GPL investigation not to exceed $15K in professional fees, travel and research extra

— File photo

The trustees of the Guilderland Public Library have hired Guidepost Solutions to investigate charges of harassment and racism.

GUILDERLAND — Last month, the trustees for the Guilderland Public Library considered four applicants to investigate allegations of racism and harassment leveled by the owner of a now-closed library café but would not reveal the fees on which they were spending public funds.

The Enterprise submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for the proposals from the four applicants discussed by the trustees at their March 21 meeting and received the documents on March 29 from Nate Heyer, the library’s interim director and FOIL officer, but the rates and fees had been blacked out.

Heyer cited privacy concerns in explaining the redactions. Kristin O’Neill, the assistant director of the state’s Committee on Open Government, told The Enterprise, “When dealing with a government entity, how much you’re making from the government cannot be a secret.”

The Enterprise appealed the denial to the library’s assistant director, Natalie Hurteau, and received a response on April 12, which includes the rates.

Hurteau wrote, “Upon your initial FOIL request we contacted the agencies that submitted proposals … Upon reply, the agencies asserted that their rates and fees were proprietary information and may be damaging to the competitive position of the commercial enterprise, if released.”

Hurteau went on, “While we would like to honor the request of these agencies, we nonetheless have concluded that FOIL does not preclude the release of these rates and fees. Therefore we are inclined to grant your appeal.”

The trustees chose Guidepost Solutions, based in New York City, to conduct the investigation.

“The personnel we anticipate using for the investigation are billed at rates between $250 and $400 per hour,” says the Guidepost document. “These rates are substantially lower than our normal billing rates. We recommend setting a budget not to exceed $15,000 in professional fees. This rate is a discounted rate offered by Guidepost Solutions to non-profit and government organizations.”

The Guidepost document also says, “All necessarily incurred travel expenses and any actual out of pocket costs and other disbursements, such as database research charges, will be billed separately at cost. We anticipate minimal travel expenses, primarily consisting of travel between New York City and Albany via Amtrak to conduct in-person interviews.”


Other applicants

These are the other applicants the board considered along with their rates:

— Public Sector HR Consultants LLC, which said, “Our consulting fee is $200/hour (including travel time) plus travel expenses (from the investigator’s office location in Rhinebeck)”;

— Capezza Hill LLP, based in Albany, which said,  “We will discount our hourly rates as follows: partners from $400 per hour to $300; associates from $250 per hour to $175 …. One partner will conduct interviews using a recording device … Assuming there are ten (10) witness interviews at two hours per interview, the estimated cost is $6,000.00.”

The analysis and drafting was charted at three-hour intervals, starting at $650 and ending with 25 intervals totaling $16,250.

“The above estimate will be impacted by the possibility of litigation, witness statements in advance of litigation, witness representation by counsel, FOIL requests, and a variety of other factors would be discussed with the Board in advance of moving forward,” the document said; and

— Bond Schoeneck & King, based in Albany, which said, “We propose a blended rate approach, where any Member (Partner), Associate, or Paralegal who conducts work on this matter will be billed at a set hourly rate. Proposed Member (Partner) Rate: $325 per hour. Proposed Associate Rate: $250 per hour. Proposed Paralegal Rate: $200 per hour.”

The document also said, “All time spent on this matter be billed in increments of one tenth of an hour (6 minutes), and bills will be generated on a monthly basis. To the extent applicable, any bills will also reflect expenses incurred, such as mileage, postage, messenger services, etc.”

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