A recent Finger Lakes Times article featured blatant lies from city officials. Here’s the truth, with the proof.
In recent weeks, former DPW director and current At-Large City Councilor Gordon Eddington has claimed that he was prevented from warning residents about lead and arsenic contamination from the former Geneva Foundry due to a confidentiality clause in the contract between the city and DEC.
On Sunday, June 25th, the Finger Lakes Times published a front page story titled DEC: City could have released info . The story included a statement from the DEC in which they state that no one from the city of Geneva was prohibited from releasing information to the public about the contamination. The article includes quotes from Eddington and City Manager Matt Horn, who desperately attempt to spin the DEC’s damning statement into a confirmation of Eddington’s claim of a gag order.
Now, Geneva Believer has obtained an email with an additional clarification from the DEC which proves that this “confidentiality provision” did not prohibit disclosure by Eddington or the city.
In the article, Eddington also continues to falsely claim that the DEC delayed the cleanup for years, and Horn goes all-in to support Eddington and repeat the same lies.
The article also revealed that, last December, Horn and Eddington had a for-the-record meeting with the Finger Lakes Times last December, but neither of them mentioned the confidentiality clause at that time.
This is no longer about the city avoiding the truth or fudging the facts. They are engaged in an active misinformation campaign designed to gaslight, and to minimize the suffering of, the victims in the Foundry neighborhood while crafting a false public narrative that absolves city officials from all accountability.
They are lying, and here is the proof.
LIE #1 – The City was Contractually Prohibited from Disclosing Contamination
Here is the statement from the DEC that was published by the Finger Lakes Times regarding the alleged ”confidentiality provision:”
“The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) does not, and has no authority to, instruct other government entities regarding how to interpret the law. The purpose of the cited provision is to manage the disclosure of sensitive information from individual employees and is intended to limit individual employees from unilaterally disseminating data of a sensitive nature to third parties without DEC knowledge and approval. The provision is not intended to apply to the city or to supersede its obligations under FOIL (Freedom of Information Law).
The clause in question was in effect prior to 2013. Substantially similar language was included in Appendix B of the original State Assistance Contract executed by the City of Geneva and the Department in 1999.”
Although it should be apparent that the DEC is saying their contract with the City of Geneva did not prevent disclosure of test results from residential properties, an additional statement from the DEC was also sent via email to a concerned citizen.
“The city of Geneva does not need DEC’s written permission to release testing data from previous years to the residents that had lawn samples taken.
As noted below, the only restriction on the city’s release of information relates to the protection of “personal, proprietary or confidential business or financial data of persons or other companies.”“
This statement by the DEC is unambiguous.
Results from residential soil tests are obviously not “personal, proprietary or confidential business or financial data of persons or other companies,” and the DEC representative made sure to put this part in bold print so there was no confusion.
There was no confidentiality provision that prevented Eddington or any other city employee from warning residents about the danger related to elevated levels of lead and arsenic on their properties.
Lie #2 – The City Pressed the DEC to Complete the Cleanup but the DEC Stalled the Process
Perhaps the most absurd assertion from Eddington and Horn is that they pushed the DEC for years to complete the cleanup, and it was the DEC’s fault that it took so long.
- As early as September 1998, the DEC was pressing the city to complete the required steps to begin remediation:
“Review of the revised Geneva Brownfields work plans, received at this office on August 14,1998, found a number of issues/questions, noted in the June 12, 1998 review letter, unaddressed or unresolved. This situation might have been avoided if each issue/question had been addressed in a response letter and specifically noted where relevant changes in the work plan were made. In addition, a meeting was offered to discuss the comments but without response. While this lack of interaction is disconcerting by itself, it is particularly troubling in view of the consultant hours tallied and the months that elapsed between submissions. ln an effort to move this project forward, consider the following comments and your responses as an addendum to the work plans. Where a question is posed or information is requested, please respond directly and completely so that the review process may come to a close.”
