A shakeup is reportedly brewing which may alter the leadership of some or all of Columbia County’s various development agencies.
In 2010, when David Ginsberg was still President of the Columbia County Development Corporation (CEDC), Kenneth J. Flood was hired to wear three hats: Executive Director of CEDC, Executive Director of the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), and Commissioner of the County’s Planning and Economic Development.
Four years later, multiple sources now claim that Flood is likely to lose at least two of those titles.
Several versions of this leadership upheaveal predict that Flood will be out entirely. According to another, Flood will retain his Commissioner’s position, but the overlapping roles of CEDC and IDA director will be handed to someone new—new, at least, for Columbia County.
The reported frontrunner for the position is former Greene County IDA chief Alexander (“Sandy”) Mathes, who also in the late 1990s was the Republican majority leader in the Greene County Legislature.
After moving over to the agency in 2002, Mathes left the IDA in 2011 under something of a cloud. At the time of his abrupt departure, The Watershed Post reported
If you know the history of Mathes' tenure at the IDA, however, it's not hard to guess why he’s out.
Mathes made statewide headlines last year after news broke that he received a $175,000 bonus in 2009 on top of his $130,000 salary. Although the IDA's chairman, Paul Slutzky, defended the payments to Mathes, he later resigned. It’s not surprising to find that Mathes has followed suit.
When the scandal broke last year, Mathes told the Daily Mail that the only reason he stuck around in Greene County was because of the super-sized bonuses.
While some news outlets reported that Mathes resigned, others (such as The Albany Business Review) said that the Greene County IDA “terminated” his contract due to the controversy over allegedly unearned bonuses. According to The Kingston Daily Freeman, Catskills Legislator Karen Deyo “said the issue of Mathes' bonuses was most recently raised by lawmakers following committee meetings on Aug. 9, and led to a shouting match.”
The Albany Times-Union wrote that a State Authorities Budget Office
report also found that Mathes’ salary, which jumped from $75,000 when he was hired in 2002 to $130,285 last year, has risen without proper board approvals. In fact, the report found that Mathes' salary is in the top 5 percent of all IDA directors in the state, comparable with those in more urban areas such as Westchester and Nassau counties.
A scathing 2009 investigation by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli likewise did not look favorably on the performance of the Greene County IDA during this period. The Watershed Post again succinctly summarized the situation:
DiNapoli’s report shows that while Greene County’s IDA gives out the largest number of net tax exemptions in the state after New York City’s IDA, those exemptions, which amount of 25% of the county's tax levy, did diddly squat for job creation between 2002 and 2009. [The report found that] ‘in several of the counties with relatively large tax exemptions compared to total levy, there were job losses between 2002 and 2009 – including Greene County.’”
More recently, Mathes was hired as a consultant to Otsego County’s IDA at the beginning of this year. According to the official page of State Senator James Seward, Mathes was hired to “facilitate the preparation of a strategic economic development action plan which will include greenfield site preparation, re-development opportunities, and the re-use of vacant buildings.”
According to a source who closely tracks preservation issues, Mathes sought to set up a novel program while at the Greene County IDA to identify neglected or underused historic properties which wcould be eligible for grants—dubbed “preservation-ready,” a play on the more familiar industry phrase of “shovel-ready.” He is credited with attracting the Serta Mattress facility in Greene County, and (per the T-U) helping to convert the Steifel facility in Durham to “a toothpaste factory.”
Mathes also was a booster for a proposed $110 million “indoor water park complex” in New Baltimore which evidently has not come to pass. Greene County also lost the once-thriving Friar Tuck Resort during this period.
Said by some to be the highest-paid Columbia County employee, Flood has been under fire for a series of missteps, including several high-profile projects which have failed despite County support (such as Phoenix Hudson and Local Ocean) as well as for the handling of the proposed County Airport and Ginsberg expansions.
Other names bandied about as possible successors to Flood—if indeed there will be a succession—include CEDC microenterprise loan doyenne Martha Lane, CEDC publicity maven Carol Wilbur, former CEDC deputy director Todd Erling, Columbia County Chamber chief David Colby, Pattison Koskey principal Mike Bucci, among others.
If there is any truth to the Mathes rumor, it would extend the curious phenomenon of many prominent Columbia development officials living outside the County.