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McFadden

Adam McFadden Facebook Page

 

Adam McFadden wasn’t the only person to question whether Bob Duffy’s appointment to the CEO position at the Rochester Business Alliance would get as much scrutiny as McFadden’s appointment to the Rochester Housing Authority.

Supporters of McFadden and Mayor Lovely Warren have repeatedly said black politicians get more heat in the media than white politicians. I vehemently disagree. Ask Maggie Brooks, whose husband is under indictment, if the media has been soft. If you don’t want the media breathing down your neck, don’t do questionable things. Better yet, don’t run for public office.

But while there are many difference between the RHA and RBA sagas, McFadden is right that the Duffy appointment should raise our collective eyebrows.

First, let’s talk about the differences.

RHA is a government entity, thus the public has a huge right to dissect its dealings. RBA is not, though it has close ties to government. At the RHA, someone was fired before McFadden could get the job. RHA insists Alex Castro was terminated because of wrongdoing. Until they spell out Castro’s failings, it looks as though Castro was pushed aside so McFadden could step in. Castro’s firing could be very costly to taxpayers.

Now let’s talk about the similarities.

1. Both of the appointments raise ethical issues.

As lieutenant governor, Duffy was in charge of the economic development councils, which awarded grants to the very businesses for whom he will now lobby. Duffy tells Gannett he recused himself. There’s also the matter of the Public Officer’s Law, which has varying interpretations of whether Duffy can lobby for two years after leaving office. Duffy says he’s cleared by JCOPE, the state’s ethics commission. Duffy should release that JCOPE decision, and if one is not in writing, he should get one in writing.

The Rochester Board of Ethics is looking into whether McFadden can serve on City Council and run the RHA. Council has very little to do with RHA, as the ethics board is discovering.

2. People lied.

George Moses, the chairman of the RHA board, lied to the media the day after Castro was fired, saying the board still had to interview candidates for interim director. He did not disclose that McFadden was hired at the same meeting Castro was fired.

Sandra Parker, whom Duffy is replacing, told me last year she was delaying her retirement because there was more she wanted to get done at RBA. She said she wasn’t involved in the search for a new CEO and didn’t know if Duffy was in the running. But yesterday she admitted she delayed her retirement so Duffy could get the job. Her statement calls into question whether Duffy really withdrew his name from consideration, as he asserted last year.

3. McFadden and Duffy both got the jobs because they hold elected office and have friends in high places. Putting aside whether they’re qualified, they got these top jobs because of who they know.

There’s no way McFadden, the head of a $1 million nonprofit, a man with no experience working in housing, would have been appointed to lead a $62 million agency if he was not a councilman with close ties to the mayor.

There’s no way anyone would delay their retirement for a year for someone who was not a friend. There’s no way a search committee would decide not to do any interviews for anyone other than the lieutenant governor, a former mayor who decided he didn’t like state politics and needed a job.

This last point is why we should care about both of these stories. The media – and the public – is a check on power. You can decide how much you care, but you can’t decide if we don’t tell you what’s going on.

Update: I deliberately did not discuss the qualifications of McFadden and Duffy to perform these jobs. But someone pointed out to me that I’m implying McFadden cannot do the job. I do not want my statement interpreted that way. I was only saying he got the job because of his connections, not that he isn’t capable of performing well in the post. McFadden has as many – if not more – credentials as other people placed into city and county management jobs over the years.

 

Tweet of the Day:

 

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Links of the Day:

 

– Remember when the state promised no one would ever be stranded on the Thruway again? Yeah…

– What it’s like to be stuck on the Thruway for 24 hours.

– Ban the Box law went into effect this week in Rochester, but many employers were not aware.

– Blacks are arrested at far higher rates than whites in Monroe County.

– Turning Stone plans $100 million expansion, including upscale stores, movie theater and dining.

– Boston’s charter schools have high suspension rates.

– There’s a growing movement to make sure students accused of sexual assault have due process and representation.

The firing of Rochester Housing Authority Director Alex Castro his replacement by City Councilman Adam McFadden raise a number of questions.

1. What did Castro do?

According to public housing residents and previous board members, Castro was popular and competent. But when he was fired, RHA Board Chairman George Moses said there were “questionable business practices” and Castro “stonewalled” the board’s requests for information. Mayor Lovely Warren said she’s received information that is “appalling” and residents complained of bad living conditions and safety issues. Moses and Warren say they cannot give specifics because the matter is a “personnel issue.”

This is a public agency and Castro was earning six figures. There’s nothing inherently private about his employment. His firing could cost taxpayers $1 million. More importantly, if there are major problems at this authority, which has a $62 million budget and serves 22,000 residents, we need to know what’s happening.

