City Manager Search Committee Update: The (Guardian) Glass Ceiling

Geneva Believer has the updated list of search committee members, which adds no additional women and two more men, including a representative of a multi-billion dollar corporation whose relationship with the city is a little too cozy. The committee meets this week and the public is not welcome to attend.

After announcing in January 2018 that the search for a new city manager had begun, the city of Geneva has done little more than release monthly updates to the public. Considering the city’s reputation for lacking transparency when making critical decisions that impact the lives of thousands of residents, it’s been startling to see that only after specific requests from the public has the city been willing to share the list of search committee members, and the process in which these members were chosen.

Upon requesting the list of committee members, a city official provided an incomplete list to Geneva Believer on April 6th. It should be noted that this list wasn’t presented as being the “final” or complete list.

You can find the first list of 18 committee members here. And now, we can add two more confirmed names to the list.

Two More Search Committee Members

  • Jeremy Sharkey – Plant Manager, Guardian Industries

On February 21 2017, it was announced at the Geneva IDA meeting that Guardian Industries (or Guardian Glass) was seeking to negotiate a new tax deal with the city, as the current one was set to expire in 2022.

The city negotiated a deal that would allow Guardian to have their tax payment lowered by $32.5 million over the next nineteen years. Guardian would pay an average of $1.7 million less per year with the new agreement.

In return, Guardian would agree to keep their plant in Geneva.

Guardian also “agreed” to complete a $67 million upgrade on their furnace. Of course, investing in updates to their plant is a normal part of operating costs for their business.

If a local restaurant owner needed to install a new walk-in cooler, which would be a normal part of operating costs, they would not expect to be given a massive tax break.

Guardian has a history of holding other small cities hostage in the same way. They say that they need to do expensive upgrades, and ask for a tax break in order to “keep jobs” in the community. They also say that they will create “new” jobs, which are often mostly temporary positions for workers doing the upgrades. Guardian did it to Chester, South Carolina and they did it to Carleton, Michigan.

And they did it to Geneva.

Guardian Industries was purchased by Koch Industries in 2016.

Koch Industries has estimated annual revenues as high as $100 billion. And the Koch family is America’s second wealthiest family, with net assets worth more than $96.6 billion.

Yet the Geneva Industrial Development Agency (IDA) agreed to give them a tax break, even though Guardian/Koch was already paying a reduced tax rate that had been negotiated years prior. Meanwhile, the city of Geneva’s financial situation is precarious and uncertain, and the high property taxes are driving families away from our city.

The threat that Guardian would leave Geneva was a hollow one. The cost to move their entire operations would have been far, far greater than a mere $32.5 million.

When the IDA was considering whether to give Guardian the tax break, around nine or ten people spoke at a public hearing, according to sources who attended the hearing. Only two people spoke in favor of the tax break.

There is no public record of the hearing available on the city’s website, which is a clear failure to follow New York State Open Meetings Law. In fact, there are have been no minutes from any IDA meetings posted on the city’s website since September 2016, further example of the city’s and the IDA’s lack of transparency.

It was clear that the public was opposed to the tax break for billionaires…yet the IDA did it anyway.

In fact, IDA member Anne Nenneau “said she was at the hearing Monday evening and found “somewhat offensive” the suggestion that the city was being “pushed around” by Guardian to provide a better tax deal.”

Anne Nenneau, who was literally offended that the public would dare to question the “corporate welfare” deal being given to a multi-billion dollar company, is a member of the city manager search committee.

IDA member Nick Massa II is the son of Nick Massa, another member of the city manager search committee.

About one year after the City of Geneva gave Guardian their $32.5 million tax break, on March 7, 2018, the City of Geneva posted a press release on their website, which was then shared on Facebook, titled “Guardian Industries Continues to Invest.” The release stated that “the Guardian Industries Geneva float glass plant will undergo a cold tank repair (CTR) on its furnace. The multi-million-dollar project is a major investment for the plant that will improve capacity.”

The release went on to say “The Guardian plant is a great asset for the city by creating jobs and being a part of this community,” and “the (Geneva) IDA has worked closely with Guardian, recognizing the CTR will help ensure the plant continues to operate in Geneva for many years to come.”

It’s not only unusual, but possibly unprecedented that the city of Geneva would conspicuously trumpet a press release praising a multi-billion dollar company that had only one year prior been threatening to leave the city if they weren’t paid a ransom of $32.5 million in discounts on their tax bill.

Why is city taxpayer money being used to do public relations (and damage control) for a multi-billion dollar company?

There is no reason that a representative of Guardian Glass should play any role whatsoever in the selection of our next city manager. The committee is giving a voice to someone whose sole interest is to protect their corporate bottom line.

Jeremy Sharkey (and Nick Massa) do not represent the people. They represent corporate profits.

  • Juan B. Colon – Pastor, Geneva Hispanic Church of God

Finally, the addition of Pastor Colon to the committee means there will be at least one Spanish-speaking representative on the committee.

The (Guardian) Glass Ceiling

A previous Geneva Believer article pointed out the unacceptable lack of female representation on the search committee. Now that the list has been updated to 20 members, the numbers are even worse:

The Geneva community is 53% female.

The City Manager Search Committee is 30% female.

Not only has the committee selection process been highly secretive, City Council has given their stamp of approval to a committee that completely fails to represent more than half of the people who make up our community.

First Committee Meeting Date Changed

It was announced during the April 4 2018 City Council meeting that the first meeting of the City Council Search Committee would be Wednesday, April 18th on the Hobart William Smith campus.

Upon contacting the city, I have been informed that the meeting will be at 11:30am, at Demarest Hall on the Hobart William Smith campus.

The public is not allowed to attend.

Contact City Council now and tell them to postpone the first meeting of the search committee and reset the committee selection process so that the public can be involved in a process that is transparent and equitable.

It’s our Geneva. And we can’t allow them to decide our new city manager for us, without us.


Leave a Reply