Thursday, March 22, 2007

Our Readers Respond...

Greenburgh Board of Ethics Member Resigns in Protest

Dear Editor:

After 15 years of service on the Board of Ethics of the Town of Greenburgh, I have resigned as a member and chairman. I no longer have confidence in the integrity of the present own Board which by inaction and attempts at political intimidation has rendered the Board of Ethics impotent. The Town Board has repeatedly failed to fill vacancies on the Board of Ethics, leaving it without a quorum and frustrating
its ability to conduct business. On March 1, I was notified that the Town Board had not reappointed Louis Schenkel as a member of the Ethics Board. Mr.Schenkel is Associate General Counsel for four major New York City hospitals and has the responsibility for overseeing all ethical and conflict of interest issues of more than 17,000 employees.

Since the Ethics Board was revived fifteen years ago, Mr.Schenkel has served with integrity and distinction and was unanimously reappointed by four previous Town Boards. It was not until Aug. 1, 2006, a month after Mr. Schenkel’s term expired, that he was scheduled to meet with the Town Board. After waiting for an hour, he was told that the Board could not see him and he would have to come back. On Aug. 8, after waiting for an hour and a half, Mr. Schenkel met with Town Board members and for an hour they didn’t discuss his credentials, but spent the time criticizing the Board of Ethics. At the end of the meeting, I asked the Town Board members to act expeditiously so that the Ethics Board would have a quorum. Without his appointment, there would be only two of the five-member Board of Ethics remaining,
Mrs.Robin J.Bauer, an attorney for over thirty years, a senior attorney with the Legal Aid Society and former counsel to the state Grievance Committee, and myself.

The Town Board later took a vote; Supervisor Paul Feiner and Councilwoman Eddie Mae Barnes voted to reappoint Mr. Schenkel; Councilmen Steven Bass and Francis Sheehan voted no, and Councilwoman Diana Juettner deferred her vote. It was not until eight months later that Mr.Schenkel was advised that he was not reappointed.

After repeated criticism in the media of the manner in which the Board of Ethics was handling a matter involving Mr.Feiner’s request for an Ethics opinion, I met with the Town Board on July 5, 2006. I advised them that finally, at my insistence, the District Attorney’s Office officially notified me only four days earlier that the complaints involving Mr.Feiner’s campaign contributions were not criminal in nature and the matter was closed in their office. I advised the Town Board that as soon as they reappointed Mr.Schenkel we would have a
quorum and the matter would be resolved within a week. That was eight months ago. As of March 1, 2007, the Board of Ethics
still did not have a quorum.

In its fifteen-year existence, no opinion of the Board of Ethics has ever been challenged or appealed but once. In 2003, the Town Board requested Councilman Bass to recuse himself from a pending matter due to a conflict of interest. Mr.Bass refused to do so and the Town Board referred the matter to the board of Ethics which then twice voted unanimously that he should recuse himself. I then received a telephone call at home from a county legislator and a letter from Mr.Bass’ attorney stating that he was advising him not to recuse himself. To my knowledge, Mr.Bass did not do so, despite the long standing position of the Town Board for over thirty years “its intention to abide by the opinions issued by the Board of Ethics”.

On July 11, 2006, the Board of Ethics and Town Board received a letter from a town resident alleging that Mr. Bass improperly received campaign contributions. The resident further requested a review of the campaign contributions of all council members. I advised him that under the Code of Ethics, our Board could only render advisory opinions at the request of the Town Board and that his request had been forwarded to them for appropriate action. It is now nine months later and nothing has been done.

Campaign contribution reform is long overdue. When Mr. Sheehan was a candidate for the Town Board he submitted lengthy proposals to the League of Women Voters calling for campaign contribution reform and the right of a Town resident to file a complaint directly to the Board of Ethics. He has been a Town Councilman for 15 months and no action has been taken on those issues other than to impede the Board of Ethics in its duties.

