The Ethics Board has issued a decision on the complaint submitted by Bill McTygue and Ann Bullock. The Board dismissed all of their allegations as groundless. I will go into the substance of their claims and the decision in more detail but it is important to note that the subversion of the city’s vehicle for addressing possible ethics violations (our city’s ethics code) in order to try to score political points is a new low, even for these people.
The complaint by McTygue and Bullock was heard by the Ethics Board on June 24 which was only one day before the June 25 primary between Michele Madigan and Patricia Morrison for the Democratic line for Commissioner of Finance. Bullock and McTygue, both Morrison supporters, knew that they would get extensive news coverage of their allegations and that there was no possibility of the Ethics Board making a determination on their charges before the primary.
A Review of the Complaint
First McTygue and Bullock did not bother to use the appropriate form to file their ethics charges that might have given some structure to their complaint. Instead they submitted their complaint as a rambling and confusing letter addressed to Justin Hogan, the Chair of the Board of Ethics, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, and City Attorney Vince DeLeonardis. [Their entire letter is linked to below.]
Their letter makes a number of charges against the incumbent City Council members running for office this year; Eddy Miller, the chair of the Saratoga County Independence Party; and Joanne Foresta, an energy broker and treasurer of the Independence Party.
The Bullock/McTygue complaints all revolve around a City Council vote in May to sign energy supply contracts procured through EnergyNow, a company that searches out the best prices for electric and gas that was formed by Eddie Miller and Joanne Foresta. Eddy and Joanne are officers in the Independence Party that endorsed the City Council incumbents running for office this November. The Bullock/McTygue letter sometimes doesn’t actually makes an accusation but rather asks provocative questions such as “…did City Council members agree to use the services of EnergyNow…resulting in significant taxpayer-funded payments to EnergyNow…..in exchange for endorsements and campaign support by the Independence Party of those City Council members?”
Some background is in order. For quite some years the city used a firm, EnergyNext, owned by Gordon Boyd to broker its energy needs. Boyd’s firm would search for the company with the best energy prices and then arrange a contract. Ms. Foresta, who worked for Boyd, actually did most of the leg work on the brokered deals. Boyd had an agreement with the Chamber of Commerce to provide this service and since the city is a member of the Chamber, they utilized Boyd’s firm. Boyd’s company received its moneys for the deals from the energy corporations.
Recently Boyd sold his business. Ms. Foresta then set up an LLC company in order to continue to provide brokerage services for energy. So it was not surprising that on May 21, 2019, Commissioner of Accounts John Franck made the motion for the city to sign a contract with an energy company recommended by Foresta who they had been working with for years.
The Bullock/McTygue complaint, among other things, suggests that EnergyNow may have received “significant taxpayer-funded payments” because of this vote—a quite dramatic statement but untrue. As John Franck explained to the TU “…there are no contracts, no payments to Joanne. She is the middle person. The city doesn’t pay her a penny.”
Bullock and McTygue apparently were uninterested in researching the relationship between Ms. Foresta’s company and the city before issuing their complaint. As often happens with these people, they are not interested in facts and details because they involve the risk of undermining their agenda. If you are going to make a very serious allegation, having your facts straight actually matters. Franck goes on to point out that Foresta’s LLC wasn’t even formed when the Independence Party made its endorsements in February and that no other candidates interviewed for the Independence Party.
Curiously the Bullock/McTygue letter is full of a lot of what they don’t know. In the letter they ask :
Is there a written agreement between the city and EnergyNow……?
What are the terms of this agreement?
Did Ms. Foresta and Mr.Miller disclose their interest in EnergyNow?
One would think they would have sought the answers to these questions before submitting their high profile complaint. In fact they did submit a FOIL request for some of this information but didn’t bother to wait for a reply before asking for an ethics investigation.
In another section of their complaint they go on at great lengths citing sections of Municipal Law 801 which I assume was meant to give their narrative gravitas. This section of the law stipulates under what circumstances municipal contracts may involve violations. The problem is, as their earlier questions show, they had no idea if there actually was a contract between Foresta’s company and the city. In fact, as John Franck told the Times Union, there was never a contract.
Readers of this blog may think me excessively cynical but I offer the following thoughts on all this:
Bullock and McTygue wanted to raise as many suspicions as possible for their media blitz.
The Common Sense, Saratoga website identifies the following persons as the initiators of the “Citizens Charter Reform Initiative”:
Jeffrey Altamari, Gordon Boyd, Ann Bullock, Pat Kane, Bill McTygue, Mark Pingel, Bob Turner
So in my opinion the Bullock/McTygue complaint killed two birds with one stone. It raised ethical questions about Michele Madigan that would help Patty Morrison win the Democratic primary. But just as importantly, it added to the narrative of the charter change advocates that the existing commission form of government is inefficient and riddled with corruption and needs to be replaced with a presumably corruption free city manager.
There are other issues regarding the decision. I have included the original letter of complaint along with the decision by the Ethics Board. Their original complaint was in the form of a letter that was addressed to city attorney Vince DeLeonardis as well as to the Ethics Board. The Ethics Board opinion is a rather dense legal document. DeLeonardis’ letter in response to them is much easier to read and has the added appeal of Vince’s acerbic wit.
This is a link to the Bullock/McTygue Complaint bullock-mctygue-letter-6.11.19.pdf
This is a link to Vince DeLeonardis response bullock-mctygue-letter-legal-response.pdf
This is a link to the opinion 2019.08ethicresponse.energy.pdf