Thursday, November 27, 2008

Westchester Guardian/Jeffrey Deskovic.

Jeff Deskovic

Renowned Author And Advocate Sister Helen
Prejean Speaks Of Her Incredible Journey,
Part 1

Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic Nun, is a world-famous author and anti-death penalty advocate. According to Wikipedia, she has won the following awards in the last 12 years:

World Methodist Peace Award in 2008, Peace Prize of the City of Ypres in 2005, Pacem in Terris (Peace On Earth) Award in 1998 which is named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII which called upon all people of good will to secure peace among all nations, and Pax Christi USA Pope Paul VI Teacher
Of Peace Award in 1996.

The first book that she was wrote was Dead Man Walking. The book traces her beginnings as a Nun in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to her experience as a spiritual advisor to death row prisoner Patrick Sonnier who was put to death by electrocution. The knowledge she unexpectedly acquired as a result of that experience, on topics such as a death penalty that is almost exclusively reserved for those who murder white people, a criminal justice system that is stacked against indigent defendants, and is largely unconcerned with basic fairness while being infected with racism.

Death row/execution procedures are shocking as is the multi-faceted human cost of the death penalty to all who are connected to it, from victim and offender family members and friends, to prison guards and officials.

The book was a New York Times best seller and she was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It later became a movie starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, the latter receiving an Academy Award. Her second book was The Death Of Innocents, which examined the cases of two death row prisoners that she had been an advisor to: Joseph Roger O’Dell, and Dobie Gillis Williams, who she firmly believes were executed despite being innocent. An excerpt of Random House’s summarization of the book, describes it in the following way: Sister Helen Prejean was a little-known Roman Catholic nun from Louisiana when in 1993, her first book, Dead Man Walking, challenged the way we look at the death penalty in America.

It became a #1 New York Times bestseller and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Now in The Death of Innocents, she takes us to the new moral edge of the debate on capital punishment: What if we’re killing the wrong man?

Sister Prejean travels across the country giving anti-death penalty lectures, which incorporates what she has learned through her
personal journey, while presenting various arguments which make people on all sides of the issue apply careful thought. On Nov. 12, 2008, Sister Helen Prejean traveled to La Salle Institute in Troy, New York to share her personal journey, the knowledge that she has gained with regard to the death penalty and the criminal justice system, and a little bit about each book. About 100 people turned out.

Prior to the event, Sister Prejean sat down and visited with 12 people who had been pre-selected to meet with her, many due to particularities in their life’s circumstances.

The people at that meeting included the Executive Director of New Yorkers Against The Death Penalty David Kaczynski whose brother
the federal government tried to execute despite his obvious mental problems; Director of Administration and Research for New Yorkers Against The Death Penalty, Carrie Schneider; Marie Verzulli, whose sister was murdered by a serial killer and who works as a liaison to victim family members, her mother, the mother of a murdered state trooper; several other murder victim family members who, despite their tragedies, were nonetheless anti-death penalty.

There were also a couple of people who were not avowed anti-death penalty advocates, but were still wrestling with the issue in their own minds; and a few unsung anti-death penalty advocates who have made the issue important in their lives; Darren Wilkins who handles the managerial and public relations work of my advocacy.

Sitting in a close circle that radiated warm empathy and understanding, everybody had a couple of minutes to share their stories. Kaczynski commented that many people in the room were seeds of Sister Prejean, in that their hearts and minds had been touched by her writings and/or her advocacy work in one way or another. Sister Prejean spoke about the problem of wrongful convictions, mentioning me, and a woman named Cathy Henderson in whose case she had successfully intervened.

She mentioned that following a public appearance, a lawyer in a big law firm came up to her and told her that if there was anything that he could ever do for her, to let him know. She became aware of Cathy Henderson, who
had been sentenced to death in Texas.

Henderson had been spinning a baby to comfort and quite him, when she had slipped on a sharp object and the baby fell on a concrete floor. The coroner said that it was impossible that the injuries could have occurred accidentally, and Henderson received a very poor defense at trial, which included no expert witnesses for the defense to review the evidence to offer an opinion on how the injuries could have accidentally occurred.

Added all up, it equaled a conviction. Sister Prejean then contacted that lawyer that she had previously met, and with his and his firm’s help, several experts stated that wounds could have occurred accidentally.

As a result of that, her conviction was overturned by the Texas Court Of Appeals in a 5-4 decision. She remains incarcerated, while the prosecutor decides whether to retry her or not.

The presentation, which I will recount chronologically, began at 7pm. Kaczynski began by recognizing the triumph over tragedy that murder victim family members, who were in attendance, had made. They were asked to stand up, and they were greeted by applause.

I was also recognized. Kaczynski then introduced Sister Prejean and spoke briefly about her accomplishments and the impact that her work has had across the world. Sister Prejean began by in-sisting that I stand up and face the audience, and once I did I, too, was greeted by applause. Then she began speaking, telling the group that she started out as a Nun in New Orleans, working with poor, mostly African American people.