The letter concludes with an invitation to arrange a meeting, but there’s no record the meeting took place.
- In October 1998, the City of Geneva prepared a Citizen Participation Plan. It includes a timeline of steps that would be taken to finish the remediation, with a completion date of April 1999.
The plan concluded with the statement that the city would hold a public information meeting on July 8, 1998, but this report wasn’t completed until October 1998.
The meeting never took place and the plan was never completed although the information was put on file for public review at the Geneva Public Library.
- In 2003, three emails over six weeks from the DEC to Eddington and OBG go unanswered. The DEC is attempting to push the city to complete residential sampling and “move the project forward.” The first email states that the DEC returned a phone call to OBG “a while back,” indicating that the lack of response from the city had been going on longer than six weeks.
- In March 2008, Jim Craft of the DEC wrote Eddington with the following message in response to a reimbursement request related to the Foundry SAC:
“Given the amount of time that has elapsed and the requirements specified in attached guidance, the package is very disappointing.”
“In short, the document lacks the information necessary to confirm the work performed and the costs incurred.”
There is also a previous email attached at the bottom:
“Hi Gordon, Wondering if there’s been any progress on the attached.
- As noted in a previous Geneva Believer article, this email exchange from 2015 provides another example of Eddington and the city failing to respond in a timely manner to DEC correspondence:
*On July 10, 2015, the DEC’s Jim Craft emailed Eddington about the Foundry issue, writing:
“Would you know if the City would be interested in the new ERP funding possibility? I’m developing a sampling plan and we have access to next-generation metal field analyzer that we’d like to try out for urban background and perhaps some yard comparisons. In that regard, would the City/you be able to secure yard access?”
*Twelve days later on July 22, 2015, Eddington replied:
“I met with Matt Horn (Geneva City Manager) last week. They definitely would be interested in the new ERP funding, let me know what’s needed on their part and I will get it to you. Once your sampling plan is set the City can definitely facilitate getting access to the yards for testing. Please let me know when you are ready to move forward.”
*On July 23rd, 2015, Craft responded with information on funding (recommending that Eddington check a website periodically for updates), on new testing technology, and on potential testing plans for properties. Craft asked Eddington to “discuss at your convenience” and “provide any input on the above.”
*On August 13th, 2015, after receiving no email reply from Eddington, Craft stated that he had started testing in accessible areas (parks, church yards, etc.) and provided some of those results.
*On September 4th, 2015, after receiving no email reply from Eddington, Craft offered more information on the preliminary testing.
*On September 11th, 2015, after receiving no email reply from Eddington, Craft provided a spreadsheet of data for samples collected in July/August 2015. Craft requested a meeting during the next week to discuss site issues.
*On September 18th, 2015, after receiving no email reply from Eddington, Craft emailed an urgent message to Eddington:
“Given the year-end grant deadline, we need some feedback on sampling issues. Hopefully the City has started the process of seeking access from property owners. Can you confirm whether this is the case? And we should meet soon to discuss details; can you meet sometime next week?”
*Eddington finally responded on September 21st, 2015:
Sorry I haven’t been very responsive to your recent messages. Unfortunately personal obligations have been taking most of my available time. I appreciate the work that you have been doing on the residential properties. I have asked the City to assign someone (hopefully Neal Braman) to the project to begin contacting the home owners for permission. I will be out of the picture for the next couple of months tending to my personal commitments. I have also asked Dave Meixell to coordinate with you regarding what needs to be done with both the residential properties as well as the remaining cleanup of the actual site. As was mentioned before the City is still interested in breaking the project into two (2) operable units. Dave can discuss this more with you.
Dave will be touching base with you shortly to get the ball rolling. Please keep me in the loop as things progress, I look forward to seeing this project come to a close.
