Thursday, December 7, 2006

Our Readers Respond...

Dear Editor:

We the members of the Westchester County Department of Correction cannot begin to convey expressions of our gratitude for your paper’s willingness to report issues regardless of it’s inflammatory contents. The bias the other local media have shown in reporting our serious issues that may put politicians and government officials under the scrutiny of the public were segmented and defrayed from telling the whole truth. The same walls that restrain the incarcerated are the very same walls that keep the truth from being told.

One would believe, The Journal News was sponsored by Westchester County or that certain people in County government were the editors. It’s hard to trust the reporting of news media that attempts to divert from the truth to print a favorable article which gives those in power the opportunity to suppress and manipulate the truth. Media control and what’s being reported is extremely important for public awareness, which has greater implication and impact in elections. It’s no wonder so many people are disenfranchised, it’s systemic.

News 12 did a moderate attempt to report their chosen issue and the prior issues concerning COBA President Robert DelBene and the Jail which were kept from prime time television. It wasn’t until Susan Tolchin attempted to defuse public interest and concern, to give the public her version of why so many officers marched, did we get prime time air coverage, while the Journal News again trivialized our efforts. It appears that The Westchester Guardian was the only media capable of reading all the signs that were displayed during the march and printing the truth of what they saw and heard. So again we say Thank You

The Membership of COBA

Dear Editor:

I have been with the Department of Correction for 16 years. I have been a Sergeant for four of those years. Towards the end of August, 2005 I transferred from Second Shift to First Shift in the Jail. It is normal procedure for a search to take place each morning. Due to Post Bidding most officers that participate in the search are the same each day.

Numerous Black officers started coming to me complaining about how they were being treated by certain Sergeants during the search. At first I thought it was just the officers crying to get out of the search. Then I
noticed Black officers receiving write-ups on the searches. I decided to go to a search that was not in my sector.

After a few minutes I had to leave because I couldn’t stomach the behavior of the three Sergeants at the search. After that I refused to participate in any searches with these three Sergeants and limited my contact with them. Below is a small portion of a letter that I submitted to the Warden about a hostile workplace dated April 9, 2006:

“On or about September 30, 2005, at approximately 0730 hours I was approached by Sgts. Stallone and Maccabee by Central Control stating to me that they had to talk to me so we could be on the same
page. I replied I would never be on the same page as you two.We decided to go to the old Jail second floor Sergeant’s office to discuss the matter in private. Upon arriving at the Sergeant’s office Sergeant Bizzarro was
also present. They informed me We have to stick together and get the officers and especially the niggers.I told them that they are not captains and that I don’t have to listen to them. I said, If you have a problem with
me let’s settle it like men outside, if not just leave me alone, don’t talk to me, I can do my job by myself.”

White Sergeant

In Our Opinion...

As one examines the approach that Westchester County Government, in both the executive, and legislative branches, has taken to certain public responsibilities, a clear pattern of neglect emerges. We make reference to the homeless, and the incarcerated wards of our County. Despite serious issues crying out for resolution, both at the County Jail, and at the County Homeless Shelter, one within a few hundred yards of the other, on the Valhalla Campus, the County Legislature and the County Executive’s Office apparently prefer to publicly ignore them, and simply hope they will disappear without too much notice.

And, it doesn’t seem to motivate anyone, either on the eighth, or ninth, floor of the County Office Building that hundreds of Correction Officers demonstrated for two hours at the seat of county government, a few weeks ago, demanding the appointment of a new, full-time, Corrections Commissioner, or that hundreds of thousands of dollars per year continues to be needlessly fed to unscrupulous food venders, and drug dealers, by the County Department of Social Services. Given the fact that residents of Westchester County are, without question, paying the highest property taxes in the entire nation, one might reasonably expect more sensitivity to issues of waste and corruption on the part of elected County officials. However, it would appear that most Westchester taxpayers do not yet realize that it’s their bull that’s being gored.

It’s time to Wake Up Westchester! The checks and balances that one normally presupposes exist at every level of representative government simply are overridden in Westchester County. In short, we have a Democratic County Executive, and a seventeen-member County Legislature, two thirds of whose members are also Democrats. However, entirely too many of those Democratic Legislators owe their election to financial support directly and indirectly under the control of Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz, Jose Alvarado, Marty Ragowsky, Chairman Bill Ryan, to name just a few; and there are more.

For the most part these individuals, under the virtual control of Schwartz, are the same kind of hand puppets that appointees such as Election Commissioner Reggie LaFayette, and Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Belfiore, and scores of others, such as Combined Probation/Corrections Commissioner Rocco Pozzi, are for the County Executive’s Office, and specifically the self-serving, corrupt, agenda of Larry Schwartz. Though elected to be individual, and free, voices, speaking on behalf of their constituents, those members of the County Legislature, beholden to Schwartz, are merely another vote in his pocket.

How else is it a fact that Westchester Taxpayers are paying $87 million for solid waste removal over five years, when the County had the option more than two years ago to renew their existing contract for only $70 million with a carter who Commissioner Landi admitted had done “a good job?” How else is it a fact that in March of 2000 the County Executive’s Office, without putting it out to bid, granted Lightpath, a wholly owned subsidiary
of Cablevision, a $23.5 million contract, over five years to set up a communication system.

What taxpayers need to understand is that the Connecticut carter, that is getting $17 million extra is a company that the City of New York specifically would not do business with because of its Mob connections, and Cablevision just happens to be the sole franchise holder of the privilege to operate a commercial cable network within Westchester County, a franchise granted by the County Executive’s Office. Sound a little incestuous? Is there any wonder that Janine Rose, and NEWS 12 go out of their way to avoid embarrassing the County Executive?

At the time the County Legislature was considering the solid waste contract in committee, Larry Schwartz came down from the ninth floor, stood at the doorway to the meeting room, and, one-at-a-time, motioned each one of the legislators under his influence away from the table to hear his arm-twisting remarks. Any taxpayer who doesn’t understand that it was his bull getting gored that day shouldn’t be operating a checking account.

Finally, quite apart from the financial consequences of the ‘death-grip’ Larry Schwartz has over County Government, and the siphoning of taxpayer resources to Mob operatives, residents must consider the potential consequences for their safety and well-being, and that of their loved ones, posed by a County Jail operated under a less than part-time commissioner, where resentment and criminal activity continue to flourish and where serious physical injury, and even death, has been in the offing in recent years. Taxpayers must heed the warnings of Correction Officers entrusted to deal with those incarcerated, and express their concerns to their County Legislators, as well as to the County Executive’s Office. As the great British philosopher, and statesman, Edmond Burke observed, more than two centuries ago, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

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