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Sleepy Hollow News

State Declares Grant to Attorney Property Okay, But Questions Remain

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March 5, 2015

| by Elaine Marranzano |

A state agency has determined that a grant to a property in Sleepy Hollow owned by Village Attorney Janet Gandolfo was handled properly by the village’s Downtown Revitalization Corporation, (SHDRC). New York State’s Main Street grant for work on the residential building on Clinton Street led to a controversy in which it was charged that the property should not have qualified for the $4,450 grant, among the 19 awarded to the village. The Office of Community Renewal stated in a letter that, ‘’all of the assisted properties were eligible.”

The controversy was spurred by allegations of an investigator, Frank Morganthaler, who charged that the property “does not meet the requirements for obtaining a grant since it is not a commercial property.” Morganthaler claimed he was acting in behalf of several unnamed merchants in the village.

Morganthaler’s complaint also alleged that Executive Director of the SHDRC, Susan Roth, and Village Trustee Karin Wompa, who is also president of the SHDRC, were “complicit in allowing Gandolfo to misappropriate these grant funds.” Roth and Wompa also deny any wrongdoing.

The allegations were strongly denied by Gandolfo, who asserted that they were made by “…persons with their own private agenda.”

Wompa, in response to the charges, stated, “The allegations to date have been made only by individuals unaffiliated with any official or government authority. The unfortunate result is to mislead the public and distract it from the great work the SHDRC has done.”

Wompa is running on the Democratic ticket for msyor in March. Some observers see the negative focus on the program as having political implications with this month’s local elections ahead.

The question of whether the grant program was administered properly has been raised by David Schroedel, chair of the  Unite Sleepy Hollow Party, who asserted the state’s response did not address certain aspects of the program.  In his complaint, Schroedel cited the contract between the State and the SHDRC which states, “Before a final payment can be made, a final inspection will be required.”

According to a letter written by village architect Sean McCarthy about the grant program, 10 of the 19 completed projects still have open permits, meaning a final inspection has not been made and a certificate of occupancy (CO) has not been issued even though final payments have been made to the property owner.  A CO, for example, was not issued for work completed in 2012 on Gondolfo’s property until Dec. 14, 2014 three days after a reporter asked McCarthy if a CO existed.

“It appears there was some quick work to clean things up,” said Mayor Ken Wray, a Democrat who is running for reelection on the Unite Sleepy Hollow party ticket. “I don’t know if they have done anything illegal, but it certainly is sloppy.”

In the letter McCarthy also wrote that “it is not unusual for property owners not to close out building permits until they sell or refinance.” Wray described McCarthy’s letter as “curiously devoid of detail” and said the Village may have lost out on income because the renovation estimates listed on building permits were inaccurate.

In one case a building permit was issued for $6,000 when the actual cost of the renovations was $60,000, not including the State’s matching contribution, according to Wray. “That means that the property owners paid less in building permit fees and less property tax based on the improvements,” he said. “It doesn’t add up.”

The SHDRC is a nonprofit agency whose goal is to strengthen and support the downtown business community.

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