Taxpayer activist Jack Kinzie has accused the city of Gloversville of violating the state Freedom of Information Law by not releasing information he’s requested about the city’s payments to labor attorney Bryan Goldberger.
During the public comment period of the Common Council meeting this week, Kinzie, a town of Johnstown resident, told the council he filed a request under the FOIL seeking documents detailing the amount of money paid to Goldberger with the city’s FOIL access officer, City Clerk Brenda Pedrick, on Oct. 31. He said city Commissioner of Finance Bruce VanGenderen responded to his letter stating the city requires a $50 fee for the documents requested and it would take 90 days to process his request.
“I seek that information because [Mayor Tim Hughes] at a recent council meeting sought unsuccessfully to get council approval to rehire Goldberger for another four years despite the fact that the mayor only has 13 months left in his term of office,” Kinzie said.
Third Ward Councilman James Robinson said he and the rest of the Common Council have access to figures detailing how much Goldberger has been paid over the last four years. He said he doesn’t know why it would take 90 days and $50 to comply with Kinzie’s FOIL request.
“It doesn’t sound reasonable, but [these are] holiday times it could be possibly paperwork time is harder to [allocate],” Robinson said. “I don’t think there should be a problem if the FOILs are properly done.”
According to the Freedom of Information Law, fees for copies of records may not exceed 25 cents per photocopy, although a municipal government may include the cost of the hourly salary of the lowest-paid employee capable of preparing the copies, if preparing the copies takes longer than two hours.
VanGenderen had no comment regarding the FOIL request.
The council discussed extending Goldberger’s contract an additional four years at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Second Ward Councilman John Castiglione said the council should consider a one-year extension of Goldberger’s contract so whoever is mayor after elections in 2009 will have some input on who the city’s labor attorney is.
First Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said the council should not cede its authority to hire a new labor attorney to the mayor’s office.
“The mayor doesn’t get to make [this] decision alone, whether it be the current mayor or another mayor. That is the job of the council,” she said.
Castiglione said he agreed the council has a role in the hiring of a new labor attorney but said whoever is mayor in 2010 should also have some say.
“The labor attorney really doesn’t work that closely with the council. He works mostly with the mayor and the finance commissioner and people like that, so that person should be somebody the mayor feels comfortable working with,” he said.
Kinzie said he wants Goldberger’s total compensation revealed so the public will know what it has paid for before his contract is extended. He called Goldberger’s representation of the city during the labor conflict involving former city clerk Gary Margiotta and former city police chief John Harzinski a “disaster.”
Margiotta has an ongoing lawsuit against the city, which he filed after he was escorted from City Hall on Dec. 29, 2006. Four council members reached a consensus during phone conversations not to reappoint him. The reasons for that decision weren’t made clear or communicated to the other three Common Council members. Harzinski reached a lawsuit agreement with the city in February after Hughes suspended him in December for alleged insubordination. Harzinski received full pay through June 30 along with a benefit package that included payment for 54 sick days, 50 vacation days and 10 holidays — the last at time and a half — for 2008. In keeping with established city practices regarding retirement, he will receive lifetime health insurance coverage. Kinzie said he thinks the city can do better than Goldberger and he will contact New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office if his FOIL request is not accommodated soon.
“It’s possible that a new mayor and a clear-thinking council might consider hiring a less-expensive labor relations attorney,” he said.
The Common Council is expected to discuss whether to reappoint Goldberger and for how long at its Dec. 9 work session.