Thursday, June 19, 2008

Westchester Guardian.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

In Our Opinion...

Re: Greg Ball

If nothing else can be said for Greg Ball, Assemblyman from the 99th Assembly District, he’s not someone that people in the Lower Hudson Valley have neutral feelings about, whether they are residents of his district or not. Mr. Ball has been essentially a one-issue politician, and, despite his claims to the contrary, the thrust and passion of his political odyssey has been all about undocumented Latino immigrants.

Ball’s district covers parts of three counties; in Putnam, specifically the Towns of Patterson, Southeast, which most Westchester residents know as Brewster, and Carmel. In Dutchess, the Village of Pawling, and in Northern Westchester, the Towns of North Salem, Somers, and Yorktown Heights. A resident of Carmel, one might rightly conclude, he is best known by the Putnam Republican Party.

More than a year ago, Ball appeared on News12’s Newsmakers program opposite The Guardian’s own columnist, Dr. Maria Munoz Kantha. That program went a long way to spotlight Greg Ball’s ethnically-focused agenda, and the shallowness of his understanding of the breadth of local issues. The Putnam Republican organization has made their sentiments regarding Mr. Ball very clear in nominating John Degnan, former Mayor of the Village of Brewster, and one-time Democrat, for the Assembly seat now held by Ball. At the same time, Democrats from Northern Westchester last week came out in support of Degnan, a Republican, demonstrating, if nothing else, that
there is bi-partisan resistance to Greg Ball and his agenda.

Ball has made some serious political blunders. Upon assuming office in January 2007, he made a very bold declaration that the Assembly was part of “the most dysfunctional State Legislature in the Nation”, a statement hardly calculated to engender cooperation and assistance with a freshman colleague. Politicians who prey upon constituents’ fears and ethnic prejudices are merely that, self-serving politicians. At times wild-eyed, Greg Ball is all about Greg Ball.We do not see a public servant standing in his shoes. We congratulate the Republicans of Putnam County and the Democrats of Northern Westchester for placing principle and public service above blind party loyalty.

• • •


Re: Gary Kriss

Does anybody in their right mind really believe that unethical, and perhaps unlawful, spending and other misconduct in Westchester
County Government begins and ends with Gary Kriss? Of course not.

And, here are a couple of points to ponder.



What if, instead of the Chief Advisor to the Chairman of the County Legislature, Bill Ryan, we were instead scrutinizing the Chief Advisor to County Executive Andy Spano, none other than Susan Tolchin? And, what if the investigation looked into nepotistic employment influence, nephews, off- spring, etc.? Would District Attorney Janet DiFiore be so quick to jump in and gore Andy’s bull?

We think not!

Our Readers Respond...


Editor’s Note: The following letter to Harrison Supervisor/Mayor Joan Walsh, is reproduced at the request of the senders.

Dear Mayor Walsh:



As citizens of the Town of Harrison, we support your decision to seek an investigation against several members of the Harrison Police Department. We have read about and heard of numerous disturbing complaints against several high-ranking officers, subordinate officers, and Chief Hall himself. It is clear that Chief Hall will not conduct an investigation of these members because he is named as a defendant in several of the lawsuits (i.e. the camera in the locker room and the falsified check) with the officers subject to the current investigations of the teen sexual harassment and Corolla complaints. We also have reason to believe that the Republican members of the board may not agree to a suspension and fair investigation of these officers because Chief Hall and Captain Marraccini are big contributors to the Republican Party.


For example, a fund raiser party was held on behalf of the Republicans prior to the last election by Captain Marraccini. We hope this does not sway their opinion. In addition, the District Attorney’s Office will not give a fair investigation of the accused members of the department. As we have seen in the Viscome incident, the check fraud claim, and the camera in the locker room claim, the DA’s Office will not investigate these members (most likely stemming from their cooperation with the DA’s Office in the Viscome incident). We agree with you completely in that the accused members “cannot be allowed to investigate themselves.”

