Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Conflicted Loyalties

The relative lack of press coverage of the decision by the state appellate court to uphold the lower court's ruling on the freedom of information lawsuit brought by the West Harlem Business Group was disappointing. Clearly, the appellate court upheld, not only the supreme court's initial ruling, but the underlying premise of the ruling.

That underlying premise, captured well by the CityRoom blog of the NY Times (the one outlet other than the Observer that broke the story the other day) was that there was an unnatural intimacy between Columbia, ESDC, and the consultant AKRF: "Consultants dealing with state agencies may be exempt from public disclosure laws, but in this case the judges found that a conflict of interest nullified the exemption in certain areas. “Supreme Court clearly had reason to doubt A.K.R.F.’s independence, objectivity and sense of what good judgment calls for,” because of the consultant’s ties to Columbia, Judge James M. Catterson wrote in his majority opinion."

Powerful stuff, redolent it seems to us, of collusion at the highest level. If anyone thinks that this soon to be released blight study is anything more than "one lying and the other one swearing to it," than their naivete is robust indeed. As our client Nick Sprayregen told the Times: "Nick Sprayregen, a member for the group, said the court’s ruling affirmed his belief “that the whole process of Columbia's request for the state to condemn private property is tainted with conflicts of interest.”

ESDC, long with Columbia, will be really rolling the dice if it goes into court defending the work of AKRF; and the parties involved in all of these shenanigans would be better served to sit with Nick and negotiate a deal that would extricate the colluders from serious potential harm. What we've found over the years, however, is folks don't always understand where their own interests lie.