Gordon P. Eddington”
Eddington does not name the “personal commitments” that distracted him from communicating with the DEC and addressing the Foundry crisis in a timely manner. However, in the summer of 2015, Eddington was in the midst of campaigning for a City Council seat. With Eddington stating in September that he would be “out of the picture for the next couple of months tending to my personal commitments,” it could certainly appear that with Election Day in November rapidly approaching, Eddington’s attention was being pulled away from his Foundry cleanup responsibilities by his political aspirations.
- On June 3rd 2017, at a “Coffee with Council” meeting with the public at the L&R Restaurant in Geneva, NY, Eddington made a bold claim.
He stated that he had “hounded” the DEC for six years, begging them to prioritize the Foundry cleanup project, but they would not comply with his requests. He also claimed that there are FOIL documents to prove his assertion, and stated that he would produce those emails.
The Geneva Foundry FOIL document dump contains all correspondence related to the Foundry issue from 1998 to 2016 released by the City of Geneva and the DEC. There are NO documents showing that Eddington was “hounding” the DEC for “six years,” and obviously Eddington will not produce those documents because they don’t exist.
After months of silence, Eddington finally decided to publicly address the Foundry issue.
And he hasn’t stopped lying.
No More Lies, Time For An Investigation
- We’re done watching Gordy Eddington lie to protect his reputation.
- We’re done watching Matt Horn lie to protect the city’s reputation.
- We’re done being gaslighted.
- We’re done seeing Foundry residents having their concerns minimized, ignored, or dismissed.
- We’re done watching City Council attempt to pass Foundry resolutions based on lies.
- We’re done watching At-Large Councilor Mark Gramling being marginalized along with his fellow Foundry victims.
- We’re done listening to City Councilors telling us to “move forward” and “stop the blame game.”
- We’re done being told “there’s enough blame to go around” which is another way of saying “we can’t blame anyone.”
- We’re done giving Matt Horn a chance to do the right thing.
- We’re done listening to Councilor Valentino’s stone-hearted response to Foundry victims about how he raised his family across the street from the Foundry and none of them suffered any lead or arsenic-related health issues.
- We’re done watching Councilor Greco voting against funding a liaison between the city and Foundry victims because he thinks the state should pay for it.
- We’re done with trusting our city government to do the right thing, and now we must publicly and constantly demand that they do the right thing.
There must be an independent investigation into the handling of the Foundry issue over the past 30 years. We cannot trust the city to investigate themselves because we can’t even trust them to tell the truth.
The city must make it right for the Foundry victims.
The city needs to stop downplaying the danger and actively warn those Foundry-area residents who are still growing gardens, and whose children and pets are still playing in the soil in their yards, that there is a significant health risk in the soil and that the city has been intentionally downplaying that risk to protect their own reputations.
Why So Serious?
Longtime Geneva Believer readers who have read this far might be waiting for a snarky photo or a provocative graphic or a smart-aleck pun.
While the irreverent tone of Geneva Believer is part of its charm, there’s nothing funny about anything in this article.
The City of Geneva, through its appointed mouthpieces Horn and Eddington, is making it clear that they will blatantly lie, in a front page news story, in order to avoid accountability and insulate themselves from criticism at the expense of the safety and health of residents who need their help.
This is a deeply disturbing precedent. They are making it known that they think they can keep repeating the same lies, in the face of abundant evidence to the contrary, and that enough people will buy it and the heat will be off of them.
By aggressively and shamelessly crafting this false narrative, they are not only taking no responsibility for the failure by the city to protect its residents, they are endangering the health and safety of the people still living in the poisoned shadow of the Foundry.
We cannot allow any elected or appointed city officials to get away with hurting our neighbors, our friends, our schoolmates, our children, our pets…OUR Geneva.
Don’t just read this and get angry…read this and do something. Write a letter to the editor. Share this article on social media. Call your City Councilors. Go to City Council meetings and speak out. Attend a meeting of the Geneva Foundry Action Committee, even if you don’t live in the zone. Give whatever help you can give, in whatever way you can give it.
And don’t forget to vote in the next City Council election.