Chasing the Butterfield Lease

Nov. 4, 2015: The Putnam County legislature approves a lease for 6,000 square feet at the Butterfield development in Cold Spring for a senior center contingent on $500,000 donation by Roger and Elizabeth Ailes. The document is not released.

May 3: The legislature approves a 15-year lease and a charitable agreement with the Ailes. The documents are not released.

July 8: David McKay Wilson of The Journal News files a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for a copy of the Butterfield lease and the charitable agreement.

July 15: Deputy County Attorney Anna Diaz denies Wilson’s request, citing Section 87(2)(c) of the FOIL law, which states that “an agency can deny access to records that if disclosed would impair present or imminent contract awards.”

Aug. 2: After The Journal News reveals details of the charitable agreement, Roger and Elizabeth Ailes withdraw their pledge.

Aug. 16: Steve Laifer of Cold Spring files a FOIL request for the May 3 lease.

Aug. 19: The Journal News posts a leaked version of the May 3 lease.

Sept. 6: The legislature approves an amended lease and an $800,000 bond. Chairwoman Ginny Nacerino says the approved (but not yet signed) lease is protected by “attorney-client privilege.” Legislative counsel Clement Van Ross disputes this, saying a resolution passed by the legislature is a public record.

Sept. 14: Legislators approve an amended lease. It is not released.

Sept. 19: The Current files a FOIL request for the amended lease.

Sept. 20: Diaz “approves” Laifer’s request by sending him the Aug. 19 Journal News article.

Sept. 21: Jan Thacher of Cold Spring files a FOIL request for the lease.

Sept. 26: Diaz replies to The Current request with a form letter stating that she is “in the process of locating the requested records,” which could take up to 20 business days.

Oct. 4: After Nacerino says at the legislature’s monthly meeting that the lease has been signed by County Executive MaryEllen Odell and sent to the developer, a reporter for The Current asks if the lease is now public record. Nacerino replies that The Current must file a FOIL request. After Van Ross interjects that a FOIL is not necessary, the legislative clerk says she will email a copy of the lease to the paper in the morning.

Oct. 5: No email arrives. At 3:15 p.m., the clerk calls to say that, according to the county attorney, the paper must file a FOIL request.

8 thoughts on “Chasing the Butterfield Lease

  1. Thank you for documenting the corruption and intransigence that are a hallmark of the cesspool that is Putnam County government.

  2. The disjointedness of the county’s communications has the potential to cause whiplash in people’s necks, as readers try to understand the specifics of who said what and why (and who if anyone actually knows what they are talking about).

    It does appear that several county officials either do not agree with, or do not understand, what their own attorneys are publicly telling them. And/or that county officials are simply incapable of following these instructions. And/or that county attorneys are themselves not in agreement, or they are learning on the job. Perhaps all of this is occurring at the same time.

    Is the county now rudderless?

  3. Gotta wonder: are they hiding something, stonewalling because they’re annoyed, or just lazy?

  4. A lease is a contract that must be signed by both parties. Maybe the developer did not sign the lease, and therefore it cannot be executed.

  5. According to the other article, and to what I have also learned from the county, the developer has not yet signed the lease. I have no information as to why he hadn’t yet signed it.

  6. First, let me say clearly, a senior center would be wonderful in our community. But this is not the issue. The Butterfield Senior Center has been contentious and for good reason. The amount of money for the Lahey renovations that is costing upwards of $1e million to renovate this already useful medical building is very unnerving to say the least.

    It simply does not make sense in particular when there could be a space to rent at one of the other structures temporarily, until a permanent site could be found to buy and renovate. Why would anyone in our community wish to tear up Lahey to accommodate perhaps 60 to 100 folks and in addition pay a steep rent? There are so many unknowns I wonder why the legislators are pushing this through (I know it has unfortunately been signed but not by the developer).

    What is the truth here and why has it moved so far in such an ugly, secret manner? Dissent has been shut down and opposition treated with contempt. This is a familiar tactic when there is something to hide. The closed manner in which this legislative group operates (I have observed this in two meetings I attended) is truly suspect and has once again divided our town into “them” and “us.” Who has the power and why?