The fight over legislative oversight of limited development corporations, or LDCs, that came to a boil among county legislators last week could be renewed this week.
The Monroe County Legislature’s Agenda/Charter Committee is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Dec. 16, and Democratic legislators plan to bring up a measure first proposed by Legislator Justin Wilcox, D-Rochester, that would establish a special committee to perform a bipartisan “credible internal review” of LDC contracts.
The committee would ostensibly wrest control of a county review of LDCs from the law firm of former Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco, who has found so-called “irregularities” with Navitech Services Corp. Two of the people who started the company are at the center of state and federal investigations into alleged bid-rigging, but what those irregularities entail has not been shared publicly.
The Vacco review, however, has prompted the two boards of the LDCs at the center of the investigation to cut ties with the company, which had been serving as lead contractor for county information technology and public safety improvements.
Democrats also have called on County Executive Maggie Brooks — whose husband, Robert Wiesner, is one of four people facing charges related to the investigation — to step aside from the county review.
Because repeated attempts to learn more about the Vacco review and to establish more legislative oversight of LDCs have been rebuffed, a “line in the sand” has been crossed, according to Minority Leader Carrie Andrews, D-Rochester.
That’s why Democrats last week blocked passage of the county’s capital budget for 2014, which includes road and bridge, airport and building projects.
The move came during a Dec. 10 meeting in which Democrats questioned county officials about aspects of the 2014 budget related to LDCs. Amendments along those lines were defeated by party-line votes.
One amendment would have made legal service contracts, such as the one retaining Vacco, subject to the county’s procurement policy. “We believe legal services contracts should come before the Legislature,” Wilcox said.
At least 20 legislators have to vote in favor of borrowing for projects in order to be approved. Republicans outnumber Democrats by a 19-10 margin.
The capital budget includes the latest round of borrowing that, among many projects, would include $44 million toward a move of Monroe Community College’s downtown campus to State Street. Republicans criticized Democrats for stalling the project, which would create hundreds of local jobs and millions of dollars in economic investment.
“Our community now faces the very real possibility that the downtown campus will be delayed, or worse, because these 10 members have decided to hold MCC students, faculty and staff hostage for their own political gain,” Brooks said in a statement.
Andrews said the projects are not in jeopardy, but said the Democratic proposal for oversight deserves fair consideration.
“The idea that the people who created this environment will now be able to perform an unbiased review of their own actions is not credible,” Andrews said in a statement after the Legislature’s Dec. 10 meeting. “It’s time for the Legislature to step in and exercise its oversight responsibilities.”
The investigatory committee would be made up of three members each of Democrats and Republicans. The committee also would provide the full Legislature with monthly reports.
Republicans initially said the proposed legislation would jeopardize the attorney general’s investigation.
If members of the Agenda/Charter Committee OK the proposed investigatory committee — Republicans outnumber Democrats on the committee — the matter could go before the full Legislature for a vote in January.