Thursday, July 17, 2008
In Our Opinion...
The Height Of Arrogance; County Board of Legislators
Make The Best Case Yet For Abolishing County Government
We were there, in the chambers of the County Board of Legislators, last Tuesday, July 8, when the Democratic majority demonstrated, once again, just how arrogantly they could treat their constituents in blind obedience to the dictates of the “Emperor” of the County Executive’s Office, Larry Schwartz. The time had come when Larry, and his front man, Andy Spano, would reward Jon Halpern, their friend, and generous campaign contributor, by taking his building, that he hasn’t been able to unload for five years, off his hands in exchange for 5.6 million of our tax dollars.
Oh, they had tried before to rationalize adding this 85,000-square-foot leaky, moldy old hulk to their inventory of more than four million square feet; at one point suggesting they would move the entire Board of Elections operation to the 450 Saw Mill River Road location in Ardsley. Never mind the underutilized space on Executive Boulevard in Yonkers, in Elmsford, and elsewhere, and that big parking lot right next door to the Election Board there in White Plains. Don’t even think about it.
And, there was no reason, after all, to be thinking about economizing. As far as Larry’s lackeys on the Board are concerned, things are financially wonderful here in Westchester. Besides, we’ve got to put those Stimulus Checks to work somehow. Friends don’t let friends, especially heavy contributors, get stuck with a big old building nobody wants. The Board had consented to 10 speakers from amongst those who had come out to the meeting; three minutes allotted to each. Not one spoke in favor of the scheme.
Paul Feiner, Supervisor of Greenburgh, and resident of Ardsley, told the legislators, amongst whom he once sat, “We’re overpaying, and this is not the time to spend the People’s money.” Then he shared with them, “The owner is seeking a 90 percent reduction in tax assessment. The County shouldn’t spend more than $1.2 million.” He concluded, “It smells like a gift.”
Anthony Futia, taxpayer advocate, declared, “It looks like a done deal with the main purpose of the authorities to get around a referendum.” Futia had exposed the ugly truth. They had bifurcated the package, the purchase for $5.6 million, and the repair for $7.5 million, in order to sneak around their own law, a bonding cap requiring them to put any such proposition before County taxpayers in a referendum if it exceeds $10 million.
Richard Garfunkel asked, “What about home rule?” He was acknowledging Legislator Tom Abinanti’s opposition to the purchase. He reiterated the dilapidated condition of the building with mold and asbestos problems, and asked why the old voting machines couldn’t be kept in the cheapest possible storage for the mandatory two years and the new machines, compliant with the HAVA legislation, stored in their place. He told the legislators, “The purchase of this building has been pushed on the taxpayers for a while.”
Guardian Publisher Sam Zherka opened his remarks with, “I want to know the urgency of spending $13 million dollars.” He went on to remind the Board, “Mounting fuel costs and foreclosures affect those who must work hard just to pay taxes. He then said, “I am your boss, and everyone in this room is your boss. I will see that you will no longer be employed if you vote against the interests of the People.”
It truly did not matter to 12 of the 16 legislators present what concerned citizens, as well as the supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, had said. They had come to ram this $13 million political favor down taxpayer’s throats, like it or not. It didn’t matter that Tom Abinanti, a Democrat, in whose district the building stands, would be voting “no” together with Republicans George Oros, Jim Maisano, and Gordon Burrows. So much for Home Rule!
Burrows told his colleagues, “The People can see through this. Five point six million dollars to buy, seven point five million dollars to renovate a building with leaks and a mold problem, that’s falling apart. What are we doing in this county?” We believe Democratic Legislator Marty Rogowky expressed the arrogant attitude and the opinion of the Democratic majority; the best case for abolishing County Government. Rogowsky, apparently distressed that Journal News columnist Phil Reisman, had been diligently shining a spotlight on the Board’s latest rubber-stamp mischief for some time, addressing those in the audience, snidely remarked, “Newspapers and columnists don’t have any obligation to tell the truth.”
It might just turn out that Jim Maisano was hitting the nail on the head when he declared, “Only the County Government will pay $5.6 million for this building. The only winners are Ardsley Partners. It would be interesting to see if someone brings a litigation against this effort to get around the $10 million bond cap.”
Our Readers Respond...
Forgotten Promises, Broken Justice.
I am fortunate to be a member of a distinguished American institution, the du Pont family, and am proud of the role played by my forebears in the founding of our nation. I have witnessed for too long how corrupt our courts and lawyers are, and I can no longer remain silent or passive on this critical issue.
In general, any knowledgeable observer will find that the nation’s court systems- federal, state and local- are rife with a corrupt “buddy system.” I pose the question almost daily whether or not John Grisham has ever written an actual fiction. And as my travels have included
the same routes traveled by my 7th generation grandfather, and his friend President Thomas Jefferson, between New York and Virginia, I have been reluctant to accept one sad fact. The balance of power, the true test of “checks and balances” has somehow been abandoned.
The legal fraternities have indeed “embedded” themselves with one another- more than the general public realizes. Transparency is not a word that is liked in Judicial cloak-rooms and law firms, and if there is transparency, it is so skewed as to be rendered opaque so to prevent proper accountability. The Fix Is In In Virginia, I have witnessed the legal strategy of conflicting-out, an insider’s play where it is nearly impossible to hire a lawyer because individuals intentionally create conflicts of interest by a potential or actual opponent, thus obstructing proper legal advice. Courtroom procedures have reached farcical proportions, where disgruntled and biased judges warm the bench, and one
phone call with perhaps an associated wink and nod will provide the basis for a ruling that money can, and often does buy, whether directly or indirectly. I have observed pleas for integrity and honesty in the justice system summarily disregarded in Virginia, and when I moved to New York, I hoped I would witness a different- lawful - system. As things have turned out, I was completely mistaken!
