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Fort Edward Local Property Development Corporation

From left, Fort Edward Town Attorney Don Boyajian and members of the Fort Edward Local Property Development Corp., Neal Orsini, Darran 'Bush' Thompson, John Guglielmo and Zachary Middleton, meet Monday night at the Rogers Island Visitors Center in Fort Edward. 

Here is a glimpse of how difficult it can be to get public documents.

On April 16, the new owners of a large portion of the former General Electric Co. dewatering site in Fort Edward held their first public meeting.

They are called the Fort Edward Local Property Development Corp., a nonprofit, quasi-governmental organization formed by Fort Edward Town Board member Neal Orsini.

Also on the board are Zachary Middleton, John Guglielmo and Darran Bush Thompson.

At that meeting, the group passed a resolution to enter into an agreement with a private company with a similar name — Fort Edward Development.

When asked, Town Attorney Don Boyajian said Fort Edward Development was made up of the former owners of the property, WCC, who had gifted the land to the LPDC at the end of last year.

A list was handed out with some details about the agreement, including that Fort Edward Development would be paid 50% of any revenue made on the property, after things like taxes and insurance were paid.

I asked for a copy of the agreement. I was told it would be emailed to me, which began a long and drawn-out Freedom of Information Law dispute.

• On May 2, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request.

• On May 6, Orsini acknowledged my request.

• After 20 business days, I received no response. On June 10, I filed an appeal.

• On June 10, Orsini responded. He wrote, "We currently are still negotiating a potential agreement, but do not yet have anything in final form or signed. We are working through some of the last few items. I will keep you posted and let you know when we have a final binding agreement subject to disclosure."

• On June 12, I spoke with Kristin O'Neill with the state Committee on Open Government. She said the LPDC was violating open meetings law by not providing the contract, draft or not. That's because they talked about it so much in open session that negotiating is negated. Giving me the document wouldn't keep the LPDC from making an addendum or editing the draft, but the draft that was discussed at that meeting should have been made available to the public, she said.

O'Neill recommended I appeal again on the grounds that the group was violating open meetings law.

• On June 13, I filed a second appeal.

• On June 19, 24 and 27, I checked in with Orsini on my appeal. I received no response.

• On July 8, The Post-Star was delivered a draft agreement from an unknown source.

• At a Fort Edward Town Board meeting on July 8, I asked Orsini about my appeal.

Orsini told me it wasn't his job to respond to my request. I told him it was as the records access officer.

Orsini told Boyajian that he had stopped responding to me because he was sick of me.

Boyajian told me that Freedom of Information Law requests should be written and not emailed.

This is not true. Freedom of Information Law has a whole clause about electronic requests.

I showed the draft we were given to Orsini. He asked where I got it and said he didn't know if it was the latest version.

• On July 10, I emailed Orsini and Boyajian again about my appeal, citing the portion of law that states electronic communication is acceptable.

• On July 11, Orsini emailed me, "Let's stop playing this game." He said the draft in my possession is privileged information that even he doesn't have.

• On July 12, I emailed Orsini back that we are not playing a game but still awaiting his response to my appeal.

• On July 29, I attend the LPDC's second meeting. Boyajian told me the response to my appeal was in the mail, including an interim management agreement that was signed in January.

Travis Whitehead, a member of the Warren Washington IDA, asked for a copy of that agreement. Boyajian said he would email it to him first thing in the morning.

I asked for it to be emailed to me, too. Boyajian said it was in the mail. I said I'd still like a copy emailed.

The mail came today, July 30, with no agreement. Nothing in my inbox yet, either.

Gwendolyn Craig

 

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1

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