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Rotterdam Democrats squabble over access to finance records

Rotterdam Democrats squabble over access to finance records

Councilman Robert Godlewski claims he’s resorted to using the state’s Freedom of Information Law to

Councilman Robert Godlewski claims he’s resorted to using the state’s Freedom of Information Law to pry documents loose from Town Hall since his requests as a board member routinely go unheeded.

The former deputy supervisor has filed a FOIL request with the town this month, including a request for an update of the town comptroller’s five-year financial plan and a full accounting of the town’s fund balance.

Godlewski, one of four Democrats on the board, said this information and his requests for other town documents should be filled without him having to submit a formal FOIL. But he says he’s reached a point of frustration with his inability to get answers from town officials answering to Supervisor Harry Buffardi, a fellow Democrat. He claims many of the requests he’s made for information via email and during public meetings have either been brushed off or rebuffed.

“Is it frustrating? Yes it is,” he said. “But if that’s the way it’s going to be, then I have to do my job.”

Buffardi scoffed at Godlewski’s assertion, claiming he and other town officials have gone out of their way to provide the disgruntled board member with the information he’s requested. He portrayed Godlewski as a contentious personality who stirs “drama” in Town Hall, even though he’s been provided with as much access to information as anyone else on the board.

“He has as much access as I do,” Buffardi said.

Buffardi said the town comptroller’s office has agreed to give Godlewski the information he’s requested without a FOIL request. He said sometimes the information Godlewski gets simply isn’t what the board member was expecting.

“He’s just unhappy with the information he’s getting,” he said.

Godlewski’s relationship with fellow board members has been contentious since the start of Buffardi’s administration in January. Godlewski accused Buffardi of conducting a closed-door meeting to discuss town business with the rest of the board, including its one Conservative member.

Buffardi rejected this assertion, claiming the meeting was nothing more than political caucus. Both he and Town Attorney Katherine McGuirl described the meeting as harmless and devoid of substantive issues.

Since that time, Godlewski has regularly butted heads with Buffardi and Deputy Supervisor Wayne Calder. He’s accused them of locking him out of pertinent discussions and giving him little information on large issues facing the board, such as the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with the General Electric Co. in June.

Godlewski said the information he’s requested from Buffardi is to help him make an informed decision when it comes to voting on the board. He said the lack of disclosure he’s faced over the year stems from the contentious relationship he had with county Democrats after he and former Supervisor Frank Del Gallo refused to engage them in closed-door caucus meetings in 2010.

“From day one, they’ve been cutting me out of the process,” he said. “The county is notorious for doing that to people who don’t agree with them.”

Buffardi disputed Godlewski’s claim of being ostracized. He said Godlewski’s contentious personality is the only thing placing him at odds with the rest of the board and accused him of purposely trying to disrupt the workings of government.

“Bob Godlewski doesn’t do anything — he tries to undo things,” he said. “All he’s doing is trying to agitate the system.”

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