Gelbsman To Replace Embattled Colleague

Gelbsman To Replace Embattled Colleague

As County Board’s Liaison To IDA Board

Editor’s Note: This article was edited for space in this week’s print editions. This is the complete version.



Given a colleague’s legal troubles, county Rep. Craig Gelbsman, R-Oneonta, is in line for appointment as liaison to the county IDA, the Industrial Development Agency that is spearheading redevelopment of Pony Farm Industrial Park.

He would replace county Rep. Betty Anne Schwerd, R-Edmeston, who District Attorney John Muehl said is under investigation for misuse of campaign funds following a complaint by her former employer, state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford.

The idea of replacing Schwerd with Gelbsman surfaced at the Friday, June 20, meeting of the county board’s Administration Committee. But its chairman, Ed Frazier, R-Unadilla, said no resolution appointing Gelbsman was drafted and he believes board chair Kathy Clark, R-Otego, can simply make the appointment if she wishes.

If the Gelbsman appointment goes forward, it will be the first result of reports earlier this month, confirmed by Muehl, that Schwerd is under investigation. The D.A. said he had referred the matter to the county Sheriff’s Department, but “no arrest has been made” as of Tuesday, June 24.

While IDA liaison serves at the pleasure of the county board chair, Schwerd is also chair of the county board’s Inter-Governmental Affairs Committee, which oversee the county’s economic-development initiatives.

Clark reappointed Schwerd as IGA chair at the board’s reorganizational meeting in January, and the appointment stands until the next organizational meeting, the first week in 2014, according to Frazier and other county representatives asked about the situation.

Clark and the county attorney, Ellen Coccoma, were unavailable.

Given that Gelbsman is a freshman representative, elected last November and taking his seat in January, five months ago, the IGA chairmanship would be a plum appointment for him.

Despite his short tenure, however, Gelbsman observed, “I’ve been in business a long time.” He is owner of First Choice Dry Cleaners, Oneonta, and the owner/manager of a number of commercial rental properties in Oneonta and Cooperstown. He has also been a concert promoter.

“I want to be involved in economic development,” he added. “I’m hoping to see young people involved in economic development. And I’m hoping to bring a fresh perspective.”

Other than Schwerd and Gelbsman, the third Republican on the IGA committee is Rick Hulse, R-Fly Creek. But he is also a freshman, and is already chairing the Government Efficiency Committee, which Clark established at his initiative.

Democrats on the committee are Beth Rosenthal, Roseboom, and Kay Stuligross, Oneonta. Stuligross, senior county rep on the IGA, has been a Clark ally from the outset, but she is already chairing the Otsego Manor Committee and a local development corporation created to divest the county nursing home into the hands of a private corporation.

Before the Schwerd situation became public, Gelbsman attended this month’s IDA meeting, where Delaware Engineering was hired to expedite “shovel ready” status for Pony Farm, just over the city line in the Town of Oneonta and central to the city’s economic-development status.