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Growth Fund board questions raised

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The city of Ogdensburg will examine the bylaws of the Ogdensburg Growth Fund Development Corp. after questions were raised about whether it is proper for the mayor and city manager to serve on its board.

“Maybe it should be just be business people on the Growth Fund board,” said Deputy Michael D. Morley at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Mr. Morley said he had heard “talk on the street” from people who are uncomfortable with the presence of city officials on the nine-member board of the city’s small business lending agency.

In accordance with bylaws, Mayor William D. Nelson and City Manager John M. Pinkerton are voting members of the board. The other members are Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority Chairman Sam J. LaMacchia, Greater Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce President Lori A. Smithers and several banking and business representatives, all appointed by the mayor.

Also, city Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith is the group’s administrative director.

Mr. Nelson has too much influence on the board, leaving the board without enough independence, Mr. Morley said.

“If he wants something, it’s going to happen,” he said Tuesday.

Mr. Nelson disagrees. Two votes out of nine, he said, does not a closed City Hall stronghold make.

“The board is very strong,” the mayor said. “There is no veil of secrecy. Everything is open.”

Nevertheless, the bylaws will be reviewed.

“I definitely think we should look at other options,” said Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle. “Maybe we’re too involved.”

Councilor Jennifer Stevenson agreed.

“I think it’s something we should look at,” she said.

Last week, Plattsburgh businessman Gilbert J. Jones refused a $60,000 loan from the Growth Fund for his business, Ogdensburg Cinemas.

He had requested a $100,000 loan.

In doing so, he questioned the legality of the Growth Fund’s bylaws, the propriety of Mr. Nelson as its chairman and the agency’s independence from City Hall.

Mr. Jones had said he would have his attorney review the Growth Fund’s bylaws and its April 1983 articles of incorporation.

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