Thursday, March 20, 2008
In Our Opinion...
If Only He Had Listened To The “Better Angels”
While it is true that the pages of this newspaper have been used on several occasions to disseminate mostly negative information about Eliot Spitzer, at times detailing activities and relationships with certain individuals - Jeanine Pirro, Jack Gaffney, Mike Cherkasky, Larry Schwartz, and others - that suggested that, both in his capacity as State Attorney General and as Governor, he was someone other than who he would have had us believe he was; nevertheless, We will resist the temptation to shout, “We told you so.” Instead, We mourn the precious opportunity he frittered away.
Elected by a plurality of nearly 70 percent in 2006, a record statement of confidence in any candidate for governor in New York State history, Spitzer had barely defeated Dennis Vacco for Attorney General by little more than 22,000 votes eight years earlier. Perhaps, not so coincidentally, those 22,000 votes were his margin of victory here in Westchester, a fact that Larry Schwartz and Andy Spano never let him forget. Once in the Governor’s Mansion he named Schwartz to his transition team. Despite his cozy relationship with Jeanine Pirro and his unwillingness to investigate the formal allegations brought by former Yonkers mayor, Republican John Spencer, against her, contained in a 14-page document prepared by corporate counsel; and, despite his failures with respect to Tony Castro’s bid to become Westchester District Attorney in 2005, We still held out hope that Eliot would rise to the occasion and be the mensch, as governor, everyone expected him to be. The cover of our January 11, 2007 edition showed him at the podium, the only one on the platform at his New Years’ Day inauguration not wearing an overcoat, accompanied by a headline asking, “Will He Deliver?”
The son of wealthy real estate-owning parents, a graduate of Princeton, and Harvard Law School, Eliot Spitzer’s work history, prior to election as governor, had been mostly as a prosecutor, first, for six years, in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office under DA Robert Morgenthau following a brief stint as law clerk to Federal Judge Robert W. Sweet. Then, following six years in private practice, between 1992- 98, he returned to public employment as State Attorney General. In that capacity, he took on several high-profile prosecutions, standing up for the interests of ordinary citizens against major corporations, Wall Street brokerages and investment
firms, and the insurance industry, most prominent amongst them.
Following 12 years of George Pataki’s administration, a governorship marked by the appointment of many individuals who ultimately stole from, and mismanaged, one state agency after another; not to mention legislative paralysis between the Republican-dominated State Senate and the Democratic-controlled State Assembly, Albany had become nationally recognized as the nation’s most dysfunctional state government. And, so it was that Eliot Spitzer, a man who had appeared to have done so much good as Attorney General, and who promised, “Everything changes from Day One,” was elected governor in a landslide.
Sincerely hopeful that he would deliver on his promise of “Government That Places Peoples’ Interest First, Openness and Integrity First,” We presented a short list of vital issues in that January 11, 2007 edition that We wished the new governor would effectively deal with. That list included public school financing, reform of the Uni-fied Court System, Medicaid and health insurance reform, and affordable housing.
Looking ahead, We suggested, “Citizens must bear in mind that, as Attorney General, Mr. Spitzer carried the Big Stick of possible prosecution, which was, no doubt, very persuasive in furthering the interests of the People. As governor, he will need to employ far more persuasion and far less intimidation.” Somehow, Eliot Spitzer never quite made that transition from prosecutor to chief executive. Nor was he able to follow his own Inaugural Day directive, “We must listen to the better angels of our nature.”
Our Readers Respond.
A Pataki Scandal?
Some time ago an article appeared in your newspaper about former Governor Pataki and the corruption in his administration.
It is no surprise since Governor Pataki’s administration has been reputed to be one of the most corrupt in recent New York
Just the other day, a front page article appeared in The New York Times concerning Pataki’s Virginia campaign fund where
some $2 million was spent on questionable expenditures. The corrupt practices of this individual began before he went to Albany as the Governor. In this regard, I call your attention to an article that appeared in The New York Times on August 18, 1994 entitled Pataki Attacked Over Arrangements For His Father’s Care. This article appeared during his campaign for governor. His opponent suggested that a certain real estate conveyance took unfair advantage of a state-funded nursing home. However, it overlooked the possible unethical and illegal conduct of two lawyers involved in that conveyance.
The article indicated that the nursing home had a general rule that it could claim assets owned up to one year before a person entered the home. In this case, George Pataki’s father entered the nursing home in August of 1993. However, a deed of the father’s real property shows that it was conveyed in January 1992, eighteen months before the senior Pataki entered the nursing home. If the conveyance was actually made at that time, the real property would be legitimately out of the reach of the nursing home. However, the article questioned when the actual transfer was made since the deed was later recorded when the senior Pataki was entering the nursing home. At that time, he was 82 years of age and suffering from dementia.
The transaction is suspect because a lawyer would not normally wait eighteen months to record a deed, particularly when
the transaction involved family property. Since the deed was dated and notarized by Michael Finnegan, George Pataki’s law partner
and campaign counsel, it could be assumed that he prepared the document as well.
George Pataki was subsequently elected Governor and Michael Finnegan was appointed counsel to the governor. James A. Burns, a member of the board of the nursing home in 1993 when the senior Pataki took residence, was appointed by the Governor to an $89,000 a year job as Director of the State Office of Fire Prevention and Control. This appointment was reported in The New York Times on May 2, 1995.
Based on these facts and simple logic, there is every indication that the deed was actually prepared and executed at the time
that it was recorded. However, it was pre-dated in order to remove the asset of the senior Pataki from the reach of the nursing
home. If that was the case, George Pataki and Michael Finnegan, as attorneys, participated in a fraud upon the nursing home and
Michael Finnegan swore to facts that were untruthful as notary public.
As I’m sure you are aware, attorneys are held to a high standard of ethical conduct even when they are not acting in their capacity as attorneys or representing a client. The conduct of these two attorneys certainly bears investigating. Since there is no statute of limitations for attorney misconduct, this investigation would still be timely.
As we all know, the powerful in society as well as our elected officials very often escape scrutiny and sanction for their deeds simply because of who they are and the positions that they hold. Fortunately, there is the free press that exposes corruption through their diligent screening of circumstances and events. I will leave it to you to see that justice is served in this instance. This letter is written anonymously in order to prevent retaliation by the individuals involved.
An Interested And Concerned Citizen
Polvere Fan Poses Question
I read Fred Polvere’s column every week and think he usually “tells it like it is”. But I’m mystified by his recent statement: “Following the Spanish Civil War, an American major was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for using ‘torture by water’ on a suspected insurgent.”
The Spanish Civil War ran from July 1936 to March 1939; in this case, the “insurgents” were the pro-Fascist rebels led by General Francisco Franco, who eventually overthrew Spain’s legitimate republican government with the help of weapons and “volunteers” sent by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. For its part, the Soviet Union sent some weapons and “volunteers” in an unsuccessful effort to help the losing side. Every government went along with the polite fiction that the war was a struggle only among Spaniards, but everyone also knew that the so called “volunteers” from Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union were members of their respective armed forces acting under orders.
Thousands of genuine volunteers also came from many countries (including the United States) to fight in the war; most of them fought for the republicans. None of them had the official support of their home governments. Since the US was not officially involved in the war---and at the time was determined to avoid getting involved in Europe’s problems---I don’t see how a serving officer of the United States Armed Forces could have become involved in an incident of torture. Who was he? Who was the “insurgent” he was convicted of torturing? Was he tried by a United States court-martial, or by a Spanish one?
Can someone clarify?
Al Raymond, Crugers