A FOIL request to the City of Geneva has uncovered some seemingly irregular business arrangements with a certain ex-city employee.
City Councilor Gordon Eddington stated at the January 4th, 2017 Council Meeting that the work he’s done for the City of Geneva since 2011 has been “a volunteer consultant” and that he “did not accept any money” from the City for his services.
Geneva Believer has obtained documents via a recent FOIL request detailing more than $77,000 of invoices paid to Eddington’s company Eddington Environmental between 2011 and 2015. Eddington Environmental was the company founded by Eddington upon his retirement, specializing in asbestos abatement. It’s apparent that Eddington was not being truthful when he claimed to have been a “volunteer consultant” for the City from 2011 to 2015, when he stopped doing work for the city after winning the At-Large Councilor seat.
Among the 39 separate invoices are payments related to asbestos surveys, environmental testing, and asbestos removal at multiple city-owned properties, including 305 Main Street and the old Chamber building. However, a handful of the invoices brought up troubling questions about Eddington’s relationship with the city as a contractor after his retirement.
Taxpayers Paid For Eddington’s Contractor License
Four payments totalling $27,600 over four years were made to Eddington to pay for his asbestos removal licenses. Anyone in New York State who does asbestos abatement work is required to be licensed and insured. In fact, contractors of all types are required to pay costly license fees in order to remain in business.
However, for a contractor to have three years of licensing fees paid by taxpayers from the city where he was previously employed appears highly unusual.
In a November 2013 email to City Manager Matt Horn, Eddington makes reference to these payments:
“I have attached an invoice for the City of Geneva’s Asbestos Contractor License that I renew for you annually. I am the responsible party for this license, as such as in the past you have agreed to assist with the insurance coverage cost that I have to pay to maintain this license. This invoice is for payment of that fee.”
It is odd that this is being referred to as “the City of Geneva’s Asbestos Contractor License.” The license was issued to Eddington Environmental with Gordon Eddington as the Duly Authorized Representative. This license, paid for by Geneva taxpayers, allowed the company to do asbestos abatement projects for anyone, anywhere in New York State, not just for the City of Geneva.
Plus, Eddington Environmental was not required to submit bids in competition with other asbestos contractors because of an apparent legal stipulation that allows the city to award contracts without bids for “professional services,” according to an October 29, 2015 article in the Finger Lakes Times:
“Eddington does asbestos surveys on buildings the city demolishes. He formed Eddington Environmental prior to retiring and gets paid for that work. The city is not required to go through a competitive bidding process because asbestos removal is a professional service, Horn noted.”
This information seems to point to a troubling scenario: the recently retired head of the DPW sat down with city officials, asked them to agree to use taxpayer dollars for his asbestos contractor license and/or insurance which he could legally use to do non-city contracts, with the expectation that his “professional services” would give him exclusive rights to all asbestos contracting work for the city, and someone from the city agreed to this arrangement.
Gordon Eddington: Soil Testing and Analysis Expert?
In 2014, Eddington Environmental was paid a whopping $12,030 for environmental testing and reporting at the OEO site on South Exchange Street.
This is the site recently targeted for development by Massa Construction with the help of DRI funds.
The $12,030 invoice was for two environmental reports, with soil borings and analytical testing.
Soil boring and analysis is commonly performed by credentialed engineers. Gordon Eddington is not an engineer.
The city has asserted that they are not required to follow a bidding process for certain “professional services,” which implies that a company providing a specialized service would not have to submit competitive bids for those jobs.
But Eddington Environmental specializes in asbestos abatement, and the $12,030 invoice was for two environmental reports with soil borings and analytical testing, work normally done by engineers.
This brings up two important questions:
Why did the city award such a lucrative contract to Eddington Environmental?
Did the City of Geneva solicit bids for this contract before awarding it to Eddington?
Geneva Coming Together To Do Things The Right Way
While this most recent FOIL request by Geneva Believer to the City of Geneva was in response to Eddington’s claim of providing volunteer consulting work to the city since his retirement, the information uncovered points to potentially serious mishandling of public funds and inappropriate awarding of at least one contract to a former city employee.
One of the reasons this blog exists is that questionable machinations of city government are commonplace in Geneva. Both longtime and newer residents know this, and they see it every day. The Geneva Believer inbox is filled with messages from Genevans who are grateful that somebody is taking the time to publicly call out these kinds of irregular dealings.
Geneva Believer readers represent the full spectrum of political beliefs. The blog probably has as many “conservative” or “right wing” readers as “liberal” or “left wing” readers. Their core political values might be far apart, but they all agree on one thing: the City of Geneva is operating in ways that are not ethical or fair, and this needs to change.
Let’s continue working together to make sure things are done the right way, and if they are not, we’ll make our voices heard at the ballot box.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below, on the Geneva Believer Facebook page, or through the contact page on this site.