Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Nice Try, Larry!

Ten months ago in an effort to facilitate his presidentially-mandated investigation of “corruption in the suburbs north of New York
City,” United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael J. Garcia, published a toll free number, 1-877-ENDGRAFT (1-877-363-4723), encouraging citizens to come forward with information “to report abuses by public officials.” Since that announcement
hundreds of individuals have come forward with complaints and leads. Those complaints have involved virtually every aspect of contact with public officials throughout Westchester, including judicial and administrative abuses.

Several months ago a great deal of attention was drawn to an apparent RICOtype criminal enterprise in the Matrimonial Part of the Westchester Supreme Court. So many complaints were received by both the FBI and the Office of Court Administration, regarding the activities between particular judges and certain divorce attorneys, that Chief Judge Judith Kaye was compelled to insist that Administrative
Judge Francis Nicolai bring about an “historic rotation,” removing four sitting judges in June of last year. Judges are elected, and Larry Schwartz and Giulio Cavallo have had a corruptive role in a number of judicial races.

In the Criminal Part of the County Court there were allegations of collusion and manipulation by DA Jeanine Pirro with regard to selection of defense attorneys, and the outcome of some cases. There is, in fact, a much broader investigation into numerous aspects of former DA Pirro’s conduct in office. Larry Schwartz and Guilio Cavallo, together, and individually, played decisive roles in Mrs. Pirro’s
re-elections in 1997 and 2001, both of which were fixed contests. More recently, issues of ethnically-based voter disenfranchisement,
and election fraud have surfaced, and are being investigated, and litigated in federal court. The Justice Department is actively engaged
in dealing with problems in Port Chester that have effectively barred Latino candidates from succeeding in village elections. The Justice Department was present to ensure that there would be no “hanky panky” last November in the contest between Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Nick Spano for State Senate; no theft of an election such as occurred in 2004. Larry Schwartz and Giulio Cavallo were deeply involved
in that election fraud.

In recent weeks a struggle has emerged between the County Executive’s Office and the Judiciary, as well as the County Legislature. The issue involves a power-play by Larry Schwartz, who not only runs the Ninth Floor, but also totally controls the County Department of Public Safety. Schwartz is attempting to put the issuance of pistol permits entirely under the authority and control of County Police Commissioner
Tom BelFiore, removing elected, sitting judges from the review, and approval process, and any, and all, transparency or accountability as well. Both Schwartz and Cavallo are deeply implicated in the Pistol Permit Issue. Larry Schwartz, Tom BelFiore and Nick Spano were all in-
volved in the misappropriation of a $100,000 state grant, that was intended to bolster the effort to locate unregistered guns by the County Police Pistol Permit Unit, but which was instead used to provide a personal chauffeur for Nick’s father, former County Clerk Leonard Spano. As if to add insult to injury, the driver employed for Spano was Terry Malone, an officer in the Pistol Permit Unit, thus removing both the funds and the officer from the vital task of tracking down unregistered handguns. One such unretrieved weapon, a .357 Magnum in the hands of Steven Armento, took the life of New York City Police Officer Daniel Enchautegui. Cavallo, appointed by the County Executive’s Office to a citizen’s board of the County Police Department, for his part, is rumored to have solicited $5,000 fees to use his influence in obtaining pistol permits.

In recent days New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Office has indicated its intention to be deeply involved in the investigation and prosecution of unlawful activities involving public integrity. Teaming up with the DA of Albany County, David Soares, the Attorney General will be looking into the process by which state grants have been assigned, and actually put to use. They will be looking for
instances of misappropriation precisely like the one Larry Schwartz was involved in. As these state and federal corruption fighting initiatives
have been announced with increasing frequency, the names of certain individuals in County Government, certain power-brokers, have been repeatedly identified, Larry Schwartz and Giulio Cavallo prominent amongst them.

Now, against the background of all the official attention being brought to the forefront in the effort to expose and root out public corruption, particularly here in Westchester, Larry Schwartz, last week issues a press release announcing that Westchester County had set up a new “misconduct hotline.” Citizens who wished to report “a complaint or a suspicion about a County employee” were urged to contact the County Office of Professional Responsibility at 914-864-7850. And, oh yes, that office “is part of the Department of Public Safety.”

The thought occurred to The Advocate that there just might be a little conflict of interest here, given the fact that Larry Schwartz created
the hotline, Larry Schwartz is totally in control of the Department of Public Safety, and, Larry Schwartz is most apt to be directly or indirectly involved with those whose activity will be reported, if, indeed, the report is not about Larry himself.

A call to the hotline number produced a courteous response from an officer who was unable to deal with my questions regarding the obvious conflict of interest. A call to Susan Tolchin found her suddenly “in a meeting.” A request made to her assistant for a return call from Susan went unheeded.

Nice try Larry!

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