Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Corruption During Sottile Tenure?

We have dueling stories in today's Freeman, both of which sling mud at their respective subjects. The first is one by Paul Kirby in which Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo reprimands former Kingston Mayor Jim Sottile for taking a job with a developer that had business with the city during Sottile's administration:
Mayor Shayne Gallo says his predecessor, James Sottile, created an “appearance of impropriety” when, after leaving office, he took a job with a developer who was instrumental in obtaining a modular home for a local not-for-profit agency.

Sottile’s 10-year mayoral tenure ended last Dec. 31, and he went to work soon after for developer John Palmucci, who Sottile says was able to secure a modular home, at cost, from a third party for an Ulster YouthBuild project. The home was paid for with money from the city’s federal Entitlement Program funding.

According to both Gallo and city records, the modular home, which now stands on Catherine Street, was purchased for $62,775 in 2011.
The article goes on to say that Sottile's administration skirted federal housing laws when it came to the purchase of this modular home, and that Sottile should not have taken this job as it appears improper.

And Gallo has a point. A developer could, for example, provide a golden parachute to an outgoing executive for certain "considerations" for the company while he or she remains in office. Having a rule that bars elected officials from certain types of employment for a specific period of time (a year, two years) is prudent and helps to prevent corruption. Gallo is right when he says that Sottile should have known better.

On the other hand, how did Sottile benefit from this deal? Corruption, which Gallo is definitely implying, requires the person at the receiving end to have accrued some sort of shady financial benefit. The article and Gallo don't go there.

Reading between the lines, though, let's say, totally hypothetically, that a developer wanted to recoup losses on a modular home it had sitting around. The problem is, they don't have a buyer for it. So, they approach the mayor of a local city/village to take the thing off their hands. The mayor says, "Sure, the city/village will buy it, but I personally want a piece of the action." The developer says, "Okay, no problem." But how do you get the payoff to the mayor? Well, you could offer him/her a nominal job at your development firm once he or she leaves office and funnel the kickback to him via a legitimate-seeming paycheck. It happens all the time, folks.

But is this what happened here? No idea, as the article doesn't offer anything in the way of a smoking gun. It's just Gallo throwing mud at Sottile. Is there a "there" there? Maybe. And if there really was this kind of corruption during Sottile's tenure, throw the f*cking book at him. The Freeman probably doesn't have the resources to turn this into a full-blown corruption investigation, but it should do everything it can to look into this, nonetheless.

Not to be outdone by his replacement, Sottile shoots back at Gallo -- and in the same edition of the paper, no less:
Former Mayor James Sottile suspects Mayor Shayne Gallo harbors hard feelings toward him because he did not support the current chief executive’s bid for a city judgeship several years ago.

Sottile said that could be the reason why Gallo has been openly critical of the past administration, particularly the way it oversaw the city’s Office for Community Development.

“I think it could be the fact that he was not appointed judge,” Sottile said. “It could be related to that.”
Sottile says that Gallo going after him is nothing more than sour grapes. Perhaps. But this seems unlikely to me. How does this benefit Gallo? Why do it now, when Sottile no longer has any power? Payback? If so, then Gallo has a very long memory, and would have to be a very embittered person. After all, he now has Sottile's old job, right? It doesn't make sense that this is nothing more than revenge. But I could be wrong.

So, maybe there's something serious going on here. And, given that the money came from HUD, the feds might have something to say about all of this. And they don't screw around. Has Gallo's office been in contact with any federal agencies regarding potential corruption during the Sottile administration? This would be a very good question to ask Gallo. Maybe someone at the Freeman will let their readers know what he says.

This could turn out to be nothing, or it could be a big story. But we won't know until (if?) local reporters start turning-over more rocks.

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