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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 4, 2010
“Reeks of public bid-rigging,” says assessor
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND The town is slated to go to court on March 1 to defend its assessment of the Metro 20 Diner. The diner’s owner is seeking a $1 million reduction, from $1.6 million to $664,500.
The town board, at a Jan. 19 meeting, was unable to agree on hiring GAR Associates to do an appraisal of the diner for $5,000. Republican councilmen Warren Redlich and Mark Grimm abstained because they felt they hadn’t been presented with enough information; Democrats Patricia Slavick and Kenneth Runion approved, but with fellow Democratic councilman Paul Pastore absent due to illness, it was a stalemate. (For the full story, go online to altamontenterprise.com, and look under the Jan. 21 archives for Guilderland.)
Runion and the town’s assessor, John Macjeka, said the lack of an outside appraisal would handicap the town’s ability to defend its assessment of the diner.
At a town board meeting on Feb. 2, Grimm indicated that he had found a company willing to do the appraisal for less a few hundred dollars less than the $5,000 bid by GAR Associates, and that the company would be able to finish the project before the March 1 court date.
Grimm requested that the appraisal be added to the agenda for a vote, but Runion denied the request, stating that the board members did not receive the information in time to review it before the meeting. The supervisor also said that Grimm’s decision to solicit bids for an outside appraisal without consulting the assessor was “unethical, collusive, and possibly illegal.”
With one month left before the town’s court date, Grimm told The Enterprise that he felt the board should have voted on his choice for an appraisal, or voted on the original bid on Tuesday night, while Pastore was present.
Macjeka told The Enterprise that he had asked GAR Associates if there would be time for an appraisal if the bid were approved on Feb. 2, and was told by the company that it would not be possible by March 1. Runion said he had not put the item on the Feb. 2 agenda for that reason; he also said he had not known Pastore would be present at the meeting.
“Mr. Grimm had no authority to look for other bids, and he never indicated to me that he was going to seek his own bids. In my opinion it’s highly unethical, and reeks of public bid-rigging,” said Macjeka.
“We have to be careful how we use the word bid; Mr. Macjeka didn’t seek bids, from what he told me. He said just called a few companies and got quotes, which is what I did. I didn’t solicit any bids,” Grimm told The Enterprise. He said he had been acting in the taxpayers’ interest, and did not feel that he had done anything inappropriate.
Macjeka responded, through The Enterprise, and said there had been a bidding process, and that Grimm was misinformed. He said that, when receiving quotes for an appraisal, it is the assessor’s job to give the company detailed information about the property, and to interview it about its experience, especially with similar appraisals.
“There was information Grimm just did not have, so the quote he got might not have been correct, and the company might not have agreed with my opinion on defending the assessment,” Macjeka said.
Both Macjeka and Runion said Guilderland will be in court to defend the Metro 20 Diner on March 1, without an outside appraisal. If the court does not uphold Guilderland’s assessment, the town, school district, and county will have to refund tax money.