During the Glen Cove City Council’s pre-council meeting on July 16, Councilman Nicholas DiLeo Jr. requested a discussion regarding a change in legislation for appointments to the Glen Cove Industrial Development Agency.
Currently, the IDA charter states that the mayor appoints new members. DiLeo suggested legislation that would require that IDA appointments made by the mayor also be approved by the council.
Since the IDA is an agency independent of the city government, Mayor Tim Tenke, who is also the chair of the IDA, said any changes to the appointment process would have to go out for a public referendum because it is a “power change” for the mayor. Tenke also said that the IDA recently underwent a state audit, and although he said he had not seen the report himself, he did not receive any negative feedback.
“There are many IDAs across Long Island that call and look to Glen Cove for guidance related to IDA projects,” Tenke said.
The state audit came as a result of a bill signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in June, which gave the state comptroller the authority to audit local government entities, including IDAs. Assemblyman Michael Montesano, a Republican from Glen Head, said he strongly supported the bill, describing successful businesses’ requests for tax help from IDAs as “corporate welfare.”
Montesano said he supported IDA assistance when granted to businesses in need, such as startups or aging businesses that need help to stay afloat. Problems arise, he said, when businesses simply want to save money while making larger investments. IDA assistance in those cases can siphon money away from the county, and the debt can unfairly fall to taxpayers, Montesano said.
“I think sometimes the public feels unrepresented in the IDA,” DiLeo said, “and if there was more input or a balance of power between the council and the mayor for the IDA appointments, then people would be more comfortable.”
Tenke said that finding the right people to work with the IDA can be difficult, as it is an “onerous” position that requires a high level of local knowledge and a willingness to serve without pay. “I think having the mayor select the people that he can work with, or she can work with, is a benefit.”
Councilwoman Marsha Silverman then questioned if the mayor should be able to sit on the IDA’s board. She said that since IDAs are “quasi-municipal agencies” which are separate from their municipalities, she is unsure of whether or not the chief executive of those municipalities — the mayor in the case of Glen Cove — should be on an IDA board. If there were to be a change of legislation on this as well, another public referendum would need to be held.
On the day following the meeting, Silverman said she has not seen other instances in which a municipality leader is an acting chair of that municipality’s IDA. She said she believes it makes the IDA less independent and more like a branch of the city government.
Although she would like to do more research before fully committing to DiLeo’s idea, Silverman said it sounds like something she could support. “I’m all for measures that protect taxpayers and provide more transparency and accountability,” she said.
DiLeo said his proposed change in legislation is not something that can be resolved at the next City Council meeting. Tenke, City Attorney Charles McQuair and other council members agreed that it would be discussed further at the next pre-council meeting in August.
Former Glen Cove mayor Reggie Spinello said he does not see an issue with DiLeo’s proposal. “As long as the IDA has the ability to operate and provide benefits to the city,” he said, “I have no problem with that.”
The Glen Cove City Council will convene next during its meeting on July 23 at Glen Cove City Hall.