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A state monitor will soon be hired to watch over the Orange County Industrial Development Agency (OCIDA) with powers to override board decisions.
Proposed by New York State Sen. James Skoufis, the measure to install a monitor is in the $229 billion state budget passed by the legislature on May 2, nearly a month after the due date.
“This is a big deal, and this is a game changer,” Skoufis said of the new measure in a press conference on May 1. “I look forward to working with the monitor and all the other stakeholders to ensure that this is properly implemented.”
The measure is modeled after the state monitors installed inside the East Ramapo School District with the power to override board decisions, according to Skoufis.
He introduced the measure into the senate version of the state budget in March and got it into the assembly version with support from several Democratic colleagues in the lower chamber, including Aileen Gunther, Jonathan Jacobson, and Christopher Eachus.
As a state legislator, Skoufis has been vocal about what he calls bad deals out of the development agency for years, which he equates to corporate welfare at the cost of local tax dollars.
Skoufis represents the 42nd District, which covers most of Orange County, and chairs the state Senate’s Committee on Investigations and Government Operations.
OCIDA is a public benefit corporation empowered by state laws to grant monetary incentives to attract new businesses or aid the expansion of existing companies.
The agency is governed by seven volunteer board members appointed by the county legislature.
Commonly granted financial incentives come in sales, property, and mortgage recording taxes.
According to the law, the new monitor shall have access to all OCIDA meetings, including executive sessions that are not open to the public.
He or she must also be provided with all contracts or financial incentive agreements before board decisions, and failure to do so could render related votes invalid.
If policy deviations or violations of laws are identified in any contracts, such agreements shall not be signed by OCIDA or become effective.
The monitor can disapprove of any changes to the Uniform Tax Exemption Policy, a major document guiding the incentive decisions by the agency.
The State Office of the Inspector General shall appoint the monitor, who cannot be removed unless for violations of laws.
OCIDA shall be responsible for the monitor’s salary and other personnel expenses.
OCIDA Chief Executive Officer Bill Fioravanti told The Epoch Times that he was confident that no agency decisions would be overridden by the monitor.
“I can make that guarantee because we follow every letter of the law, and our decisions to award incentives are reinforced by sound cost-benefit analysis for each and every project,” he said.
Fioravanti was hired to head OCIDA in late 2022 following a major corruption scandal involving three former agency officials.
All three pleaded guilty to charges stemming from concealing self-dealing and conflicts of interest and were ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution.
Since Fioravanti came on board, he reorganized the agency team with new service providers, chipped away at stale or money-losing projects, and launched a new site program to stimulate growth, according to a previous interview with The Epoch Times.