Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who's Minding the Store?

Last week it was reported that Utica was preparing to pay attorney Hage an additional $80,000 on top of the $177,000+ paid to him the previous week.
The latest payment will cover a $36,000 courtesy credit Hage rescinded in response to questioning from Comptroller Michael Cerminaro, $12,000 in interest on the initial bill and $7,279 in fees for insurance experts.
It also includes $25,000 for work Hage did on a plan for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to explain how the city will spend federal funds during the next five years.
Wait! That last paragraph should raise an eyebrow. The public was told that Mr. Hage was being paid to investigate the dealings of and with Grow West, Inc., to protect Utica's interests. Planning on how Utica will spend federal funds for the next five years, however, is beyond the scope of investigating something that happened. The article also mentions that Hage's work included "restructuring the city’s economic development department."  That also is beyond the scope of investigating something that happened.

How did the scope of Mr. Hage's work become expanded?

An article posted tonight makes the picture more concerning:  Roefaro: I didn’t know Hage still was working for city.

While the public, rightly, will hold the mayor accountable for what happens on his watch, investigation of what happened must not stop there. The mayor claims to have been unaware of Mr. Hage's continued work, while, per the article, Mr. Hage "assumed the mayor knew of his work."

We all know what "assume" means!

Someone, obviously, had to give Mr. Hage his expanded assignment. Who? And by what legal authority did that person give Mr. Hage the assignment? Can any department head simply call up an attorney and retain their services without getting some formal approval?  $25,000 is a substantial sum. This situation is reminiscent of the New Hartford Town Police taking it upon themselves to enter into contracts to provide security for private businesses without getting the authorization of the Town Board. Did someone in Utica assume authority that is not there?

Answers to these questions may shed light on who really runs things at City Hall.


Anonymous said...

Thank you Strikeslip for hitting upon the important question here. Who gave Hage these puzzlingly broad assignments, and under what authority? I would assume that any taxpayer would want to know the answer. That the O-D did not pursue these questions is a shame on them.

Anonymous said...

Another obvious question never asked by the OD is why existing city legal and community development staff cannot perform these tasks? Can anyone seriously argue that Hage was needed to do a HUD report? If the full liat of corporation counsel and CD staffs were published along with their full compensation packages and job descriptions, the public would be astounded. Roefaro acts and sounds like the village idiot but he sure knows where the money is going.

Anonymous said...

The OD does not raise or pursue important questions on any front.

Anonymous said...

Roefaro should be forced to resign. This is an outrage. If he didn't know about this, then he's either incompetent, or he's not doing his job & is passing off his duties to subordinates. We can no longer afford as taxpayers this Mayor's absenteeism or lack of oversight. And we'll be getting hit with a massive tax hike in the next budget. No wonder, with these kind of expenditures that the taxpayers have to pay for. It's time that Roefaro started doing his job instead of running his business on the taxpayer's dime.