We are responding to the mold issues at Riverhead Town Hall and the flawed bidding process.
First and foremost, the business of the people comes first. As political pressure builds, we want to make it clear to the town’s GOP party boss who apologized for our actions: We do not work for you or need your apologies. We work for and are accountable to the 39,000 residents of Riverhead. You should rightfully be ashamed of your public statements, made in a letter published in the May 27 edition of the News-Review (“Message from GOP on mold”).
Furthermore, we come to bring the truth to the public.
In the mold cleanup of Town Hall’s basement, there were procedural improprieties that had to be addressed. We were the first two councilpersons approached by Supervisor Sean Walter’s aide, Dave Cullen, to sign a purchase order for this so-called emergency contract. He needed three signatures. We requested more information before signing, a very reasonable request.
He ignored our rightful request and instead, unknown to us, went to the other town councilmen and got their okay. A few days later, to our surprise, we found out we had been unrightfully ignored and that it was a done deal before the Town Board had even voted on the resolution to declare an emergency and award the contract, a vote from which we abstained.
There had been no advertisement for competitive bids. Competitive bidding would have taken a week. Declaring an emergency had allowed the town to bypass standard bidding procedures. Apparently, an emergency now justifies reckless bidding behaviors.
There are also some questions about the sudden emergency in Town Hall, as we had six weeks to begin the correct process for mold remediation. The flood was in late March. The work was completed at the end of May. The mold report done by the H2M engineering company showed that eight out of 11 rooms tested had spore counts lower than the average counts of samples collected outside Town Hall. The three areas with elevated levels of mold were unused rooms in the basement. All tests done on the first floor showed below-average mold counts.
But even if, giving the benefit of the doubt, there had been an urgent need for the work, does that justify the procedures that were followed in awarding the contract, in a rush, to an insider without competitive bidding? Without the emergency declaration, what the supervisor did would have been absolutely illegal, since he had signed the contract before our public meeting. Had he not gotten the three votes, he would personally have had to pay the $22,293 out of his pocket. There was no going back because the work had already started. Hence, the big coverup and threats. Since then, we have recommended the supervisor do the right thing by publishing a notice to bidders for the Jamesport/George Young Community Center mold cleanup.
What about the bullying of Councilperson Giglio when it came to a public vote a week after the questionable contract was signed? The supervisor threatened her with political ruin and told her she would be silenced for the next 18 months if she opened her mouth. She would also be restricted from areas in Town Hall. This raises all kinds of speculations about what is wrong with this deal. Our supervisor should be reminded we are in America and not some Third World dictatorship. Any attempts of obstructing the people’s business are absolutely wrong.
Last, accusations that this is political on our part are absolute lies; those involved desperately need an out and are making a stupid and dangerous decision in thinking the people would believe we are politically motivated. Emergency or not, the story does not add up. Before those involved try to save their political careers, we recommend they stop spinning the truth and putting their mistakes on others, who are simply doing their jobs.
It’s a sad day for Riverhead when once again it appears that business-as-usual rears its ugly head. The good news is that there are elected officials who will fight for the moral values and integrity our residents expect and deserve.
We feel it’s healthy to have differing opinions, but the Town Board members must agree in principle, integrity and honesty. In the future, we can and will work together for a better and prosperous Riverhead.
Mr. Gabrielsen and Ms. Giglio are Riverhead Town Board members.