Thursday, September 6, 2007

Our Readers Respond...

Not So Fast, Ms. Berger

Dear Editor:

Last night in Hastings was the first in a series of debates involving candidates for the Democratic Party nomination, which will be decided in the primary, on September 18th. Ms. Suzanne Berger, the party’s designee, and its Chairperson, was questioned about her involvement in a no-bid contract from her employer, the law firm Bryan, Cave, which was accepted and voted upon by the Greenburgh Town Board, with Supervisor Paul Feiner in dissent. She denied any inappropriate pressure was put on the Board. But in her recent campaign filings, which listed many thousands of dollars, lawyers from her firm contributed a large percentage of those funds. She denied any quid pro quo. She also, as Chairperson of the Greenburgh Democratic Party, engineered a $5000 contribution from the party treasury that she controls to her campaign. Up until a year ago, when the law
was changed, it was illegal for a political party to contribute to any one side in a primary. She talks about supporting the new ethics code in Greenburgh, but before the ink was dry on the paper it was written upon, she has violated its spirit.

This same law that prohibits contributions from developers to incumbents, allow these same developers to contribute to the Democratic Party and then have the party pass the contributions to Suzanne Berger, Eddie Mae Barnes and to Steve Bass. The public should demand an investigation into the Town’s arrangement with Bryan, Cave, its no-bid 6-7 figure contract, and her connection. In the spirit of the new law she should return all those tainted contributions and reimburse the Democratic Party.

Richard J. Garfunkel,
Tarrytown

Taking The Lid Off The Truth

Dear Editor:

The week before last, Westchester County Department of Correction officials were able to stave off a disturbance within the old jail facility. A housing unit/block within the Old Jail staged a hunger strike. The inmates were protesting issues, one being the recent change in the visiting schedule.

An inmate described it as “racially discriminatory because the jail has a predominance of black inmates. The new
schedule is from 9 to 5 daily, as if black families are sitting at home, not working”. Many lawyers are complaining about the new schedule also.

Other issues included the high price of commissary items, recreation equipment; and the newly imposed lockdown procedures which affects the old jail. The lockdown procedures differed between the old jail, new jail and penitentiary. The old jail has or had an 18-hour lock-in of inmates. The new jail and Penitentiary
allow inmates to be unlocked/out from 7:30am until 10:30pm daily with the exception of the population
count. The count takes place between shifts at 2:30pm for the 7-3 shift and the inmates are locked down for the count which takes approximately one hour. Note the population of a housing unit in the Penitentiary could be 60 inmates and in the new jail the count is 44 necessitating the need of a lockdown to count and control movement.

The old jail housing unit handles an average of 30 inmates and only half of the unit is allowed unlocked for dayroom privileges at one time. The day in the old jail starts out with one side utilizing the dayroom from 8:30am
until 11:00am locking down to be served lunch. After lunch a switching of sides occurs at 12:00pm and the other side now comes out for the dayroom. This side would normally remain locked down in the dayroom through the count until 4:00pm which is dinner. The new procedures require all inmates be locked down in their cells for the
count, as a means to instill uniformity of policies and procedures to match those of the Penitentiary and new jail.

The old jail unit is the only unit that locks down for all meals so the 2:30 count which concludes at 3:30 right before the 4:00pm dinner ends the dayroom actually at 2:30pm. The dayroom privileges are now reduced to almost being locked down in a cell all day long Punitive segregation is a 24-hour lockdown with one hour recreation and a half hour hygiene so what’s the difference of three hours. Not well thought out!

Two inmates were held responsible for the action; one was sent to punitive segregation and the other
was shipped out. The following day another housing unit joined the protest planning to flood the jail, but
their efforts were quickly thwarted.

The issue with recreation speaks for itself. The inmates are taken outside to a yard or gymnasium
and thrown one basketball for up to thirty inmates. No other equipment is available for exercising for
the releasing of stress. Where do the funds earned from outrageous commissary commissions go because it
is certainly not funding equipment.

We won’t even begin to discuss the issues of commissary in this letter. All of this comes as a result of
Westchester County’s Department of Correction’s attempt to gain National Accreditation which would
justify Commissioner Joseph Spano’s politically influenced rise to power and fame.

I don’t believe this to be the end of the problems, it’s just the beginning.

Well Informed!!!

Response To Camacho Column

Dear Editor:

I am a software architect working for Westchester County Government for 24 years. I read Eridania
Camacho’s article in the August 30, 2007 edition and I agree with her. Westchester County does not give Hispanics any opportunity for promotion to decision-making positions, for example:

Since I was promoted to my Software Architect position some 8 years ago, and one year later I
received my Masters degree in Information Systems, I have applied and taken 6 promotional tests for
higher positions. Either I got no reply to my requests or just a “maybe next year”, ‘get-around’ replies from
my managers. In those events where I was told that I needed to get bet-ter training in computer programming
and had no chance to be sent by the County to an educational center and learn new computer techniques, I took self-training courses and learned the topics and subjects and proved to others my learned and practical experiences.

However, it was still “not enough to ful ll the positions.” I am currently half-way to completing my Doctorate degree in Management Information Systems. However, it is still “not enough-to-ful- l a position”.

Others, non-Hispanics, more lucky than I and, with much less education, have quali ed for these positions. Maybe we should asked why?

Cesar Sanchez

Reader Calls For Better Guardian Fact Check

Dear Editor:

I write in connection with your article in the August 23rd edition regarding Chief David Hall and Captain Marraccini of the Harrison Police Department. Your article referred to me as the Harrison Town Attorney as well as Jonathan Kraut, the Deputy Village Attorney. The article states that Mr. Kraut and I are receiving “$10,000.00 annual stipends in addition to their salaries, to handle the negotiations with these rms over their commercial vehicle violations” in support of an alleged RICO-type enterprise.

Next time, check your facts before you print such allegations. Mr. Kraut and I, as well as Village Attorney
Fred Castiglia and Deputy Village Attorney Joseph Latwin are receiving $5,000.00 annual stipends from the Town of Harrison. This is not for negotiating with commercial drivers ticketed by the Harrison Police Department, but for plea- bargaining summonses issued only by the New York State Police, which are primarily speeding and other moving violations. The Harrison Police Department prosecutes and plea-bargains their own summonses, including summonses issued to commercial vehicles.

Had Mr. Blassberg checked the actual Town Board Resolution that authorized the annual stipends, or had he attempted to discuss this issue with me, he would have been able to print the truth and not the factual inaccuracies “reportedly” told to him by others.

Frank P. Allegretti
Town Attorney, Town of Harrison


Editor’s Note:

We assume full responsibility for incorrectly stating that attorneys involved in negotiating vehicular summonses were receiving $10,000.00 annual stipends when in fact those stipends are only $5,000.00. It would appear,
however, that the total for such legal services nevertheless amounts to $20,000.00 annually. We regret that inaccuracy and agree with attorney Allegretti that our account would’ve been more accurate had we contacted him or one of the other stipend recipients to verify the facts.

Thank you for bringing the error to our attention.

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