You just have to love this town.
This latest e-mail exchange revolves around the Council settling
the lawsuit brought by Jan DeGroote over the city tearing down the marquis
outside his Cinema Art building in 2006. The city is settling for $30,000,
which is a deal given the fact the city hasn’t a leg to stand on. The marquis
was safe and sound and should not have been ripped down and because of that the
city would certainly pay more should the case go to court.
- Councilman Ken Zalewski claims city crews were used to rip down
the marquis when it was really DiTanno and Sons, a demolition crew hired by the
city. I was there. I watched them struggle for hours to take it down.
- Former Mayor Harry Tutunjian is calling on Council President Lynn
Kopka to sanction Councilman Ken Zalewski for comments he made on Facebook over
the settlement of the lawsuit. The comments include the above-mentioned bit
about the city crew as well accusations City Engineer Russ Reeves was “coerced”
into deeming the marquis unsafe. I’m not sure if he was coerced, but I know he
was taking engineering advice from Fire Chief Tom Garrett.
- Tutunjian claims he was not responsible for the demolition but it
was his administration so in the spirit of “the buck stops here” it is his
responsibility. Should he be personally responsible for it? I don’t think so.
Was it a bone-headed move on the part of some he was charged to oversee? You
betcha. But, regrettably, the indemnification clause also covers stupidity
- I’m not sure why Zalewski should be sanctioned. He’s a duly
elected member of the Council and has an obligation to speak his mind. All citizens
have a right, but Zalewski is elected to represent those citizens so it’s part
of his job. If the citizens don’t like what he has to say, they can use the
same ballot box to take him out they used to put him in.
- Kopka is asking Zalewski to put a disclaimer on the Facebook page
he runs for the city Council. I’m not sure, but I think Zalewski is refusing.
- Finally, Councilman Bob Doherty does weigh in and says the city
should just pay the $30,000 and be done with the entire embarrassing episode.
Maybe that sage advice will carry more weight if he puts it on Facebook.
Here’s the exchange starting with one from Tutunjian to Kopka on
July 03, 2012 4:20 PM
To: citycouncil.; email@example.com;
Council President Kopka,
This past Thursday I attended a Finance Committee meeting of the City Council
in which the matter of the pending lawsuit by the owner of the Cinema Art
was to be discussed. The Council discussed the topic in Executive Session, as
it should have. During the public portion of the Special Meeting that followed
I addressed the Council about recent comments made about the lawsuit.
It had been brought to my attention by more than one person that council
members have been discussing the case publicly, often blaming me or other
former city officials. While I cannot prove those discussions, I have seen
postings made by Councilman Zalewski on a Facebook page entitled TROY NY. Those
comments which I will attach at the close of this email, are inflammatory and
libelous. They also can influence the pending resolution of this matter. As the
council knows, I was initially named in the lawsuit, but removed by the
judge after my deposition was reviewed. How is it then that Councilman Zalewski
finds me guilty and feels I should be held personally responsible for the costs
involved in this lawsuit?
I am requesting that you, as Council President, sanction and discipline
Councilman Zalewski for his actions. Also, I am requesting that if you choose
not to act, you ask that the City's Ethics Board conduct a thorough review of
the matter. His actions violate the ethics of his office and were not in
the best interests of the City in accordance with his oath of office. He should
know better than making baseless accusations on a social media site, especially
on pending litigation. Sadly, it isn't the first time.
If you choose to ignore this request I will be forced to consult with an
attorney to take the next appropriate step to force Councilman Zalewski to
cease and desist and correct the following malicious statement:
Ken Zalewski John, everyone that was
around in 2006 knows that the marquee was safe and stable. It took city workers
an entire day to cut through the I-beams. The City Engineer was coerced into
declaring the marquee unstable. I don't fault Russ Reeves, because he was doing
what he was told to do. I fault whomever gave him the order - which was either
Harry Tutunjian or Dan Crawley. Russ fell on the sword for one of them. I
suppose the Council could subpoena him if we want to dredge all of this up
again. I'm not inclined to do so.
Ken Zalewski Don, not a bad idea. Why
should the taxpayers foot the bill for the previous administration's follies?
