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Mayor checks AIDA financial records amid mural drama

Friday, August 23, 2013 - Updated: 4:08 AM


Recorder News Staff

In the midst of the 44-46 Main Street mural fiasco, Mayor Ann Thane requested fifteen documents from the Amsterdam Industrial Development Agency.

"It was obvious that it was some type of something with the mural," Michael Pepe, a board member, said during Thursday night's AIDA meeting.

Thane requested financial statements and audits, balance sheets, profit and loss statements, trial balances, statement of cash flows, treasurer's reports, summaries of current bank balances, listings of all owned properties, an organizational strategic plan and the AIDA policy manual -- all of which was sent to the deputy controller David Mitchell, and then the city's auditor.

The mayor and AIDA members have been at odds over a mural that fills the third floor of a property AIDA owns. There have been theories about the identity of the artist who painted it, but nothing can be determined definitively.

Thane said the request did "not especially" have a connection to the mural, but the council was interested to see how the agency was doing.

"The request for documentation was to determine how they were doing financially," Thane said. "The Common Council doesn't have a good sense of where the agency stands financially or organizationally so we requested some historic data so that we could just get an idea of where they are."

Thane said the only overlap between the documentation and the mural existed in the strategic plan they requested.

"The lack of an articulated plan for the building is concerning, as is the fact that agency does not have a strategic organizational plan," Thane said. "They appear to be operating without clear goals or measurable success. This demands the attention of the Common Council as we depend on the agency for economic development."

Jody Zakrevsky, executive director of AIDA, said he relinquished the files, "to be nice," though some other members thought they should have "treated it like a FOIL" -- referring to the Freedom of Information Law, which allows access of documents.

Because the city is especially late in filing its annual update document, one of AIDA's accounts have been frozen, similarly to the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency.

Zakrevsky said AIDA is looking into filing separately, like URA.

"It's taking all focus off of what we should be doing, which is the building," said Michael LaCoppola, a board member. "And it's affecting our director. I think it's insidious," he said, referring to Zakrevsky's apparent stress levels concerning the mural.

Edward Russo, board member, said he researched area realtors who could help them. The firm chosen would market it for AIDA, and give them the price differences about renting it with or without the mural.

"I'm no expert in this, but my opinion is you're going to find more tenants without the mural," said Pat Baia, building and grounds director.

Zakrevsky said an anonymous woman asked to preserve the building, but didn't have money prepared or a plan. She asked AIDA for a month.

Multiple members let out heavy sighs, rolled their eyes and leaned back in their chairs. Baia commented they have just had enough with the mural.

"This will go on forever," he said. "By putting the sheetrock on it, you're not destroying the building."

Again against the advice of the Building and Grounds Committee, the board did not vote on whether to layer sheetrock over the mural, but instead decided to pursue a realtor for the building.

AIDA will schedule an emergency meeting as soon as possible.


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