Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Warren County has LDC drama

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

The Warren County Board of Supervisors can’t seem to avoid drama.

This one involves the county’s seemingly boring Local Development Corporation, or LDC.

Not boring is the whirlwind of resignations and seemingly hasty appointments from December 2021 to January 2022.

It still cuts raw: Some of those involved continue talking about it with this reporter.

On December 30, Glens Falls Ward 1 Supervisor Jack Diamond resigned from the LDC.

On December 31, late on her final day as Chair of the Warren County Board, Rachel Seeber appointed cardiologist Dr. David Judkins to fill the seat.

On January 14, newly elected County Chair Kevin Geraghty sent a letter “unappointing” Dr. Judkins and naming instead Robert Landry, the newly elected Glens Falls Common Councilman from Ward 2, also former Director of Housing and Urban Development for Glens Falls.

Dr. Judkins, outside his medical career, may best be known for efforts in 2015 to stop Just Water from running trucks on Butler Pond Road, near his home.

Jim Siplon was the public face of Just Water at the time of Dr. Judkins’s effort.Mr. Siplon is now CEO of the Warren County Economic Development Corporation, which administers the LDC, where Dr. Judkins was appointed and unappointed.

Separately, both Mr. Siplon and Dr. Judkins told The Chronicle, in effect, “that was long ago, not an issue.”

But Dr. Judkins notes that the “unappointment” letter was sent to Mr. Siplon, not to the LDC chair Peter McDevitt, the Glens Falls Ward 2 Supervisor.

Ms. Seeber told The Chronicle she chose Dr. Judkins for “his excellent community involvement,” his experience as a doctor that would be useful during a pandemic, and a desire to have more community members rather than elected officials on the LDC.

Mr. Geraghty said in January of his action, “It’s my decision to make, and I stand by that,” declining further comment.

Dr. Judkins told The Chronicle he was “a little embarrassed…but mostly I am disappointed” over the switch, especially because “Mr. Geraghty never even talked to me, he’s never met me,” and, he says, did not reach out to alert him of the change.

Also, he said, although he reached out, “no one at the LDC ever talked to me.”

Mr. McDevitt said he has “nothing to do” with who is appointed to the LDC. He said it is the exclusive right of the County Board chair who for these purposes is considered the “sole member” of the LDC.

Mr. Siplon, for his part, said he did not reach out earlier to Dr. Judkins because the LDC was not scheduled to meet.

Mr. Siplon, Mr. McDevitt and Mr. Geraghty said separately that housing is increasingly an issue entwined with economic development. Both Messrs. Siplon and McDevitt said specifically that Mr. Landry’s experience in that area would be welcome on the LDC.

NYS audit: LDC has issues

Meanwhile, a scheduled audit by the New York State Comptroller found in late December that the LDC had deficiencies in processing and collecting the economic development loans it oversees.

It said 14 loan files did not have sufficient documentation, 11 did not have evidence of required annual site visits and financial statements, 12 lacked documentation that loan proceeds were used properly, and seven agreements were made or altered without Board approval.

The full audit is available on the LDC page of the Warren County Website. See “OSC Audit” under Annual Reports & Policies: warrencountyny.gov/ldc/reports.

Mr. Siplon, who took over the EDC in 2020 after the death of its longtime CEO Ed Bartholomew, said, “I welcome the feedback. It helps us figure out what things need to be done and to galvanize unity about doing them.”

He noted in the January LDC meeting that several outstanding loan accounts have since been brought up to date.

He said the LDC/EDC is currently devising a formal Corrective Action Plan, or “CAP,” to address the issues, that will be submitted to the Comptroller’s office.

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