As she saw it, Jesus spent a lot of time with people that most others disliked, so by analogy she saw that as a form of carrying out his teaching. She observed racism within the church: Blacks would sit on one side, Whites on the other. When it was time to take communion, the Whites would go first.

Patrick Sonnier

She first got involved with the death penalty when she agreed to correspond with Patrick Sonnier, who was on death row for a murder that he did commit. He had no visitors, so she began visiting him. He asked her to become his spiritual advisor, that is, the person who would, in effect, get him prepared to die and meet God. Thus began her journey through which she learned many things along the way that she had no idea about.

For example, she attended a Louisiana Pardon Board hearing for Sonnier, the subject of which was whether that body would go ahead and allow the execution to go forward on the scheduled date, or whether they would spare him.

She stated that the death penalty was polarizing in many ways. She said that the hearing was open to the public, and that the authorities actually had separate seating areas for people as they came in, according to whether they were in favor of the execution or not. She stated that Mrs. Sonnier, the accused’s mother, stayed in her house often, reluctant to go outside even to shop, because when she did people would point and talk about her, that she was the monster’s mother, for how do you have hatred of a person and not of their murder? She said that dead animals were thrown onto Mrs. Sonnier’s porch.

Sister Prejean stated that a mistake she made was that while being the advisor to Sonnier, she did not reach out to the family members of the victim. Lloyd LeBlanc, the father of murder victim David LeBlanc, said to her one day, “What about us, sister?

We need you too. You wouldn’t believe the pressure that we are under.” She became friends with him, even traveling early in the morning before 7am to pray with him at a church for his son.

Ever since that time, she always reaches out to victim family members whenever she agrees to be a spiritual advisor to a death row prisoner. As an additional example of the polarization process, since she began that practice, however, only 2 people had ever allowed her to be friends with them. She said that in many ways people affected were on a see-saw, either on one side or the other.

Sonnier would be denied at that hearing, and he would be executed by electrocution. She said that the location where the execution would take place there were three sections: one for the press who would view the proceedings, one where victim family members would go, which featured one way glass, and another were people, on behalf of the accused, including the spiritual advisor, might sit.

Even the place of death would have “sides”. She said that Sonnier had offered not to have her present at his execution, but that she insisted on being there, to provide the ‘face of love’, for him to focus his eyes on.

Lessons Learned Along The Way

Sister Prejean wrote a paper, based upon her experience with Sonnier, entitled Would Jesus Pull The Switch? In that article, she discussed many issues that she referenced in that writing: I don’t see capital punishment as a peripheral issue about some criminals at the edge of society that people want to execute.

I see the death penalty connected to the three deepest wounds of our society: racism, poverty, and violence. In this country, first the hangman’s noose, then the electric chair, and now the lethal-injection gurney have been almost exclusively reserved for those who kill white people.

The rhetoric says that the death penalty will be reserved only for the most heinous crimes, but when you look at how it is applied, you see that in fact there is a great selectivity in the process.

When the victim of a violent crime has some kind of status, there is a public outrage, and especially when the victim has been murdered, death—the ultimate punishment—is sought. But when people of color are killed in the inner city, when homeless people are killed, when the “nobodies” are killed, district attorneys do not seek to avenge their deaths.

Black, Hispanic, or poor families who have a loved one murdered not only don’t expect the district attorney’s office to pursue the death penalty—which, of course, is both costly and time-consuming—but are surprised when the case is prosecuted at all. Ask Virginia Smith’s African American family. She was 14 when three white youths took her into the woods, raped her, and stabbed her to death. None of them got the death penalty.

Their fathers knew the district attorney, and they had all-white juries. In regard to this first and deepest of America’s wounds, racism, we’d have to change the whole soil of this country for the criminal-justice system not to be administered in a racially biased manner.

The second wound is poverty. Who pays the ultimate penalty for crimes? The poor. Who gets the death penalty? The poor. After all the rhetoric that goes on in legislative assemblies, in the end, when the net is cast out, it is the poor who are selected to die in this country. And why do poor people get the death penalty? It has everything to do with the kind of defense they get. Money gets you good defense.

That’s why you’ll never see an O.J. Simpson on death row. As the saying goes: “Capital punishment means them without the capital get the punishment.”

I had to learn all this myself. My father was a lawyer. I used to think, “Well, they may not get perfect defense, but at least they get adequate defense.” I tell you it is so shocking to find out what kind of defense people on death row actually have had. The man I have been going to see on death row now for over six years is a young black man who was convicted for the killing of a white woman in a
small community in Many, Louisiana.

He had an all-white jury, and he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death in just one week. Dobie Williams has now been on death row for 10 years, and I believe he’s innocent. But it is almost impossible for us to get a new trial for him. Why? Because if his attorney did not raise any objections at his trial,
we cannot bring them up in appeals.

