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From the 7/31/14 Edition of The Gazette. EXCERPTS FROM THE GALLELLI WIEGMAN SOMETHING GOOD GOUVEIA/FOIL REQUEST, COURTESY OF BOB WINTERMEIER'S 7/31 GAZETTE LETTER
To the editor:
Croton taxpayers were kept in the dark for the past year regarding
the Gouveia acquisition despite resident concerns about possible acceptance of
the property by the Village Board. Among their major worries were the loss of
tax revenue if the village accepted the “gift,” the ongoing cost to maintain
and repair the property, and the belief that a deal with Ms. Gouveia was a
“fait accompli.” The Village Board remained quiet about these concerns or
denied that a deal was done.
The scenario became more complex when Barbara Sarbin,
Director of Educational Programs for a group known as Something Good in the
World (SGITW), came on the scene. She hoped to lease part of the Gouveia
property for an experimental “learning center” to teach kids survival skills
involving chickens, waterless toilets, solar energy, etc.
While taxpayer questions about SGITW, the property and its
usage were ignored at Village Board meetings under the pretext that secrecy was
needed during legal talks, Mayor Wiegman, Trustee Gallelli and other village
officials were meeting with Ms. Sarbin to examine the property and develop a
sales presentation to convince residents that SGITW and a Gouveia deal were
good for residents. To the best of my knowledge, the other trustees, taxpayers,
the Croton- Harmon school board and other village organizations were kept out
of the loop and denied the same information, assistance, and access to the
Gouveia property that Ms. Sarbin obtained.
Using the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), a concerned
citizen obtained 70 pages of emails pertaining to the Gouveia/SGITW deal that
were sent by Ms. Sarbin to Mayor Weigman and Trustee Gallelli. A second FOIL
request has been submitted for their responses to Ms. Sarbin to better
understand their relationship. Target date is August 24th.
Despite the absence of village replies to Ms. Sarbin, a
review of her emails confirms a secret village attempt to keep Croton residents
from learning about SGITW’s “learning center” and to “grease the skids” for
SGITW’s partial use of the Gouveia property.
A sample of Ms. Sarbin’s email comments to Mayor Wiegman and
Trustee Gallelli are included below for those unable to access the entire list
and illustrate the collusion that took place:
--“I wanted to firstly say my most heartfelt congratulations
to you on all the hard work that you have done towards the gift of Gouveia Park
to the Village of Croton. I have been following the stories in the newspaper as
well as online on the Village Board website, reading the reports and minutes. I
also coincidentally spoke with Bob Elliott this evening, and he did confirm
that the gift looks like it will go through now, barring any unforeseen issues.
So this is great news and I am really pleased. It sounds like so far you have
weathered the opposition (only a very noisy 8% in the end) and you are very
well experienced in this from all the years of your positions in the village.”
-- “… when the proposal goes before the Village Board, we
[need to] have all the answers in place already, ranging from parking to waste
treatment. I have spoken to David and Alan [Sarbin’s friends] about some of
Dan’s [O’Connor] concerns and with Bob Elliott to get recommendations for how
to handle some of the concerns to do with the County Health Dept. and code. Dan
was particularly worried about the grey water system, which I am working on at
length this weekend, finding a back-up plan…”
-- “Please let me know anything you can about what is
happening. Phone is fine if email is not the preferred way to talk about this,
which I completely understand.”
--“In and around our conversation were other more personal
reflections that I would be more comfortable sharing with you by phone, rather
than in an email.”
--“Well, now I understand your reluctance to have me put
forward this proposal. I know that the less time anyone has to research
opposition to the project, the better. I wish there were a way for the Board
members to know this project is in the works without it being public, but if
there’s no other way, then perhaps the way I can present it is as very low key.
Maybe we don’t present the Envira Pods [modular classrooms]; just the gardens
with the Epods as an idea if it comes up?”
--“I agree it sure is going to look like we have been
working on this for a while! I wonder what we can do to make this a safe
process for SGITW and for the Board... Thank you for explaining this to me, I
honestly didn’t realize that it involved the public.”
--“I just had to write to tell you how beautiful the video
is that you made of the Gouveia property! I didn’t realize you had already put
it up online!”
The entire list of emails can be viewed directly by visiting
this web site: tinyurl.com/mdbrdkw.
Readers are also urged to visit
http://crotonunited.org for more information.
In my opinion, the mayor and Trustee Gallelli lied when they
said they couldn’t disclose the Gouveia deal based on their lawyer’s advice. If
Ms. Sarbin was included in their confidence, why not Croton taxpayers who will
be stuck with the tab? Is this the type of ethical conduct to expect from
“trusted” village officials? I wonder if other promises were made to Ms. Sarbin
that will lead to more litigation if not fulfilled.
SEE ALSO JOEL GINGOLD'S 7/24/14 LETTER ON THIS ISSUE HERE https://www.facebook.com/notes/croton-united/croton-united-member-joel-gingolds-letter-to-the-editor-july-24-2014/327495467407491