July 18, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Legislative Minority Denied Access to HVCC
Travel Expense Reports Prior to Budget Vote
On Tuesday, July 12, 2022, the Rensselaer County Legislature voted on the annual budget for Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC). The HVCC budget passed with a vote of 13-6, along party lines.
A week prior to this budget vote, the Legislature’s Education Committee had a discussion about the budget and questions were raised related to constituent concerns about recent international travel. During the committee meeting, Deputy Minority Leader Cindy Doran requested information be provided related to these travel expenditures. “The HVCC Chief Financial Officer answered as many questions as he could and he agreed to provide the Committee with requested information in time for the budget vote the following week,” stated Doran.
The information was not provided to Doran, so she sent a reminder email on July 11, 2022 requesting “locations of travel with purpose, dates of travel, expenses associated with the travel, attendees and guests, how expenses were paid and the return on investment.” Doran received a reply from the college stating that “the College, pursuant to College counsel’s recommendation, is treating your request… pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law…the college agrees to either grant or deny this request on or before July 31, 2022.”
During Tuesday’s meeting of the Rensselaer County Legislature, Legislator Doran made a motion on the floor to table the budget vote until next month which would provide enough time for the college to send the requested information. “The Republican Majority denied the motion to table the budget vote leaving us with no choice but to vote no,” stated Doran.
“Hudson Valley Community College plays a wonderful role in our community, and we are all very appreciative and proud of the institution. Nonetheless, when I receive questions or concerns from constituents, it is my responsibility to get answers,” stated Doran, who received a number of questions related to a recent international trip to Israel taken by members of the HVCC administration, the President of the Board of Trustees and their spouses. “As a former Accounting Adjunct Instructor at HVCC, I know that it’s good business sense to know your rate of return on investment. After all, Rensselaer County is a major sponsor of the college. I was disappointed I did not receive the information I requested,” stated Doran.
This is not the first time that the Legislative Minority has requested travel expense reports. A similar request was made in 2019 in regards to an international trip to Costa Rica taken by HVCC President Dr. Roger Ramsammy, President Neil Kelleher of the HVCC Board of Trustees, and Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin. Doran added, “In 2019, a request for records was also made as a result of constituent concerns and articles that had appeared in the Times Union related to HVCC international travel. “I do not understand why I would not have immediate access to travel expenses from the college, as a County Legislator on the Education Committee with the responsibility of approving the HVCC budget.”
Other Legislators expressed similar sentiments. “Hudson Valley Community College is an institution of vital importance to Rensselaer County,” stated Minority Leader Peter Grimm. “Making a decision on a $92 million budget, to which Rensselaer County contributes $5.5 million, should not be done hastily. It requires officials to do their due diligence on behalf of our constituents, and we were not prepared to approve the budget without having constituents’ questions answered. Being denied information is reason for us to be suspect.”
Legislator Mark Fleming, who seconded the failed motion to table the vote, reasoned that tabling the budget for one month would do no harm. “The fiscal year for HVCC does not begin until September 1, so tabling the vote until August 9 would in no way have jeopardized or disrupted the finances or well-being of the institution,” Fleming said. “We all love Hudson Valley Community College, but as representatives of the taxpayers, it is our duty to validate where tax money is being spent and if it is being spent wisely. Without this information, we unfortunately could not vote to pass the budget on July 12.”