Does Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s intense interest in the huge bonuses paid to two Fulton County economic development officials have anything to do with his campaign for state attorney general? Probably. But Brodsky has long been an advocate of reform when it comes to public authorities, a committee that he chairs.
In fact in 2009, after years of effort, he succeeded in getting passed a decent public authorities reform bill, which actually plays a part in the current matter because it makes public authorities subject to greater disclosure and reporting requirements. Far from being transparent, the Fulton County Economic Development Corp. (FEDC) and a sister agency hid those bonuses until their existence was revealed by this newspaper more than a month ago, and they continue to hide key details about them.
The sense that something was rotten in Fulton County is heightened by the fact that Brodsky has received little or no cooperation from the agencies and the officials who received the bonuses, Jeff Bray and Peter Sciocchetti. Some board members have said they didn’t even know about the bonuses or the agreement they are supposedly based on, while the agencies’ accounting firm quit and refused to sign their 2007 return when no one would provide information justifying the bonuses.
In resisting Brodsky’s demands, the agencies have maintained that they aren’t obligated to provide information because they are really private, nonprofit agencies. But they are at least quasi-public: The FEDC was created with funding from the county and local governments, and the two agencies rely on tax breaks and other incentives to do their work.
As for Bray and Sciocchetti, last Tuesday they didn’t show up to testify before Brodsky’s committee, which was holding hearings to look into how each got bonuses totaling around $900,000 for 2007 and 2008, as well as healthy salaries. Bray refused to honor a subpoena, saying it was improperly served, and Sciocchetti never responded.
Bray’s attorney asks why he can’t be questioned outside the public limelight, but Brodsky gave him and Sciocchetti that chance early on and they didn’t cooperate then. The assemblyman should do whatever is necessary now to get them to testify, including citing them for contempt if they continue to refuse.