a cash balance of about $940,000, King said. He pointed out how useful that money could be to businesses that want to expand in the city.

King was critical as to how long the transfer of the fund has taken, and he said the CRG lacks transparency.

CRG President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Reese disagreed with that assessment. He said an agreement for the transfer of the loan pool has been sent to the city attorney for his review.

The public should remember the context of this issue.

The argument over the CRG's public or private status - which will be reviewed in the state Supreme Court's Appellate Division Wednesday - began after a bonus scandal in 2010. It was learned $3 million in bonuses were paid to former EDC and CIC executives Jeff Bray and Peter Sciocchetti. The CRG is still trying to recover the bonus money, which never was approved by the EDC or CIC boards of directors.

The CRG has said it has taken measures to increase transparency and prevent similar issues from happening in the future.

But this latest loan-pool issue highlights the problem with having taxpayer money controlled by an organization that wants to remain private.

While public agencies do not always work quickly, they must follow laws that require some degree of transparency. Public agencies may not always disclose as much as we would like - or as much as they should - but at least the public has the Freedom of Information Law on its side.

Those who run the CRG seem to think their promises to look after taxpayer funds are good enough for the public.



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