This was a clear example of "sending a message" by destroying a piece
of someone's business. Now, my colleagues and I are faced with voting on this
settlement. Do we vote for the settlement and put this behind us (at a cost of
$30,000 - money that could be better spent elsewhere), or do we reject the
settlement, go to court, and most likely lose? We're pretty much stuck
approving it, and the taxpayers are stuck paying for this little stunt. This
was certainly a low point in the previous administration's tenure - government
at its worst.
I hope to hear from you within five business days.
Thank you for your time.
Harry J. Tutunjian
31 24th Street
Troy, NY 12180
On Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 9:20 AM, lynn kopka <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ken - It has recently come to my attention that the Troy City Council
facebook page is administered solely by you. As such, it is not our
Please put a disclaimer on the City Council facebook page that it is not
the official site/page of the Troy NY City Council and is administered
solely by you.
Thank you. Lynn
----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Robert Doherty
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
email@example.com; Lynn Kopka ; firstname.lastname@example.org;
email@example.com; Rodney Wiltshire
Sent: Thursday, July 5, 2012 9:48 AM
Subject: Re: Councilman Zalewski
Of course, you are free to take any action you
choose. Please note, I have always exchanged pleasantries and been
respectful in our casual encounters. At Finance last week, you made a
clear statement that you wished to not be a subject of ongoing derision or
I voted to settle the lawsuit in
discussion for $30K, with an idea that public conflict and risk of higher
liability might be diminished in the world of Troy City Administration
and our civic life. Councilman Zalewski has referred to the lawsuit
involving about marquee removal in infrequent conversation relevant to
liabilities. i understand that he was involved at that time by
complaining constituents. I think he may have witnessed the activity on
River Street as it occurred. In these minor and infrequent discussions,
the subject has not been of or about you in any personal manner. We discussed
liability of this outstanding lawsuit. I have not read his postings, but
he has always been business like and factual in my experience. An
unavoidable fact is that you were initially named in the lawsuit along with
another administration professional. It is a wise thing for us to
understand and avoid future liabilities such as this one. Therefore,
discussion is appropriate and necessary. It also does not need to be done in
public, although we need to comply with "Open meetings " law.
I think we are done with this matter
entirely. Your dialogue and potential legal action will prolong this
unproductive, and i sense painful, experience for you. I believe we are
moving along, gaining experience, and hopefully will be gaining in productivity
and usefulness. Councilman Zalewski is a significant contributor in these
Nicely, in the neighborhood blogs I read, the
combativeness and unproductive personal criticism has clearly diminished,
leaving only a few private citizens with that old style. I believe the
all too frequent style of personal criticism and argumentative challenges
tarnish Troy's image to outsiders, hurting commerce and progress.
I wish you a peaceful mind and my regards.
Truly, Bob Doherty, Troy City Councilman, District 4
---- Forwarded Message
To: Ken Zalewski ; lynn kopka
Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Ian.Silverman@troyny.gov;
Sent: Thursday, July 5, 2012 8:14 PM
Subject: Re: City Council facebook page
Ken, i appreciate your efforts in utilizing the page for what it should be used for. Please continue your efforts on behalf often myself. Tjanks
---- Ken Zalewski <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Troy City Council Facebook page has been administered by me for the
last three years. Bill Dunne and John Brown also had management
until they were no longer Council members, because they were the only
members who expressed even a slight interest in helping out.
The page contains a disclaimer that any opinions expressed are that of the
Democratic majority, after issues were raised by others. However, most of
the postings are simply announcements about meetings, legislation that we
have passed, and links to meeting videos. As such, it delivers on our
promise of more open and transparent government, and shows a willingness to
engage with citizens publicly.
I have tried to keep the page factual and objective. In fact, when Bill
Dunne posted some negative remarks about Carmella Mantello during the
election cycle (as "Troy City Council", not as himself), I removed
those comments and asked that Bill not use the page in such a manner. He
upset by that, because Jeff Pirro had used the "Troy, NY" page (with
readership of over 7,000 fans) to disparage Democrats and silence critics.
I understood his point, but felt that we should try to stay above the
fray, so to speak.
I have spent a great deal of time keeping our page running and making it an
informative place for citizens to visit.
The Troy City Council Facebook page has nothing to do with my comments
about the Cinema Arts lawsuit, which were left on the "Troy NY"
group - a privately-run page where citizens often express their grievances
regarding city government.
Councilman, District 5
Labels: Doherty, Kopka, Tutunjian, zalewski