At the June 6 City Council meeting, Councilor-At-Large and habitual liar Gordon “Gordy” Eddington passionately lobbied City Council to move forward on City Hall renovations, a project that will cost city taxpayers $700,000 more than the original budget.
Eddington claimed that his “calculations” showed the entire project costing about $46,000 more than planned. City Comptroller Adam Blowers stated that it would be around $700,000 over budget. Eddington disagreed with the $700,000 figure.
Unsurprisingly, the general contractor that won the bid is Gordy’s old friends at Massa Construction. Massa stands to pocket $1.2 million if Eddington is successful in convincing Council to move forward.
But Eddington may have a connection to Massa that he is required by New York State law to disclose, which would put him at risk of a misdemeanor that could result in his removal from office.
Timeline of City Hall Renovations Project
- October 11, 2016 (Special Council Meeting – Budget Discussion)– The proposed budget for 2017 includes $1.5 million for City Hall upgrades, including a brand new elevator and renovation of council chambers so that council meetings could be moved back to City Hall. Councilor Camera spoke opposing the project. City Manager Horn stated that accessibility and operational issues needed to be addressed. According to the minutes, Councilor Eddington said nothing during the renovations discussion, although Eddington claimed in 2018 that he was the one who proposed the project.
- October 19, 2016 – Councilor Camera speaks to the Finger Lakes Times to express not only his opposition to the expensive City Hall renovation project, but also his concern that other councilors had decided to vote to approve the 2017 budget early, rather than waiting to vote during the final scheduled budget discussion the following week.
“I have a feeling that some (Council members) are trying to rush to the end of the budget discussion process before next week’s last scheduled meeting and do not want to give too much consideration to adjustments that were proposed at the budget conversation last week (budget workshop).”
The budget, including the $1.5 million City Hall renovation project, was eventually approved early at the October 19 meeting by a vote of 8-1. Camera voted against.
- March 2018 – The city received two bids for the general contracting portion of the city hall renovation project. The winning bid, at $1.2 million, was Massa Construction. With additional costs (including electric, plumbing, etc.) the total cost of the project is projected to be $2.2 million.
Eddington’s Plea to Give Massa $1.2 Million
During Council reports at the June 6 meeting, Gordy Eddington, whose connections to Massa Construction have been well-documented by Geneva Believer, began his emotional plea to council to give Massa the money:
“There were several people, I know when I got elected, and I believe Councilor Gramling got elected, people came to us and said, hey, we don’t like coming to a police station, to a jail, to attend a meeting.”
Gordy continued dramatically:
“(The City Hall renovation project) was asked for in 2016, was put in the 2017 Capital Plan, bids went out I believe this year, they came back probably a few thousand dollars higher than what the budget was approved for.”
Eddington said his “calculations” showed the project was $46,000 over budget.
Later, City Comptroller Adam Blowers gave a figure of $700,000 over budget.
Eddington responded “I don’t think it’s $700,000.”
While it may not be the first time a councilor has ever disagreed with a city comptroller, Eddington is making the noteworthy claim that his “calculations” show that the comptroller is about $654,000 off the mark.
“But again, I know in past history…a lot of (capital) projects come in under, some come in over, you’ve got a pool of money that you can make projects happen with. I know it’s been done in the past.”
“I’m really asking staff to move these projects along…it’s been two years. I know we got four decent bids, it’s in the capital plan…I’d like to see those bids get awarded and we get going on this thing.”
“If some of the money isn’t there to do everything, like the furnishings or whatever, we’re coming up to budget time for 2019, let’s see what we can do to get it in there.”
Eddington knows that the city comptroller has recommended that council find a way for the project be scaled down so that the city doesn’t take on another almost three-quarters of a million dollar debt, but Eddington insists that the project be approved and started immediately.
“I just think the citizens of Geneva deserve it, the handicapped people in Geneva deserve it, the people that do not want to come to this building and feel uncomfortable deserve it, we promised it to them in 2016, I’d like to deliver it.”
Does Gordy really care about the disabled and those who are uncomfortable attending meetings at the police station, or is he just trying every angle possible to make sure his friends at Massa Construction get paid their $1.2 million?
A special council meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 13, and council will vote on how to proceed with the city hall renovations issue. It will take a super-majority of council (six votes) to make any changes to the project or the budget.
And Gordon Eddington should not be voting.