As long-term residents of Harrison, we are very upset with the incidents in question. It would pain us greatly to see no action taken in connection with potentially valid complaints against the police by our fellow citizens. It would suggest that no matter what the high ranking members of the department do, and no matter how severe, they will not have to answer for their actions because they are given the final say in who is investigated and who is not. That would totally discredit our system of checks and balances, and allow them to do what they please. We are not suggesting that anyone has engaged in illegal or improper conduct. However, when a complaint is made against the police department’s high officials, in this case more than ten (against the same people), these matters should certainly be looked into, as you have stated. All allegations against the Police Chief and/or Captain should be investigated, just like allegations brought against any private civilian would be investigated. Chief Hall felt the need to investigate and suspend two other officers for an incident that yielded no criminal complaints being filed, so why should a more serious complaint of sexual harassment not be treated the same way?


Corrupt members of any police department will use their power and intimidation tactics to silence citizens whose rights they violate. When one citizen comes forth, it opens the door for the rest. Currently, we feel that this is the reason why so many are now coming to the surface.


One of the articles we have read was disturbingly titled, Harrison, A Town Of Fear Of Its Police Department. We feel that your actions will help begin to make that fear start to disappear.


We chose you as our mayor because we feel you correctly expressed your discontent with the Harrison Police Department’s recent activity. We are glad that you have now decided to do something in order to protect your citizens.


Should an investigation produce evidence to support any of the accusations made against the offending officers, it will further prove that your election as Mayor of Harrison was the right choice.


Concerned Residents of Harrison


MEMORANDUM


To: Paul Feiner, Joan Gronowski, Co-Chairs, Committee to Eliminate Westchester County Government


From: Anthony Futia, Member, Westchester County Budget Study Committee


In pursuing the study on our county government budget, looking at ways to cut or eliminate Westchester County Government entirely, I feel strongly about the following: I am a resident and property owner in Westchester County, whose family also has homes in Greene and Schoharie Counties in New York.


In both Greene and Schoharie Counties, police coverage is provided by the “Office of the Sheriff” and the New York State Police, not a Public Safety Commissioner. We contribute to the Sheriff’s Association every year and receive a directory,which lists a Sheriff for Westchester County.


On review and research, it appears to make more sense and benefit Westchester County residents to have a County Sheriff’s Office responsible to and elected by the people as opposed to a County Police Department beholding to the County Executive and the County Board of Legislators.


I feel it is a dangerous situation where the police are responsible to the politicians instead of the residents. In today’s Journal News, “Spano’s Pal May House County Cops” at 450 Saw Mill River Road “it’s a good solution for our needs” said Kiernan



O’Leary, a spokesman for Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Belfiore; also Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz said, “It would also allow the County to cancel a $14.2 million project that had been planned to build a new public safety headquarters in Valhalla.” Note that $14.2 million exceeds the $10 million requirement for a referendum and that the 2008 budget lists only $9 million for a new public safety headquarters.

I am requesting that our review committee investigate the feasibility of restructuring the present county police department from a Commissioner/Sheriff controlled by and responsible to the County Executive and Board of Legislators to a true “Office of the Sheriff ” responsible only to the people.

Attached herein is data for review; I have used for initial comparisons for Westchester County – Erie County which has the largest sheriff ’s office in New York State and is the fourteenth largest in the nation:

Total Area In Square Miles:

Westchester County – 500 square miles
Erie County – 1,227 square miles

Population:

Westchester County – 923,459
Erie County – 950,265

Cities, Towns, Villages & Reservations:

Westchester County has 45 cities, towns, villages and no reservations; the largest city is Yonkers
Erie County has 43 cities, towns, villages and two reservations; the largest city is Buffalo

The Office of the Sheriff is the oldest office under the system of common law in the United States. The powers and the duties of the Sheriff are embodied in the Constitution of each state and is an integral part of government in the State of New York.

As the oldest Constitutional law enforcement office, the sheriff is charged with maintaining peace in all municipalities, villages and towns
within his jurisdiction and the care and custody of persons pending court action. The Sheriff also serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Courts and responsible for correctional facilities management.

The Sheriff ’s organization is always referred to as “the Office of the Sheriff ”, never incorrectly “the Sheriff ’s department”. This is because the Sheriff ’s office is independent of the Federal and State governments, not just a “department” of any of the 62 counties in New York State. Fifty-five counties elect a sheriff; the exceptions are New York City (which encompasses five counties) and the Mayor appoints a sheriff. Westchester County Commissioner/Sheriff and the Nassau County Sheriff are both appointed by the County Executive.

I’m looking forward to exploring the possibility of the financial and operational feasibility of an “Office of the Sheriff ” in Westchester County.

Anthony Futia,
North White Plains

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