Document: Jenne Tried To Steer Money To 'Close Friend'

Document: Jenne Tried To Steer Money To 'Close Friend'

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Nearly four years ago, state Assemblywoman Addie Jenne tried to get money from a not-for-profit for a man she now describes as a "close friend."

That friend - Nathan McElhone - faces a variety of criminal charges resulting from an alleged burglary. Jenne says her efforts on McElhone's behalf were made before she knew him well.

7 News learned Wednesday that McElhone was using Assemblywoman Jenne's pick-up truck when he allegedly stole $1,500 worth of copper piping.

Now, a 2014 letter from North Country Affordable Housing lays out Jenne's involvement in a plan to rehabilitate a building at 60 Main Street in Antwerp.

According to the letter, Jenne wanted North Country Affordable Housing to lease the building from McElhone and another man. On top of that, Jenne wanted North Country Affordable Housing to serve as the pass through for $125,000 from the state Dormitory Authority to McElhone and the other man.

The money was to be used to fix up the building.

"In summary, the proposed scenario is for NCAH (North Country Affordable Housing) to do a long term lease of the property from the owners to satisfy the 'site control' requirement of the NYS funding source," the letter notes.

"NCAH would then be responsible for channeling $125,000 from the Dormitory Authority through to the owners to completely renovate the building, with the owners to provide all labor. 

"After rehabilitation is completed NCAH would be responsible for management and rental of the property and payment of a lease fee to the owners who would then be responsible for taxes, insurance and other ownership costs of the property."

Jenne doesn't dispute any of that. However, she told 7 News Thursday village officials asked her for help.

"Village officials asked me to reach out to the owner of the building because there were some issues related to a recent fire," she said. "The building was right next to the village offices in Antwerp and there was concern if the building fell into disrepair that it would impact the village offices."

Jenne insists she did not know McElhone in 2014, other than knowing of him because they were both from the area and both had gone to Indian River High School, though he had graduated before she started high school.

"I did not have a relationship with him back then. My contact was at the request of the village," she said. "I didn't begin a personal friendship with him until his mother died quite some time later."

She said her relationship with McElhone grew "closer over time."  When asked if it was a romantic relationship, she said, "That could be a characterization of our relationship in the past." Now, she said, they're "close friends."

The project never got off the ground -  North Country Affordable Housing's board of directors didn't like the plan.

In response to Assemblywoman Jenne, then- executive director Gary Beasley noted in the letter, "The NCAH board is concerned with this arrangement.  Our experience is that government funding of this type has stringent regulatory agreements and recapture provisions. We don’t feel adequately protected from liability in such an arrangement without a strong owner that can insure and indemnify NCAH from their possible actions if the project didn’t go as planned."

The letter also calls the budget to rehabilitate the building "inadequate," but the board of directors offered to work with Jenne in other ways in improving Main Street in Antwerp.

A member of the Antwerp village board, who did not want to be identified, disputed Jenne's description of what happened. The village board member said village officials never reached out to Jenne. In response, Jenne said there was more than one meeting with village officials and a local official provided her with McElhone's cell phone number.

Jenne said she believes she handled the matter appropriately, and that one of her jobs as an Assembly member is to help north country villages with various projects.

- reported by Alex Valverde, Jeff Cole & Scott Atkinson

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