The Board of Ethics must vigorously defend its responsibility to be independently free from political and partisan pressure and influence. I am unable to do so under the present Town Board. I have served our Country, State, County and Town in the enforcement of the law for over 50 years, and in all those years I have not compromised my principles or duties. I will not now.

I have been advised that Robin J.Bauer,Esq. has joined me in resigning from the Board of Ethics.

Thomas A. Facelle
Justice (ret),
NYS Supreme Court
Brigadier General (ret),

Reader Apprciates The Guardian

The Editor:

I just want to congratulate you on such an informative paper. I look forward to reading it weekly. Your staff should be commended. The topics are relative and up to date, with old references for us to use as a guide to do research.

I especially enjoy reading The Advocate and Freedom isn’t Free articles. I have cut out issues & mailed to others, the topics were that good.
Please continue the great work you are doing, it is really appreciated. Please convey my thanks to your staff.

Gladys Ramsey

Reader Appalled by Treatment of Jing and Tristram Kelly

Dear Editor:

I am a stay-at-home mother of three and an American born and raised in NYC, who lives in Westchester. Not that this has any bearing, but I just wanted to make clear who I am. I am writing to you as I happened to be food shopping and came across a newspaper called the Westchester Guardian and saw your article on Jing Kelly who I first read about back when she and her son return to the United States to
clear her name, and was arrested.

I have to tell you that your article has made me extremely upset and that my whole day was anti-law, not to mention distorted. I’m a big advocate for the children and never really ever get involved especially in news articles as I don’t always get the full story. But the very first article on her I first thought she should have just been given a slap on the wrist even though she committed a crime of custodial interference.

She did it not for herself, but for her child and the fact that her husband no longer was living I felt the case should have been dismissed. Also,
the fact that the in-laws got custody is the BIGGEST joke of them all. Boy they must have some POWER and according to the way the Judge is behaving throughout this entire case what is her take? Or, rather how much are they paying her outside the court room?

I have personal friends who have had difficulty having children. So when they went to adopt an American child age didn’t matter, they were told that it is extremely difficult and that the government likes to keep the children with their natural parents whether the parents are in rehab or jail, didn’t matter. Yet, in Jing’s case her child was taken away and never returned! And her in-laws are doing their hardest to keep her from getting her own child.

I didn’t know that our government catered to people with a revengeful motive. The government and the power-hungry people in this
Country have been given wayyyyyy too much power. Jing’s only true crime was escaping her abusive husband who, by the way, no longer exists, and yet she cannot have custody of her only child.

What I couldn’t understand at first was considering that her husband had passed away and the abuse he had done to her, why she does not have her son. I understand that I am just a reader and don’t really know the gist of the entire story, but coming from the news it sounds like she had done her time living with the man she married and who abused her.

I know that there is always two sides, but I’ll say it again, her husband, the only true problem party in this case, no longer exist so why does she not have her son and why do the in-laws continue to badger her by fighting to keep her son away from her? Tristram is Jing’s son!!!!

If Jing was smart she should appeal to the American public and fight fire with fire, go to Warner Brothers or a famous celebrity and have the public make the decision as it will break their hearts to see what the courts are doing to this poor women.

Lisa Kenny

Editor’s Note:

Jing Kelly, who was voluntarily returning to the United States with her two-year-old infant son, Tristram, when she was arrested and her child was kidnapped by Gail Hiler, sister of Jing’s deceased, abusive husband, in Vancouver, British Columbia under arrangements made with Canadian authorities by then-DA Jeanine Pirro. Ms. Kelly, by definition, because of voluntarily returning, was never guilty of Custodial
Interference in the First Degree, a felony, as she was overcharged by Pirro. A jury of her peers recognized that fact and found her guilty merely of Misdemeanor Custodial Interference.

Ms. Kelly’s appeal of that conviction was recently heard by a panel of the State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, sitting in White Plains. That appeal was essentially based upon the trial court’s refusal to permit Kelly’s attorneys to offer an affirmative defense.

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