Colonie officials weren’t wrong in contracting out the town’s landfill operations without a public referendum.
That’s the conclusion handed down by the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court, Third Judicial Department, which upheld a state Supreme Court decision last week that dismissed a lawsuit filed by Albany County Comptroller Michael F. Conners II and other town residents. The lawsuit sought to annul a 2010 town agreement with Capital Region Landfills Inc. that gave the Waste Connections Inc. subsidiary the right to manage, maintain and operate the landfill for 25 years.
Conners and other residents said town law required the town to conduct a permissive referendum before entering into an agreement that would “convey or lease real property in the name of the town,” according to the suit.
Town Supervisor Paula Mahan contended the deal was not a lease, but an operating agreement, and therefore did not require a permissive referendum. When the Supreme Court sided with Mahan and dismissed his petition in April 2012, Conners filed an appeal that argued the agreement was “the functional equivalent of a lease.”
The Appellate Division disagreed, finding “documentary evidence establishes conclusively that there was no conveyance” of any property that would be subject to town law, and subsequently a referendum.
“Both the Town Board and I are gratified by the Appellate Court’s decision, which confirms the legality of our agreement for the operation of the town’s landfill,” Mahan said in a news release. “This decision finally puts an end to a frivolous, irresponsible and baseless legal action, which was politically motivated from day one and has wasted two years of taxpayer time and money.”
Mahan, citing the court’s decision that the case was “without merit,” said she asked the Town Attorney’s Office to determine whether there could be any redress to taxpayers for the costly litigation. If so, she said she would seek attorney’s fees, cost and disbursements from Conners and the other residents who filed suit.
“At the close of almost two years, I am happy to report that the town has benefited greatly from our operating agreement with [Capital Region Landfills],” she said. “We still own the landfill, which is running smoothly, and the town is reaping the benefits of a guaranteed annual income from our landfill.”