I have observed countless examples that now support my, and many other’s, belief that our nation’s courts are in a state of complete contrast to what our founding fathers intended. The justice system can be and often is twisted with the speed, and ease, of a telephone call. I
have observed Virginia lawyers collude with their cronies here in New York City to continue to harass clients, while racking up millions – that’s right millions - in fees and expenses, including extended, first class stays at the city’s finest hotels for the bar members and their families, clearly tending to their, not their client’s, business. I am horri-fied to accept this practice of abuse of our national court system as the norm, not merely an anomaly.
In one case, the cost of legal maneuvering and skullduggery has so far cost well over $6 million, as lawyers and judges neatly design pleadings and rulings to keep this travesty alive. I am stunned by the daily reports that pass my desk evidencing a systemic and self-serving attack on the rule of law. Other well known, and not so well known, families and individuals have, and are, suffering similar losses and fi-nancial hardships, as they are forced to pay out counsel, executor, administrator, guardian, trustee and other similar fees in search of justice. An end must be brought to the legal largesse that corrupts our system of justice. It’s bad enough that the complexities and mysteries of the law compel the non-initiated to seek out expensive counsel in an effort to protect their rights and property. When it reaches the point, as well it has, when these same supposed guardians of liberty turn “their” system - and make no mistake the system belongs to them- into no more than a well orchestrated scam to defraud clients, something must be done.
I, for one, have resolved to devote my time and resources, and to recruit others similarly incensed, to shake the foundations of “their” system, letting in the light of transparency and the fresh air of real accountability, while bringing a long overdue end to the old buddy system.
My first action – and I ask that you join me- is to support an effort announced in June by three public interest organizations to form the Public Committee on Attorney Accountability, or PCAC, for short. This organization, currently in its organizational phase, is dedicated to establishing a lawyer disciplinary process controlled by non-attorneys in New York State.
Presently, believe it or not, lawyers review and police the alleged wrong doing of other lawyers. This Alice in Wonderland type of a system, invites unbridled favoritism, graft and corruption. In fact, as I write this, over a dozen federal and state law suits are pending in Manhattan courts, charging that complaints of malpractice, personal attacks and even theft, filed by individuals victimized by attorneys, have been regularly disregarded and covered up by the New York State socalled ‘ethics’ committees. Notably, a former attorney employed by the State
of New York went public in October of 2007 about the wide-spread corruption within New York State’s so-called “justice system” (Anderson v. New York S.D.N.Y 07cv9599).
I agree with the founders of the PCAC that placing non lawyers in charge of the grievance process will work to restore ethical standards to
what today is a fatally flawed process. I sincerely hope that PCAC’s search chairman, Mr. Jack T. Whitely, and his committee lead the charge to let the light of day come into the now darkened cloakrooms of the New York- and this nation’s - judicial system, and make true justice prevail at all levels. This is a needed first step to hold the bench and the bar accountable to the high standards envisioned by President
Jefferson and the other founding fathers. This goal is achievable, and I encourage you to join this long over due effort. The “old boy” network must be put to rest. I ask the public to support PCAC and to embrace the du Pont family motto, RECTITUDINE STO, “I STAND FOR THE RIGHT”- and as we will! Together, we can restore our nation’s justice system.
Mr. du Pont-de Bie Sr is a graduate of the Sorbonne in Paris. He has taught at the JFK University in Buenos Aires, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Higher Education, and the University of Florence, Italy. He is a founding member of the World Council for Gifted And Talented Children and a life member on the Board of the American Creativity Association. Mr. du Pont’s 7th greatgrandfather, Pierre Samuel du Pont De Nemours, was a major participant in the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase with President Thomas Jefferson.
Reader Says Amicone Lacks Ability To Make Hard Decisions
Why cars were leased for all the city workers i still don’t understand. Did they threaten not to take the jobs without a car? After three years knowing the many objections and the cost to the city, why weren’t they recalled and returned to the lessor? Is someone in City Hall going to
tell me that some employee enjoying a good salary, pensions and great health benefits will forego the job because he has no leased car?
Fact be told in a financial crunch such as Yonkers is always in, even “first responders” do not need leased cars. If the City building commissioner has to respond to an emergency and has no personal car, let him call the YPD, they will respond and deliver him sirens screaming.
I have a personal friend of 40 + years who was a deputy building commissioner for NYC when he retired. He lived and lives in lower Westchester, he responded to dozens of late night fires, building collapses, plane crashes etc. and never had a city car. Law clerks do
not need city cars nor does an Inspector General.
This past weekend, a long one, had the same cars sitting in the same spots all weekend long. Across from St. Johns RC Church on St. Johns Avenue, in front of a private house on Seminary Avenue, Palmer Road to highlight three locations. With a floundering national economy, gas at record prices with little prospect of any reduction in the forseeable future and with Yonkers in an admitted financial tailspin borrowing
against future revenue, bonding millions of dollars for future expenditures this continued car leasing policy is obscene. I cannot begin to imagine what is in the head of our Mayor, except the lack of ability to make hard decisions, very poor advice and a desire to bring the State Financial Control Board back to Yonkers at more expense to the taxpaying residents of Yonkers.