Saturday 10 December 2022
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County Comptroller Targets Minority Contractor; Contractor Says, It Equals Harassment

By Rodney Brown


According to Cheyenne Talbert, owner of Cheyenne Realty Corp., his problems with Onondaga County Comptroller Robert Antonacci’s office have ranged from his company being investigated and audited by the office, to the comptroller threatening to revoke the company’s contract for managing three county-owned parking lots.

And, he has no idea why.

“I’ve been targeted because I won this contract,” Talbert stated. “Since day one, Antonacci has been consistently trying to get the contract pulled from me. I’ve paid every month on time. I’ve had no customer complaints, and the county has been happy with me.”

Antonacci recently argued his position before the county legislature, and said, “The awarding of the contract to Cheyenne Realty was flawed, because the purchasing department disqualified the higher revenue from Syracuse Parking Service.”

But, fortunately for Talbert, the county’s finance department instead determined Syracuse Parking Services’ bid had been, “irresponsible,” which ultimately led to the group’s disqualification from the process.

“Out of a total estimated revenue of $17, 558 to manage and operate three county parking lots, Syracuse Parking Services offered to pay the county $16,500 per month, compared to Cheyenne Realty’s proposal of $8,000 per month,” the Facilities Management Department stated.

And, according to Facilities Management’s projected calculations, those numbers didn’t add up; especially since, with each proposal operating at a cost of $5,637 per month, Syracuse Parking would have inherited an estimated net profit loss of $4,579, while Cheyenne Realty would have inherited an estimated net profit gain of $3,921.

“It’s not realistic for the county to expect a successful relationship with a contractor who promises to pay $16,500 each month from an operation whose total revenue potential barely exceeds that amount,” Steven Morgan, Onondaga County’s chief fiscal officer, stated in a letter to Antonacci, following the findings.

Morgan also said he questioned Antonacci’s desire to award the contract to Syracuse Parking Services in the first place, particularly since the company had obvious ties to the previous operator of the lots, Murbro Parking.

“The fact that the principle (owner) behind Syracuse Parking Services was Murbro’s point person in managing Parking Lots A, B, and D is highly relevant to this discussion,” Morgan stated in the letter. “Whether you consider the $22,000 that his previous employer promised to pay the county to manage these lots, or the $16,500 that his new company promises to pay, in neither case was it realistic for the county to expect to receive the full amount of the proposed monthly payment.”

Recently, the county won a judgment of nearly $200,000 against Murbro, after the company promised to pay $22,000 per month, but consistently failed to keep up with its payment schedule, or to pay the full amount.

As a result, Talbert said he’s not sure why his company has been singled out by Antonacci.

According to Talbert, he can only speculate as to whether there may be some sort of personal relationship between Antonacci and the company, in light of the county’s past relationship with Murbro. However, at a minimum, he said the comptroller’s tactics have been “malfeasant, targeting, and selective.”

“Someone would show-up from the comptroller’s office, unannounced, to audit the lots, and demand that we produce a revenue request,” Talbert stated. “Had Antonnaci petitioned Murbro for audits and revenue requests? Why wasn’t Antonacci as vigorous when Murbro wasn’t paying the county?”

Onondaga County Legislator Linda Ervin also said she believes Antonacci has overstepped his authority.

“Antonacci came to us a year ago, and the legislature didn’t agree with him,” Ervin stated. “I don’t know why, but it has been an unprecedented hands-on questioning and approach, to discredit and revoke the contract the county has with Cheyenne Realty. I feel badly, because I worked with legislator Monica Williams to push to have more minority contractors bid on county contracts. I feel these types of actions by the comptroller will deter them.”

CNY Vision reached out to Antonacci, and officials from his office who are in charge of payment, processing and audits, for answers regarding Talbert’s contract, however, our calls were not returned.

In the meantime, Talbert said he doesn’t plan to take the situation lightly. Talbert said, ultimately, he plans to submit a formal complaint to the full board of the legislature regarding Antonacci’s conduct.