If the mayor truly wants to move on from this controversy, the public deserves answers.

2. Was there a deal in place?

At the October 14 meeting, McFadden was hired immediately after Castro was fired. McFadden said he didn’t know he had been immediately appointed. The next day, Moses said he had other candidates to consider, misleading the public about what happened at the meeting. Do you believe McFadden’s name came up for the first time on October 14?(See Question #3.)

3. What did the mayor know and when did she know it?

I first heard Castro could be fired and replaced by McFadden back in August. When I made phone calls, I had sources who heard the same. If reporters, political operatives and City Hall workers had heard this was coming, how could the mayor not know? That begs the question of whether she ordered McFadden’s hire, helped orchestrate it or tacitly condoned it. She absolutely had the power to make these moves, as she appointed five of seven board members. She also had the power to stop the train from leaving the station.

The mayor said yesterday, “I was notified along with everyone else of both the dismissal of Alex Castro and the hiring of Adam McFadden, as interim director of the Authority.”

But what did she know before it all went down?

4. How is McFadden the problem?

The mayor threw McFadden under the bus when she asked him to step down. It’s true he is a polarizing figure. But McFadden did not fire Castro or hire himself. The mayor’s board did. Last week, the mayor demanded answers from the board on the situation. This week, she is standing solidly behind her picks, despite counsel from some supporters to clean house.

By only calling for McFadden’s resignation, the mayor has twisted herself into a pretzel. She’s also now at the center of the controversy.

5. Why does the mayor constantly need do-overs?

The mayor’s press strategy needs a tremendous amount of work. You can’t just blame her advisers. More than once, I’ve been told she disregards their advice.

Warren seemed totally unprepared for my question yesterday about whether she had asked Moses and McFadden to resign. There were three TV stations present. She was not direct, forceful or clear. Hours later, she called the one TV station not present to explain herself. She clearly wanted to talk to reporters who do not have as much knowledge of the situation, instead of those who have covered the story from the beginning.

Her press statement explaining why she wanted McFadden to resign was similarly lacking, with vague statements like, “Everyone knows what I went through at the beginning of the year thus I would never condone this.”

But on October 16, she told me she supported the board’s actions. That means she “condoned this,” until she felt the heat.

 

Links of the Day:

 

– Astorino is within four points of Cuomo in the Syracuse area.

Cuomo and Christie’s Ebola strategies are based on politics, not science.

– The Democrat and Chronicle makes cutting jobs and forcing reporters to reapply for their own jobs just wonderful.

– “If…Jaylen Fryberg, had been a Muslim, his actions would have instantly been deemed a terror attack.”

– In Denmark, a Big Mac costs 80 cents more and fast food workers get paid $20 and hour.

– A former Kodak photographer finds old film damaged by bacteria. But he’s not disappointed!

The University of Rochester’s College Town project plans to break ground in November – with the help of a $20 million city loan.

Legislation submitted to council asks for approval to let the city borrow $20 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The developers would enter a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement with the city. The city would use a portion of the PILOT funds to pay back the HUD loan.

The project would also get a $4 million state grant and $2.8 million in various economic development incentives. It would also get $3 million in infrastructure improvements made by the city.

The total cost of the first phase is $82 million, but that doesn’t include the cost of a planned hotel and conference center.

There are three big pieces of news here. First, the College Town project is happening. Second, taxpayers will be heavily invested. Third, we have a better idea of what the project will encompass.

According to the legislation:

The pedestrian-scaled development will showcase street level retail and restaurants, outdoor patios, spacious sidewalks, and a public gathering space. Specifically, the development will include a 25,000 sq. ft. two-level bookstore, 20,000 sq. ft. gourmet market, 64,000 sq. ft. of other retail, 75,000 sq. ft. of office, 150 units of market rate residential units and a 150 room hotel and conference center. The project also includes a proposal for an 850-space parking garage and RGRTA multi-modal center.

There’s no mention of a YMCA facility that had been in the works for the site.

The developers need the loan to secure additional financing for the $82 million first phase of the project.

There’s no doubt this will a fantastic development for the University of Rochester. But this is a tax-exempt institution with an endowment of $1.7 billion. The developers will be paying a PILOT, some of which will be used to fund the project itself.  This is not an area of the city that needs help and studies show subsidizing retail has little economic benefit.

“I’m shocked by that. A $20 million loan? We have people living paycheck to paycheck,” said Councilman Adam McFadden. “Somebody who has means and could do this with their eyes closed, I don’t understand why we keep getting into this practice. The excuse of leveraging funds? This is a project that is going to be profitable.”

City council votes on the loan later this month.