At last week’s meeting of the Plattekill Library Board of Trustees, President Lynn Ridgeway said the board has still not received a check for $9,250 that they requested from Victor Nemeth, the owner of the Cider Mill property on Route 32. The library had paid him this amount as a deposit when they were considering purchasing his parcel for a new library. She indicated that this would continue to be discussed with their own attorney, however the board has been advised by counsel that they would end up spending far more trying to recover their money through the courts.
In early 2014 the board sent Nemeth the deposit check, which he cashed. However, by November 2014 Nemeth had changed his mind and sent a check of his own back to the library for the stated amount, indicating that the deal was off. Email records show that the check was placed in a folder but Ridgeway insists no one gave instructions to do this.
“I didn’t tell anybody to do that and this board did not tell me to do that,” she insisted.
The record shows that the attorney for the library board, in response to a query from a board member, said the board told him to place the check in a folder. There is no mention of this in the library board minutes.
When Ridgeway was pressed about the check last week, she said she does not know how or why it was placed in a folder and said the entire matter “was a misunderstanding on my part.” When told that an email trail shows that she was fully informed about the check being placed in a folder, Ridgeway said “I don’t know that,” and went on to question how the Southern Ulster Times obtained certain emails. She concluded by saying “I can’t answer it any other way.”
When Ridgeway was asked if the library’s attorney had warned her that the check in the folder was going to go bad, she responded, “Not to my knowledge, I don’t remember.”
Ridgeway, with the backing of Vice President Valerie Smith, informed her board that the check had been put in escrow, leaving board members with the assumption that the library’s money was returned to their attorney’s bank account. Ridgeway and Smith continued to insist that the library had a valid contract of sale with Nemeth, while fully knowing that this was not the case. Only after Ridgeway was threatened with legal action by a fellow board member on whether or not there was a bona fide contract did Ridgeway produce a letter from their attorney who confirmed there was no contract.
Seniors meeting at the library
Since the board decided not to buy the nearby Cider Mill property, the trustees have focused their attention on purchasing their current building and grounds from the Town that is the current owner.
Trustee Will Farrell said it is important to make it clear in a motion that the seniors are welcome to continue meeting in the building.
“I don’t want somebody three months from now saying I didn’t agree to that,” he said.
If a new library is built the trustees can approve a space for them at their new location.
Library attorney Robert Scofield was not in favor of making a motion at this time.
“You are sort of agreeing to this concept that you acknowledge you can change,” he said.
He advised the board to wait until they had additional discussions with the Town on the terms of sale of the current library property.
Trustee Joe Egan said having something in the record now may help to calm any concerns with the public.
“Its the right thing to do this, but every so often this pops up and we try to put it to bed so it’s no longer a point of contention and no longer a misunderstanding,” he said.
Farrell said he recorded the library’s July meeting and when the issue came up about allowing the seniors to remain and use the current building, board member Karen Adamson asked “Who made that agreement? I didn’t make that agreement…we didn’t make any agreement, nothing, because I wouldn’t have voted for it,” with Smith adding “I didn’t make that agreement either.” Smith clarified her previous statement about the current building by saying “If we agree that the seniors should stay here that presupposes there is going to be a here, here forever and I don’t want to be locked into that.”
Adamson claimed last week that she was joking about not allowing the seniors to stay, with Ridgeway cutting her short, saying “lets not re-litigate that.”
Subsequently Farrell said Adamson and Smith were not kidding in July but “did a complete 180” at last weeks meeting.
“The fact is I called them both out in front of the lawyer and the press and in front of other people and all of a sudden it’s a whole different story,” he said. “I think at one point Karen said I think it’s a great idea that the seniors are here, I think it’s a good thing.”
Town Board member Cindy Delgado addressed the library board, pointing out that a report from the library to the Town Board clearly states that the library had agreed to continue allowing the seniors to use the community room. The issue of keeping the seniors at the current library is mentioned at numerous Town Board meetings, starting in April 2016.
Scofield suggested wording of a motion for the board’s consideration.
“If the library buys this property, it is committed to providing a space for the seniors and other community groups to meet as long as it occupies the existing building.” Scofield told the board that this “completely leaves open what you’re going to do in the future. We know what your intention is in the future but you’ve not made a decision yet.” The board withdrew all previous wordings under consideration and unanimously approved Scofield’s motion.
By Mark Reynolds