A Geneva Foundry protest and its fallout draws regional media attention, and evidence surfaces that Councilor Eddington may have lied about his role in the debacle.
When Geneva Believer last covered the Geneva Foundry contamination story, the NYS DEC had just released their cleanup plan for the Foundry site and the contaminated residential properties, and we explored City Councilor Gordon Eddington’s failure to notify residents of the lead and arsenic dangers for around 20 years, as shown in multiple documents obtained by Geneva Believer via FOIL requests. Since that time, things seemed somewhat quiet on Foundry front, save for a 13WHAM Investigation from February 20th that offered no real updates on the issue.
Then, on April 5th, a protest outside of the Geneva City Council meeting, along with multiple residents of the contamination zone speaking during the same meeting, thrust the Foundry story and Councilor Eddington’s role in it into the regional media spotlight.
- WHEC-TV filed a report from the City Council meeting.
- WROC-TV was there, too.
- Fingerlakes1.com covered the meeting as well.
- The Finger Lakes Times ran a front-page, above-the-fold story the next day.
- WGVA-Finger Lakes News Radio interviewed City Councilor Mark Gramling the next morning.
While it’s recommended that readers watch the entire April 5th City Council meeting, you can check out a couple of highlights from the public comment segment below. Pay close attention to Eddington’s reactions to the painful words spoken by Foundry neighborhood residents Margarita Arroyo, Tanya Calcorzi and Zac Diez.
It’s worth noting that the Finger Lakes Times published a piece on April 9th optimistically titled “CLEANUP PLAN SUBMITTED – Horn: City pushing for expedited remediation at former foundry site.” The article confirmed that remediation of the Foundry parcel and the residential properties will both begin in the summer, with the Foundry parcel being completed before all the taxpayers’ yards are cleaned up. The article also confirmed that the DEC has yet to release an actual expected time frame for completion of all remediation.
The residents of the Foundry contamination zone have found a powerful and determined ally in the Geneva Women’s Assembly. The GWA helped to organize the City Council meeting protest, and have stepped in to advocate for the people of the Foundry neighborhood who are living a nightmare.
On Thursday, April 13th, the GWA hosted a Community Meeting on Foundry Contamination and Remediation at the Presbyterian Church, which was attended by around 40 people.
The meeting included residents sharing their stories, lead poisoning information, suggestions on dealing with living in the contamination zone, and discussions of what kinds of actions should be taken to expedite the remediation process, protect the health of residents and hold the City of Geneva accountable for the crisis.
The Finger Lakes Times published a summary of the meeting, and it’s expected that there will be more actions taken by the alliance of the GWA and Foundry-area residents.
Former Councilor Jackie Augustine Speaks Out On The Foundry
While the current City Council (with the exception of Councilor Gramling) has been almost completely silent on the Foundry issue, former 16-year City Councilor Jackie Augustine has spoken out in her bi-weekly Finger Lakes Times column “Do the Write Thing,” as well as on her bi-weekly podcast “The Debrief Podcast” co-hosted by Josh Durso of Fingerlakes1.com.
Augustine first spoke about the Foundry issue during the April 12th podcast episode when she and Durso discussed the April 5th Council meeting and the implications of the Foundry debacle. It’s well worth a listen/watch.
Then, Augustine penned a frank and moving column on April 18th about the Foundry entitled “And let it begin with me.”
“The residents of the affected area have been damaged by the Foundry’s emissions, but the greater injury comes from the betrayal of trust by employees paid by our tax dollars to be on our side, to know what’s going on and to share information, to give Council access to the data that allows for verification of the claims being made.
Now-Councilor Eddington was asked at the Council meeting, “Why didn’t you say anything?” That question still needs an answer. And what is really needed is an apology and accountability.
I want to say, to the entire Geneva community, that I am sorry. I am sorry that this got by me on my watch. I’m sorry that I didn’t ask more questions. I’m sorry that I was part of a government that allowed this to happen to you, to this city, to all of us. Because, at the end of the day, this isn’t a neighborhood issue. It’s a city issue. We all need to be part of fixing this mess. My next column will contain suggestions for remedial steps — not for the soil, but for the people whose lives are built in and around these properties. I am sorry for being part of this problem, and I am committed to advocating for a just solution.”
Finally, a special installment of “The Debrief Podcast” on April 19th explored some of the more damning information revealed by the FOIL documents obtained by Geneva Believer, as well as many of the most critical questions and implications surrounding the Foundry issue. This episode contains some incredibly valuable insights from Augustine and Durso, and is not to be missed. Click the link below and check it out:
Eddington’s Pants: Do You Smell Smoke?
During the Council Reports segment of the January 4th, 2017 City Council meeting, I was asked by Councilor Eddington to clarify that while he had done consulting work for the city since his 2011 retirement as DPW Director, he had not been paid any money for the work and did it all as a “volunteer.” (View Eddington’s statement here)
Leaddington’s full statement:
“I just have a request for Mr. Meaney. I don’t really get involved with social media, Facebook, or any of that type of stuff or whatever but I would appreciate when he mentions in his social media comments and whatever that he prefaces the word consultant, he calls me a city consultant, that I’m a volunteer consultant. I retired from the City of Geneva in 2011 and I have continued as a volunteer, helping out the city and the City Manager with various problems, with various projects including the Foundry and the Market Basket site, as well as any other projects the City Manager has asked me to help with, and I plan on continuing that, but again, I stress that it’s volunteer, I do not accept any money for that. So, if I could just ask Mr. Meaney in the future to at least give me that credit that I am a volunteer.”
I made sure to write a clarification on January 9th (“Foundry Update: Eddington Requests Clarification, Conspiracy Theories Alleged“) because, after all, I didn’t want readers to think that Gordy was paid taxpayer dollars to bumble his way through an environmental disaster while endangering the safety of hundreds of Geneva residents in the census tract with the lowest average annual income and a population with a disproportionately high percentage of people of color.
After looking back over Leaddington’s post-retirement volunteer consulting career, I happened upon a suprising piece of information in the minutes from the February 2, 2011 City Council meeting during the City Manager Report:
“City Manager Horn began by announcing that Gordon Eddington’s 36 year career with the City ended last Friday. Rather than filling the Deputy Director position, Mr. Eddington will be contracted with to clear out projects and assist the new Director, Paul Cosentino. Mr. Eddington will be paid $25 per hour on an as needed basis. Mr. Horn offered his thanks to Mr. Eddington.”
This couldn’t be true, could it? Did Councilor Leaddington actually accept money as a consultant even though he stated publicly that he didn’t accept any money for his consulting work with the city?
Maybe this Finger Lakes Times article from February 4th could clear things up:
In other action, the council:
CONSULTANT — Heard from Horn that retired Public Works Director Gordon Eddington will be hired as consultant for $25 per hour to help with the demolition of 305 Main St. and the Johnson Controls energy performance contract in city buildings.
Now, just because it’s documented in the publicly available City Council minutes and in a subsequent news article that Leaddington would be pulling down a cool twenty-five bucks an hour working as a consultant for the city doesn’t mean it’s true. Maybe Gordy refused the paycheck that was offered to him six years ago, and any other paychecks since that time.
Or maybe Eddington’s not telling the truth.
Geneva Believer will be investigating Volunteergate in the coming weeks, and when we have more information, you’ll be the first to know.