Valley Viewpoints: No records found in Oswego

 by George M. Clark of Oswego

The United States of America and the State of New York brought an action against the City of Oswego for violating federal and state environmental laws relative to the City’s wastewater system.

As a result of this suit, August 5, 2010, a 77-page “Consent Decree” was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.

The decree specified a number of sites, in the city, that would have to be upgraded in order to prevent any further violations; the city would also pay $99,000.00 in fines.

It was signed by numerous state and federal officials with Mayor Randolph Bateman being the sole signer for the city.

Quoting from a regional print media article about outgoing Mayor Bateman’s accomplishments: “…probably the biggest project during his tenure was signing a consent decree with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency…”

Non-compliance with the decree could find the city back in federal court exposing taxpayers to additional costly fines.

With this in mind, Oswego’s officials included the position of assistant city engineer in the 2011 budget.

An individual, qualifying for the position would require the experience and credentials to properly oversee the implementation of the Consent Decree. Bateman decided not to fill this position leaving this important task in the hands of City Engineer Anthony Leotta.

In the Decree, Section VII Reporting; Paragraph 28 Quarterly Reporting; (b) (i) states that “for work performed by a private contractor, an inspection report by City utilities personnel of the completed project and certification by the City Engineer that the specified work has been completed; and (ii). For work performed by City personnel, a copy of the work order for the project verified by the City Engineer as having been completed.”

March 30, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law, I filed a request with the City of Oswego’s records access officer (city clerk) to inspect these certificates for work that had been completed under the Consent Decree.

This request was denied April 5, 2012. The reason given by the city clerk was that: “No such record exists.”

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