Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Reform proposals aimed at COMIDA, county

Posted By on Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 5:09 PM

The Monroe County Industrial Development Agency's board didn't instigate the I-Square controversy which engulfed the early days of County Executive Cheryl Dinfolo's rookie term.  And yet, the board is now stuck between dueling reform proposals. 

One set of recommendations comes from Dinolfo; they aren't really recommendations so much as directives, but the board does have to adopt them before they become standard policy. The other proposals come from the County Legislature Democrats; caucus leader Cynthia Kaleh presented the proposals during today's COMIDA meeting.

The reform packages differ substantially; Dems have slim odds of getting their proposals through the Republican-controlled County Legislature.

Here's a quick rundown of Dinolfo's recommendations, per a press release she sent out last week:
  • Requiring unspecified training for new COMIDA board members, as well as unspecified annual training for all COMIDA board members, COMIDA staff, and county employees who work on economic development ;
  • Requiring any business that receives more than $1 million worth of incentives to increase its workforce by 20 percent;
  • Changing COMIDA's bylaws to require that board members receive information on matters they'll consider no less than one week in advance of a scheduled meeting;
  • Posting all agreements, including payments-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements, on the agency's website, growmonroe.org;
  • Changing COMIDA's bylaws so that board members are term-limited.
Dinolfo made the recommendations in response to the fallout from I-Square, yet her proposals don't really get at the heart of the problem. In case you don't remember: one of Dinolfo's now-former top aides shared information about the I-Square development in Irondequoit that wasn't really secret, but wasn't really public with county Republican Party chair Bill Reilich. And in doing so, he mischaracterized the information. Reilich used the information, which turned out to be wrong, by the way, in a clumsy political attack, which blew up in his face.

In their proposal, Democrats largely target administration officials and the overlap between COMIDA and county government. The Dems also incorporate some proposals they've been pushing for a few years. Here are their proposals:
  • Prohibiting county employees from taking jobs at firms they work with in their official capacity, or with county contractors when the employees were involved in awarding the contracts;
  • Barring COMIDA board members from having contracts with the county (Kaleh didn't say whether any current board members are in this position);
  • Establishing a new local law that prohibits the disclosure of proprietary or insider information for non-governmental use;
  • Prohibiting management and professional employees from serving as elected or party officials;
  • Separating COMIDA's executive director position from the county's director of planning and development. The jobs are currently vacant, and the county is searching for someone to fill them.

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