Buyers of banners want money back

The financial fallout over Mayor Gabriel J. Campana’s improperly signed contract with a banner company took shape Tuesday when two women who own businesses in the city demanded their money back from a banner company whose representatives told them they’d have to go back to the city for the reimbursements.

“What do we have to do, to go through, to get my money back?” a woman at the city Economic Revitalization Committee meeting who bought the banners, costing $800 apiece, asked the company, the committee and the mayor.

Matt Cottengim, a representative of the Community Showcase Banners, of Rochester, New York, said the company would be in “breach of contract,” by Nov. 2. It would seek reimbursement from the city.

Reportedly, about 70 businesses have purchased the banners, which is nearly $100,000 or more because some of the deals involved gift cards as promotions.

The committee unanimously voted to give Campana’s proposal to tailor the city zoning ordinance on signage downtown to suit the needs of a banner company a negative recommendation.

“Tailoring changes for a specific problem — and let’s be real, that what’s happening here,” said Councilman Randall J. Allison, committee chairman, looking at the mayor, adding, “this issue is not the banner company’s, it goes back to procedure.”

In the spring, Campana signed a contract, not approved by council, a signing that the mayor continues to contend was an agreement and not a contract.

“I didn’t intentionally bypass council in any way and apologize if he had caused any inconvenience,” Campana said, and shared with the Sun-Gazette that he was following the zoning hearing board’s recommendation to revise the city ordinance.

“This is an instance of modifying a zoning law to suit a specific company,” Councilwoman Liz Miele said.

“This discussion should have occurred not on the timeline related to the business’s contracts,” Miele said, disturbed that the statements by the mayor pointed a finger of blame on council when the mayor was the individual who put the city in this financial position.

“Does the mayor have the authority to put the city in that type of agreement where we could be held liable?” asked Councilman Joel Henderson, concerned about the potential of reimbursement requests coming and who will pay for them.

The matter on ordinance revision must go before the City Planning Commission, which would review it and then vote on a recommendation, according to Gary Knarr, city zoning officer.