Friday, August 30, 2019

Speak for Yourself

Screen capture: Dan Udell
The August meeting of the Livingston Planning Board, which was a continuation of the public hearing on the Global Partners proposal to build a huge 24-hour gas station and convenience store/cafe at the intersection near Bell's Pond, opened with David Fingar, chair of CEDC (Columbia Economic Development Corporation), reading a letter purported to be from the entire CEDC Board of Directors, expressing support for the project and urging the Planning Board to grant its approval. Fingar's presentation of the letter can be seen in Dan Udell's video of the hearing, beginning at 1:33.

The watchdog group Livingston Concerned Citizens (LCC)  has since learned that the CEDC Board never discussed Fingar's action in advance and did not authorize him to speak on its behalf. A press release from LCC reads in part:
Mr. Fingar's maverick letter misrepresented an opinion as coming from CEDC when in fact neither the letter nor the GP [Global Partners] proposal was on the CEDC agenda nor discussed at its regular meeting. No vote of the entire board was ever taken. . . .
LCC wants to know why and how Mr. Fingar's letter was written and by whose authority it was sanctioned to be read at the LPB [Livingston Planning Board] meeting. The letter irresponsibly gave CEDC's considerable support to the GP project in ignorance of the environmental impacts and before any regulatory agencies had been given an opportunity to weigh in on the GP proposal. The proper thing for CEDC to do would have been to advocate for a full SEQR Project Review.
LCC is concerned that CEDC, whose purpose is to "facilitate positive economic growth for Columbia County," would allow one of its members to interfere in the orderly deliberation of Livington's Planning Board. While it is legitimate for Mr. Fingar to express a personal opinion, it is improper for him to single-handedly misrepresent CEDC's support of the GP project, particularly when it has not yet been certified. The impact of the reading of this disingenuous letter by Mr. Fingar on the LPB and the public cannot be underestimated. Is it evidence of back room dealing or of a conflict of interest? Was CEDC's support given to the GP proposal in order to influence the LPB or undermine its deliberations? 
Commenting on the situation, Mike Tucker, president and CEO of CEDC, is reported in the press release to have said, "From time to time, it has been CEDC's practice to provide letters of support focused on economic factors, consistent with CEDC's mission, without specific Board approval. I have now been now been directed by CEDC's Governance and Nominating Committee to review CEDC's processes relating to such letters of support and to report to the Board at its September meeting with any suggestions for process changes."

Commenting on Tucker's statement, the press release continues: "LCC calls on Mr. Tucker and the CEDC Board to investigate the ethical quandary raised by the unauthorized reading of Mr. Fingar's letter, to formally retract the letter in writing to the LPB and to repudiate his action to the CEDC membership."


  1. Glad to see sunlight directed toward the dark underbelly of Columbia County good ol' boy politics.

  2. Yes, retract, retract, retract. The nerve of some people.

  3. WOW! A brazen lie. We need to find the source of this corruption and route it out. And remove all perpetrators of this lie from office.

  4. CEDC leadership never seems to learn from past mistakes. The Livingston folks might want to report this episode to the State Comptroller’s office, which has audited and investigated CEDC before.