Op­po­nents of court move press for probe

Parete, Donaldson al­lege per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion was with­held be­fore vote

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­line.com

Ul­ster County law­mak­ers are be­ing asked to ini­ti­ate an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether in­for­ma­tion was with­held from the Leg­is­la­ture and county res­i­dents in ad­vance of the Nov. 8 pub­lic vote that ap­proved re­lo­cat­ing the county’s Fam­ily Court.

Leg­is­la­tors John Parete and David Donaldson, vo­cal op­po­nents of the move, con­tend an ex­ist­ing plan for ren­o­vat­ing the cur­rent court, which is in a leased build­ing on Lu­cas Av­enue in Up­town Kingston, should have been made avail­able to law­mak­ers and the pub­lic.

“In Supreme Court of New York state, we found out that, in Au­gust of 2015, there was a full­blown plan to ren­o­vate the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity,” said Parete, DBoiceville.

“I don’t know if it was a good plan or a bad plan,” he said. “I didn’t know about it. I, at the time was, the [Leg­is­la­ture] chair. I haven’t found one leg­is­la­tor who said [they] knew about it.”

Parete and Donaldson, D-Kingston, filed an un­suc­cess­ful law­suit ear­lier this year in state Supreme Court against County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein, Leg­is­la­ture Chair­man Ken Ronk, R-Wal­lkill, Leg­is­la­ture Clerk Vic­to­ria Fa­bella and the county’s elec­tions com­mis­sion­ers, seek­ing to have “more neu­tral” lan­guage used in the propo­si­tion.

The judge who ruled against Parete and Donaldson said the bal­lot lan­guage, which cast the re­lo­ca­tion

in a pos­i­tive light, was “lead­ing” but not “mis­lead­ing.”

County res­i­dents ul­ti­mately voted 46,078 to 18,304 in fa­vor of mov­ing the court from the leased build­ing in Kingston to the county-owned Busi­ness Re­source Cen­ter in the neigh­bor­ing town of Ul­ster. The vote was re­quired be­cause state law says the pub­lic must ap­prove a county court mov­ing out of the county seat, in this case Kingston.

County Leg­is­la­tor Peter Loughran said he was told a ren­o­va­tion plan for the Lu­cas Av­enue build­ing “was put to­gether by the owner of the build­ing and

the ar­chi­tect.”

“I un­der­stand [the late] Abel Gar­raghan asked the ar­chi­tect to put to­gether the plan,” the Kingston Demo­crat said. “It was up to the owner of the build­ing to in­form us or any­body else if he in­tended to make that of­fer. It wasn’t up to any­body in Ul­ster County gov­ern­ment to in­form us; it would have been up to the owner of the build­ing. The owner of the build­ing did not do that.”

Deputy County Ex­ec­u­tive Robert Sud­low also has said that plan never was pro­vided to the county, but Parete con­tends the Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion was aware of the plan and tried

to bury it.

In 2014, Sud­low told county law­mak­ers the build­ing’s owner had de­vel­oped a $7 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion plan, though that num­ber was changed to $6 mil­lion — in­clud­ing the pur­chase of the build­ing — in 2015. In 2016, the idea of ren­o­vat­ing the build­ing was no longer be­ing pre­sented by the Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion as an op­tion.

The pro­posed re­lo­ca­tion of Fam­ily Court was the re­sult of long­time pres­sure from the state Of­fice of Court Ad­min­is­tra­tion for Ul­ster County to im­prove what the state of­fice called a “wholly in­ad­e­quate” fa­cil­ity.

FILE PHOTO BY TONY ADAMIS

The Ul­ster County Fam­ily Court build­ing is on Lu­cas Av­enue in Up­town Kingston.

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