By Holly Toal
Garrison resident and former FoxNews CEO Roger Ailes and his wife, Elizabeth, last week withdrew their offer to donate $500,000 to Putnam County to construct a senior center in Cold Spring following a media whirlwind surrounding the family name.
Cold Spring and Putnam residents got their first look at the proposed business arrangement between the county and Ailes last week, when LoHud.com published a story by columnist David McKay Wilson that exposed the charitable donation agreement between Putnam County and Ailes’ nonprofit ACI Senior Development Corp.
The Ailes’ had offered to donate the half-million dollars to help renovate the Lahey Pavilion at the former Butterfield Hospital site. The county would lease the building from Butterfield Realty, LLC and Developer Paul Guillaro and, in exchange for the donation, the facility would be named the “Roger Ailes Senior Center.”
However, many residents thought this would be distasteful in light of recent allegations of sexual harassment by Roger Ailes in the workplace, which ultimately led to his resignation from FoxNews last month.
Last week, a day after the charitable donation agreement was made public, more than a dozen Philipstown residents traveled to Carmel for the County Legislature meeting to urge lawmakers not to name senior center after Ailes.
The following day, the Ailes’ withdrew the offer.
“Mr. and Mrs. Ailes said the government approvals to make the senior center in Philipstown a reality took longer than World War II,” reported the Putnam County News and Recorder, which is owned by Roger and Elizabeth Ailes. “They indicated several charities had reached out to them about the half-million dollars.
“The family said they hoped to help the senior citizens of Philipstown but (it) is clear for political reasons their funding is not welcome. Therefore they are withdrawing the money, canceling the contribution agreement and assigning the money to another one of their charities who can put it to use immediately.”
This comes after the Putnam County Legislature officially accepted the $500,000 — a move that required the governing body to change the local law to allow the building to be named after a living donor.
According to Legislator Dini LoBue, R-Mahopac Falls, lawmakers were “pushed” to sign a lease agreement back in November because they were told the $500,000 from Ailes would be taken off the table if a commitment was not made.
The county actually signed the lease in May of this year, and it states that Putnam will rent $6,000 square feet of space over 15 years at a total cost of about $3.5 million. The lease has never been made public, with the county law department stating that contractual agreements are not made public record until they are implemented.
According to LoBue, the county was waiting for the donation check to be cut.
Per the charitable donation agreement, Ailes’ ACI Senior Development Corp. agreed to hire Mountainview Construction of Patterson as the construction manager for renovations and “use commercially reasonable efforts to use contractors and subcontractors from Putnam County and to employ trade persons residing in Philipstown and surrounding areas with Putnam County,” to complete the renovations.
The agreement further states “… renovations shall be delivered (to the country) as is without any warranty and the ACI shall have no obligations to the county with respect to ACI renovations or the center, including with respect to construction defects and claims by subcontractors for nonpayment.”
Concern over the fact that the agreement is absent of any language that would require “prevailing wages” to be paid were far-reaching, with Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, D-Ossining, even voicing her concern at the Aug. 2 Putnam County meeting.
“I’m concerned, now that I know a little more about the contract,” she said.
Galef, and State Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, had recently expressed that they would pursue $250,000 each from the state Dormitory Authority for the project. However, with allegations that workers may not be paid a living wage, Galef said the Dormitory Authority may not be on board.
Divorce attorney Margaret Yonco-Haines of Cold Spring, who is the Putnam County organizer of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, also spoke out at the Legislature meeting. She balked at the idea that the county would consider the proposed agreement with Ailes a good deal.
“It provides none of the protections you would have in basic contract law,” she said. “It’s not something that this county should sign.”
With the Ailes’ withdrawing the donation, it appears the county won’t be able to.
The irony is that if the $500K had been coming from a Democrat, Ailes and company would have been all over it decrying the insider arrangements. Live by the sword…
Taxpayers across Putnam County should be aware that the county executive and legislature agreed to pay 50 percent of the taxes on the entire seven-acre Butterfield property (i.e., all taxpayers are carrying the burden for private development). Reviewing the contributions to the Aug. 2 discussion made by Legislator Dini LoBue reveals this corruption on the part of the county executive and legislature. Ask County Legislator Barbara Scucciamara why she voted for this lease, making us pay for Butterfield’s taxes? The figure is $30,000 now, according to LoBue, but as the property is developed and the assessment increases, so will our tax liability on Butterfield. Everyone in Cold Spring and Philipstown, including seniors on fixed incomes, are being made to pay someone else’s property taxes, in addition to their own.
How could any responsible legislator agree to such an offensive business arrangement? Before signing a lease with Butterfield’s developer, the county had a fiduciary and moral responsibility to make the terms of that lease known to all county residents. Ask your county legislator to account for this term of the agreement she sponsored.