County GOP chair Bill Reilich clearly wants to kill off the controversy he started by dragging I-Square into some routine political posturing. And he’s joined County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo in blaming the spat on Justin Roj, who yesterday resigned as deputy county executive at Dinolfo’s insistence.
Reilich issued a statement this afternoon, which he said was a response to “the many media versions of explanations involving my comments on I-Square,” and was meant to “set the record straight concerning my involvement.” Reilich’s full statement is at attached at the end of the post.
But his statement hardly sets the record straight. It just adds more questions, and makes a confusing situation that much more so.
This whole messy fight started when Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed former Irondequoit Supervisor Adam Bello to the vacant county clerk seat. Reilich wanted to take a swipe at Bello and issued a statement doing that. But in the process, he said I-Square – a popular Irondequoit development owned by Mike and Wendy Nolan – was struggling. He later elaborated and said the project had defaulted on a tax incentive agreement administered by the Monroe County Industrial Development Agency, and agency officials issued statements backing him up.
The remarks caught the Nolans by surprise. They say the business is doing well and that they hadn’t heard a thing from COMIDA about any problems or concerns with the incentive agreement or the project’s progress. And they questioned why Reilich knew of any problems before they did.
Well, here’s the answer by Reilich’s own admission: As he was drafting his statement on Bello, Roj contacted him and told him about the default. That makes him the second figure in this mess to fault Roj.
Earlier this week, Dinolfo said COMIDA officials reached out to Roj for advice on how to handle all the media questions on the I-Square flap. But last night she sent out a new statement saying she’d learned that it was Roj who reached out to COMIDA’s attorney. That’s when Roj got the axe.
Nobody comes off clean here. In politics and government, appearance and perception are just as important as what officials actually do. And right now, it looks like Reilich, Dinolfo, and Roj all plotted an attack on Bello, and that Reilich and Roj, at least, had no problem dragging COMIDA – which is basically a county agency, though on paper it’s independent of county government – into the mud. Word is that COMIDA Board Chair Theresa Mazzullo, who is a key Conservative Party official, is not happy about that.
So far, the controversy has centered on where Reilich got the information on I-Square. But it’s also fair to ask why Reilich believed it was a good idea to portray a popular local business, owned by local people, as struggling. That portrayal could do real harm to I-Square; since businesses generally don’t like uncertainty, the Nolans might worry that it could cost the development new leases. The Nolans have already said they may sue Reilich for defamation.
Monroe GOP Release 4-1-16