Conflict Of Interest? Gaglianese Talks Massa Project At First Council Meeting

Massa Construction has enjoyed a lucrative and longstanding relationship with the City of Geneva for many years, and during that time has been the winning bidder on an unusually large number of City contracts worth millions.

From August 2008 to June 2018, the City of Geneva awarded Massa Construction nine contracts, and paid Massa Construction a total of $4,447,408.03 for those nine contracts, according to records released by the City.

In June 2018, At-Large Geneva City Councilor Gordon Eddington, who had a long professional and history with Massa Construction and whose son was employed by the developer, risked losing his council seat when he pressured Council to complete a $700,000 renovation of council chambers at City Hall in addition to the $1.5 million the City was already paying Massa for City Hall improvements.

Eddington did not run for a second City Council term in 2019.

Frank Gaglianese, employed by Massa Construction as a Superintendent since March 2018, ran as a Republican candidate for the one of the two vacant At-Large council seats in 2019.

Gaglianese, who promised transparency and accountability during his campaign, gave an election-season interview and said, if elected, he hoped to complete the construction of a brand-new, multi-million dollar, city-owned Farmer’s Market building during his term. Gaglianese stated that he came up with the idea for the project himself after driving by the downtown Farmer’s Market on a rainy day.

Gaglianese eventually won one of the two available At-Large seats for a four-year term beginning in 2020.

At his first City Council meeting in January, Gaglianese showed that he might have a difficult time separating his professional loyalty to his employer from his personal responsibility to follow New York State Municipal Law.

Massa Construction And The City Of Geneva In Recent Years
“One Thing That I’d Really Like To See Through”

In an October 2019 interview with Gabe Pietrorazio of Fingerlakes1.com, Massa Superintendent and At-Large City Council candidate Frank Gaglianese spoke about a project that he hoped to accomplish while on city council:

Most of all, he shared that there is “one thing that I’d really like to see-through” and acknowledged that some may think it’s funny but for Gaglianese, he’s all business.

 

“But last week I was driving on Thursday through downtown and I seen the farmer’s market. It was windy, rainy and there were vendors out there sticking it out. I would like to see us find a piece of property in the city and build a year-round green building, all windows, where, you know maybe solar-powered, where 365-days a year we can have a farmer’s market,” Gaglianese stated.

Although Gaglianese had yet to be elected, he stated that if elected he would use his council seat to propose and complete an all-new construction project that could mean millions for his employer.

In November 2019, Frank Gaglianese was elected to one of two vacant At-Large City Council seats.

And during his first official City Council Meeting on January 8th, Councilor Gaglianese took the opportunity begin a discussion about another construction project that could make a lot of money for Massa.

City Hall Renovations – How Did Frank Not Know?

Frank Gaglianese began working for Massa Construction in April 2018.

At-Large Councilor Frank Gaglianese

Two months later in June 2018, City Council would vote to scale back Massa’s City Hall renovation project by cancelling the planned renovation of the council chambers, which would have allowed City Council meetings to be held at City Hall. The council chambers renovation would have put the entire project about $700,000 over budget, according to City Comptroller Adam Blowers.

The City Hall renovation project (and the eventual cancellation of the council chamber renovations) was a story that was covered in detail by the Finger Lakes Times and Geneva Believer. Frank Gaglianese was working for Massa Construction at that time, so it would be reasonable to assume that he knew about the changes made to the City Hall renovation plans, and why those changes were made.

But during his first-ever City Council meeting as an elected official, after City Manager Sage Gerling gave an update on the renovations at City Hall, Frank Gaglianese asked why the council chambers renovation had been canceled.

Gaglianese asked:

“I thought that one of the reasons for the renovations of City Hall was to bring City Council back to there, why hasn’t that happened?”

Mayor Steve Valentino, with input from Councilors Pruett and Camera, answered Gaglianese’s question, prompting a short discussion about whether City Council meetings need to be moved back to City Hall.

Gaglianese never disclosed his conflict of interest when he brought up the construction question.

“Working for better transparency”

Frank Gaglianese repeatedly used the term “transparency” while campaigning for the At-Large City Councilor seat.

Because Frank works for a company that has a close (and lucrative) relationship with the city, he needs to understand that there will always be the potential for a conflict of interest when he’s either lobbying for or voting on city construction contracts that could be awarded to his employer.

According to NYS General Municipal Law, it would certainly appear that Gaglianese’s employment with Massa presents a conflict of interest.

Article 18 (Conflicts of Interest for Municipal Officers and Employees) – NYS General Municipal Law
Q. Could Frank Gaglianese’s employment with Massa create a conflict of interest?

A. NYS General Municipal Law Article 18 says that an elected official has an “interest” in the contracts of any businesses with whom they are affiliated or employed.

Article 18 also deems a municipal officer or employee to have an interest in the contracts of certain business entities with which he or she is affiliated. In this regard, a municipal officer or employee is deemed to have an interest in the contracts of a firm, partnership or association of which he or she is a member or employee.

Q. If Frank Gaglianese helps Massa obtain a contract with the city, would there be any repercussions for the City?

A. State law also says that if the City of Geneva willfully enters into a contract in which there is a conflict of interest, that contract is null and void.

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.

Q. Could Gaglianese face any repercussions for helping Massa obtain a contract with the city?

A. State law says that any elected official who has a conflict of interest (like Gaglianese) who votes or advocates for businesses with whom they are employed, they are guilty of a misdemeanor, and if convicted, could be removed from office.

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.

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