County Executive talks about COMIDA, takes few media questions
Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said she is fulfilling her promise to Monroe County citizens by being transparent about recent developments surrounding COMIDA and the resignations of four of the board's seven members within the last week.
"I am fulfilling my promise to the voters here in Monroe County," Dinolfo said at a news conference Tuesday morning. "I promised a transparent and open government and by being here today and laying out the documents and discussing from the beginning to the end what occurred and taking some substantial measures by relieving a long time employee of his responsibilities here in the County of Monroe, I want the people of Monroe County to know that I will not tolerate this type of behavior there's no place for it and we took steps to address it."
This all began in mid-March when comments were by Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich in reaction to the gubernatorial appointment of then-Irondequoit Town Supervisor Adam Bello (D) to the position of Monroe County Clerk.
Reilich said Bello was abandoning the town while it was in economic downturn with the Medley Centre problems and the PILOT agreement for the I-Square project in default. I-Square developers Mike and Wendy Nolan denied the project was in default and said they had never been notified, but COMIDA later confirmed the default status. The Nolans then questioned how GOP chairman knew this information, and yet they did not.
County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo initially called the controversy a misunderstanding, saying a hasty investigation into I-Square was done because COMIDA reportedly did not have the answers to questions members of the media were asking about I-Square being in default.
Three days later, Dinolfo recanted her statement, saying Assistant Monroe County Executive Justin Roj was the one who contacted COMIDA's lawyers and that he provided her with false information before she addressed the media.
"Soon after Roj admitted that he purposely lied to me. After this disclosure it was clear he could no longer work in county government," said Dinolfo.
At the end of March, Roj resigned at Dinolfo's request. Last week, he was later given a new position working at the firm of a COMIDA board member.
Within the last week, four of the seven members of COMIDA's board of directors resigned, including chairwoman Theresa Mazzullo. Dinolfo said Saturday a search is underway to replace the COMIDA board members and defended her office's actions in relation to the I-Square development, saying they took "swift action" in response to missteps taken.
After a 25-minute delay, Dinolfo began her news conference Tuesday by reading a statement about the timeline of the events that intertwined COMIDA and I-Square.
Dinolfo said that when Roj sent an email to Reilich and herself about the information used in Reilich's May statement regarding the I-Square project's status with COMIDA, she did not see the email because the email address was incorrect. Dinolfo went on to deny any knowledge of a COMIDA inspection of the I-Square development on a weekend.
"This email was sent to an email address which I do not use and I did not see that statement until it was public later in the day," said Dinolfo.
You can see a copy of that email below:
She went on to reiterate that Justin Roj was the only person who sought out this information about I-Square's status with COMIDA and released it.
"I was not aware that he contacted the GOP Chair and shared this information. If I had been aware I would have stopped it," said Dinolfo.
During this point in the address, Dinolfo's voice began to grow quieter and more strained. She stopped talking about the timeline at one point, stating that she was upset about the situation with Roj.
"It's clear he couldn't work in county government," Dinolfo said.
Dinolfo then went on to apologize to all of the parties involved, including the public, the media, the Nolans and COMIDA board members. She addressed safeguards and said they will begin looking into the relationship between the county and COMIDA and will implement these stage by July 1.
When asked why she chose to wait so long to respond to these questions publicly, Dinolfo responded that she thought it was a personnel matter and it did not need to be further explained. After the D.A. looked at this matter and concluded the investigation last week, Dinolfo said, she then chose to move forward with speaking publicly.
Dinolfo added that she wants the people to know that she won't tolerate this behavior again.
When asked if Roj's appointment to COMIDA board member Jay Popli's architecture firm was warranted, Dinolfo responded that Popli will have to make the decision to remain on the COMIDA board on his own. She cited Popli's qualifications and said that hiring Roj isn't political patronage.
13WHAM News will continue to update this story as more information becomes available. Keep checking back for updates.