Gordon Eddington is suddenly claiming that a confidentiality clause prevented him from disclosing Foundry contamination to residents, but is it really true?
At-Large City Councilor Gordon Eddington joined Ward 1 City Councilor Angelina Marino for a “Coffee Hour” event at the L&R restaurant in Geneva on the morning of Saturday, June 3rd. Around 20-25 residents attended the hour-long session, including around 10 supporters of Eddington. The meeting was lively and intense, with Eddington’s supporters defending their friend, and victims of the Foundry contamination asking Eddington pointed questions about the Foundry debacle.
During the meeting, Eddington, who had been silent for months on the Foundry issue, dropped a bombshell and claimed that the State Assistance Contract (SAC), which the City of Geneva entered into with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for the Foundry cleanup effort, contained a clause which legally prohibited him from disclosing information about contamination to residents.
At the Geneva City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 7th, Eddington read a prepared statement in which he again claimed that he was bound by a non-disclosure agreement with the DEC and that he “contractually and ethically had to remain silent.” A large contingent of Eddington supporters showed up and offered public comments defending Eddington’s character, echoing his assertion that he was legally prevented from disclosing the contamination to residents, and stating that Geneva as a whole needed to come together and move forward rather than point the finger of blame at Eddington.
The Finger Lakes Times’ Steve Buchiere offered up this solid summary of the council meeting:
One of Eddington’s supporters read aloud the portion of the SAC which Eddington claims prohibited him from notifying residents of the contamination, but did this “confidentiality clause” really prevent Eddington from speaking up?
Looking At The SAC
The State Assistance Contract between the DEC and the City of Geneva was originally signed in 1997. The contract provides the guidelines and responsibilities of both parties related to the former Geneva Foundry remediation project. There are four variants of the State Assitance Contract (from four different years) that have been obtained via FOIL requests, each one an amended version of the original SAC from 1997.
The “confidentiality clause” only appears once in the four documents, in “Appendix B” of the 2015 SAC. This Appendix, entitled Standard Clauses for all New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Contracts and created in March 2013, is a revised version of the original Appendix from April 2000.
This means that the “confidentiality clause” first appeared in the available SAC documents thirteen years after Eddington was made aware of the offsite contamination. Because the April 2000 Appendix was not included in the FOIL documents, it’s not clear whether the “confidentiality clause” was even in the contract prior than 2013.
Now, let’s examine the supposed “confidentiality clause.”
- The agreement actually states that any “data…of a sensitive nature” could be released to the public if the contractor (City of Geneva) receives written permission from the DEC. In hundreds of FOIL documents, there is not one request from Eddington or the city’s contractors asking if they could warn residents of the contamination. Therefore, Eddington cannot claim he was completely forbidden from releasing any information without showing that he requested permission and was denied.
- The agreement applies to “data..of a sensitive nature” that might be obtained by the contractor (City of Geneva) being prohibited from release without permission. But are soil test results even considered “sensitive data?” There’s no documentation to confirm this, and it’s a considerable leap to simply assume that the results of soil tests on residential properties would be considered “sensitive.”
Appendix B also states “Such agreements shall be effective for the life of the contract and for a period of five (5) years after completion of the contract.” Of course, the contract is nowhere near completion even today, yet both the DEC and the City of Geneva have released the residential soil testing results in response to FOIL requests.
If the City of Geneva was prohibited from releasing this info without written permission from the DEC, did they receive written permission before releasing the soil test results in 2016? The FOIL request did not include any documentation that the City of Geneva made the request or that the DEC granted the request.
Non-Disclosure Or Non-Non-Disclosure?
Without the following documentation, Eddington’s claim of being bound by a confidentiality agreement simply cannot be taken seriously.
- Documentation from the DEC describing soil test results as “data…of a sensitive nature,” which would prove that Eddington was prevented from warning the public about the contamination without written permission from the DEC.
- The April 2000 “Standard Clauses for all New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Contracts,” which would prove that Eddington was prevented from releasing information between April 2000 and March 2013 without written permission from the DEC.
- Written correspondence from the DEC in which they deny the City of Geneva’s request to release information about residential contamination.
Leave Gordy Alone?
One of the mantras repeated by Eddington and his supporters has been “there are two sides to every story.”
But if Eddington is going to give his side of the story, it needs to be backed up by documented evidence showing that his role in the Foundry disaster is being unfairly portrayed.
Eddington’s claim that he was bound by confidentiality is surprising and sudden. This claim isn’t just “another side to the story,” it’s an assertion that would change the entire context of the Foundry discussion if confirmed. However, the claim is not backed up by currently available documents.
Some of Eddington’s supporters have insisted that there were other city officials that knew about the residential contamination. However, there aren’t any FOIL documents confirming this contention. And as fate would have it, Eddington is now a publicly elected official, which means that his role in the Foundry will be more closely scrutinized than former city employees who are no longer in public positions or involved in city government.
The examination of the Foundry debacle isn’t about opinions, and it isn’t about assigning blame. It’s about looking at the known facts, discovering where things went wrong, and holding those involved accountable.
If you feel that the narrative about the Foundry disaster is incorrect, then gather your evidence and provide the citizens of Geneva with the “other side of the story.” Holding up a single paragraph in a single document and offering a specious interpretation to provide a defense for Eddington’s failure to notify residents of lead and arsenic contamination is not enough. Stating your opinion that Eddington is a nice guy (which is probably true) and that those who want to hold Eddington accountable are being divisive or playing partisan politics is not enough. Everyone’s opinion matters, but in a situation as serious as the Foundry disaster, we need facts.
As always, I invite readers to contact Geneva Believer if they find any factual errors in any of the stories that have been covered here.