Oct 29, 2012 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The town board and town attorney met twice last week in early morning executive sessions to discuss the status of its lawsuit against the Skaneateles Recreation Charitable Trust over disputed ownership of YMCA assets. Neither meeting, each of which lasted about an hour, yielded a resolution of settlement over the issue.
Town councilors said at the end of each meeting that the board was having “ongoing discussions.”
As of press time, there was only a few days left before the SRCT was required to file a response to the town lawsuit in state supreme court by the Oct. 31 deadline.
Without some sort of agreement that would void the lawsuit, attorneys for both the town board and the SRCT are scheduled to appear before a state supreme court judge at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the Onondaga County Courthouse. It is expected that the judge at that time will make a determination over whether the town board can legally donate the disputed items to the SRCT or whether the SRCT must return to the town the items in question.
The issue dates back to August 2010, when the town board transferred management of the Skaneateles Community Center to the SRCT — which subsequently hired the YMCA. All the assets inside the facility remained within the facility with no written agreement as to who owned the items or how and when any of the assets would be either returned to the town or purchased from the town. There was a verbal agreement at that time, however, that all assets would be returned to the town once the YMCA got on its feet.
In late December 2010, the town sent a 1,000-item inventory list to the SRCT of what it claimed were town-owned assets left in the facility that needed to be either purchased from the town or returned to the town, per state law. The New York state constitution prohibits the gifting of taxpayer-funded items from a municipality without fair compensation.
In the nearly two years since then, the two sides have held numerous discussions on the topic and at one point had an agreement for the SRCT to pay $68,500 for the items – which it then reneged on after the town board passed a resolution accepting the deal.
The town filed its lawsuit against the SRCT on Oct. 5 after deciding negotiations were at an impasse. The lawsuit alleges that the assets in question “were purchased with taxpayer funds … and, as such, constitute public property,” and have been “wrongfully detained” by the SRCT.
The lawsuit stated that the fair value of the assets is $155,700, and asserts that the town is entitled to the fair value of the items as well as any damages for injury or depreciation in value to the items. It also requested an injunction against the SRCT from liquidating the assets in its possession in any way before the hearing occurred.
Town Attorney Patrick Sardino told the Skaneateles Press on Oct 5 that just because the town fild the lawsuit did not mean it was not still open to the possibility of a settlement with the SRCT “on fair and reasonable” terms. “Just because we’re taking steps to protect taxpayer interest doesn’t foreclose the possibility of a settlement,” Sardino said.
If there is no settlement and the town’s position is upheld, it will reclaim all of the disputed assets currently in the YMCA, keep and use some of them — such as the Olympia ice resurfacer — and the rest will be sold at public auction, as required by state law, Sardino said.
If the town reclaims all the assets currently in dispute — which include major items such as fitness machines, computer software and kitchen equipment — then the SRCT will have to purchase replacement items.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.