Appearances of Conflicts of Interest
There has been a longtime business and personal relationship between Eddington and Nick Massa:
- Eddington’s asbestos removal company Eddington Environmental has worked alongside Massa on many city projects since Eddington’s retirement as DPW director, including the 2015 firehouse demolition.
- Eddington (along with former city manager Matt Horn) provided a testimonial on Massa Construction’s website as recently as 2015, before Eddington began his city council term.
- In 2015, Massa Construction hosted large campaign signs for Geneva City Council candidate Gordon Eddington at their headquarters on Pre-Emption Road and at one of their downtown building lots.
- According to multiple sources including former employees of the restaurant, Eddington, Massa and Horn, for years, had breakfast together on Friday mornings at 7am at Friendly’s in Geneva.
While none of these conflicts would prohibit Eddington from voting on the Massa city hall renovation project, there is another issue for Gordy that is serious enough to force him to recuse himself from the vote.
Article 18 (Conflicts of Interest for Municipal Officers and Employees) – NYS General Municipal Law
Gordy Eddington’s son has apparently been employed by Massa Construction since June 2017 (and is also employed by the city at the water treatment facility).
The apparent employment of Eddington’s son by Massa is a clear enough conflict that Eddington should be required by law to recuse himself from voting on any project related to Massa.
A municipal officer or employee is deemed to have an interest in the contracts of his or her spouse, minor children and dependents, except their contracts of employment with the municipality.
Eddington’s son, a recent college student under the age of 24, is likely a dependent of Eddington. Therefore, Eddington is “deemed to have an interest” in any contracts related to his son and Massa, and is also required to disclose this fact under Article 18.
And what if Gordy decides to vote anyway?
Article 18 provides that any contract willfully entered into by or with a municipality in which there is an interest prohibited by article 18 is null, void and wholly unenforceable.
Article 18 also provides that any municipal officer or employee who willfully and knowingly violates the previously discussed provisions of article 18 is guilty of a misdemeanor. A conviction can serve as a basis for removal from office.
Are you going to vote?
Good Old Boys Club
It’s an open secret in Geneva that a small number of unelected people exert undue influence over city government, and a small number of people reap the benefits from what’s often referred to as “the old boys network” or “the good old boys club.”
When the city manager and a local developer are seen having weekly breakfasts in a local restaurant, and then that developer is the winning bidder on an unusually large number of city contracts worth millions,
…and then that developer is then given a huge tax break on a downtown property,
…and then that developer has their $1.5 million project proposal unexpectedly added to the list of projects at the final public DRI workshop,
…and then that developer is inexplicably given an award from city council for his “tireless work” and “countless contributions to make Geneva a great place to live and work,”
…and then that developer is selected to serve on the committee alongside the former city manager to select the new city manager,
…and then the city councilor that the developer helped to get elected risks losing his council seat in order to push through a $1.5 million payday for the developer…
…it certainly gives the appearance of a functioning “old boys club.”
When the former DPW director from the breakfast club wins a seat on city council with the help of the developer, and later pressures city council to award a $1.2 million dollar bid to that developer even though his son works for the developer, it becomes clear that they do not care about conflicts of interest, and have no concerns about whether their actions result in additional burden on the taxpayers who aren’t in their club.
No private individuals or companies should have this kind of relationship with elected and unelected officials in our city government.
Eddington’s shameless lobbying to line the pockets of Massa, while claiming to be a champion of vulnerable communities in the city, is pretty greasy even by Gordy’s standards.
Will the new city manager be joining the others for those Friday breakfasts? Probably. That’s how it works in Geneva.
- Contact City Council and tell them to clean up city hall of conflicts of interest. They probably won’t listen, but they need to know the people are paying attention.
- Come to the Special City Council meeting on Wednesday June 13 at 6pm, and let Council know that we don’t want them to burden us with more debt so Massa Construction can pocket more money. Council needs to vote to delay the renovations, re-evaluate all renovation plans, and re-apply for a Community Development Block Grant for an ADA compliant elevator (Geneva applied but didn’t receive the $300,000 grant this year). The work is necessary and overdue, so let’s take a little more time to do it right.
- And in the next Council election, keep an eye out for Massa Construction-approved candidates, who will continue to do the work that Gordy Eddington is trying to do, which is to make sure that Massa Construction continues to get those lucrative city contracts while the working class taxpayers of this city continue to struggle.