Finally, the third wound is our penchant for trying to solve our problems with violence. When you witness an execution and watch the toll this process also takes on some of those who are charged with the actual execution—the 12 guards on the strap-down team and the warden—you recognize that part of the moral dilemma of the death penalty is also: who deserves to kill this man?

In that writing, she also references the conditions on death row that Sonnier wrote her about: Confined 23 hours a day. He said how glad he was when summer was over because there was no air in the cells. He’d sometimes wet the sheet from his bunk and put it on the cement floor to try to cool off; or he’d clean out his toilet bowl and stand in it and use a small plastic container to get water from his lavatory and pour it over his body.

Westchester Guardian/Catherine Wilson.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Northern Westchester

The County’s Bloated Budget
What Kind Of Shell Game Is This?


In a prior career, this reporter was a global auditor and budget manager for Reader’s Digest, responsible for reviewing and approving multi-billion dollar international operating and capital expenditure budgets. Organizations conduct reviews on their budgets to uncover any inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and any shell games to disguise costs. A quick review by this reporter of the County’s budget uncovered several shell games, inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and violations of basic accounting standards.

In order to properly analyze an organization’s budgets, each budget submitted by every department in an organization should be compared to those
budgets of their prior years’ operations, to the organization’s overall budget and long-term plan, and to the industry and overall economic environment and trends. Unfortunately, the County does not provide sufficient information on its website to allow for such a thorough review and audit of its budgets.


Budgets are usually developed by taking last year’s information and building upon it without regard to significant overall changes that may impact the structure of the organization as a whole. Therefore, every few years all organizations generally do what is known as a “zero-based” budget.
A zero-based budget is one that is developed from scratch as if the organization was completely new. Every element must be justified and all alternatives pursued before any funds may be budgeted. Given the extraordinary amount of taxes local residents currently pay, and the changes in our economy and pressures on our services, Westchester County cannot afford to simply take last year’s budgets and build upon them.


Ideally, it is time to toss everything out and develop a budget from scratch starting with the most obvious element – why do we even need a County government at all? And if we do, then what is its purpose? The County does not appear to have performed any zero-based analyses in its budgets.

The County Executive, Andrew Spano, in his budget submission to the Westchester County Board of Legislators, alleges that he “reviewed, with a
very sharp pencil, every budget line – all 6,000 of them – to cut costs”. That statement is very revealing. It indicates that Spano merely took what his administration has been doing all along, as if the current economic conditions still warranted the same practices, and simply built upon that foundation, regardless of how accurate and relevant those practices may still be.


Had Spano done a zero-based budget, asking the hard questions that go along with that budget approach, his first question would have been “why do
we have 6,000 line items in the budget to begin with? What could possibly justify spending the taxpayers money in 6,000 different ways?” Six thousand line items is a strong indication to any auditor of a bloated organization.


The bad news is already known, house sales and prices are down resulting in lower mortgage taxes collected; energy costs are still greater than prior
years despite the recent drop in costs; the population is growing and aging placing a higher need on services; and earnings from any government investments are down thanks to lower interest rates. Given such a bleak outlook, the conditions justify a bottom-up review of our entire County government.


However, neither the taxpayers nor the Budget Committee of the County Board of Legislators can perform such a review given the limited amount of material the County provided in its 2009 Operating Budget. But given current conditions, the County Board must insist on a zero-based budget for 2009. Nothing should be considered sacred in the budgets; everything should be open to questioning and elimination.

The County only reveals actual costs for one year, 2007, and an estimate for 2008. But 2007 could have been an extraordinary year with exceptionally high costs, therefore the future years’ budgets would be built on incorrect costs. Also, no trends can be determined from such limited information; three to five years’ worth of prior data is needed to reveal long-term changes.

The County Budget also only shows one year of proposed spending, 2009. But some spending in 2009 could commit the County to additional
spending in future years, such as new hires, or additional leased cars. Spano should have provided preliminary operating budgets for the next five years to show the impact of 2009 spending in future years. With a five-year budget, the Budget Committee and County auditors would also be able to determine if the proposed spending is on track with the County’s long-term investments and Master Plans. The operational budget could then also be compared to the County’s five-year capital budget since no budget should ever be reviewed in isolation.

A capital budget must be reviewed in conjunction with operating budgets; operating budgets must be reviewed in conjunction with long-term plans;
and all plans must be reviewed with the overall economic environment and latest trends in mind.


According to the Government Accounting Standards Board, Statement No. 129, “Objectives of Financial Reporting”, states: “Financial reports are used primarily to compare actual financial results with the legally adopted budget; to assess financial condition and results of operations; to assist in determining compliance with finance-related laws, rules, and regulations; and to assist in evaluating efficiency and effectiveness”.

In addition, the Board stresses that: “Financial reporting plays a major role in fulfilling government’s duty to be publicly accountable in a democratic society. Public accountability is based on the belief that the taxpayer has a ‘right to know,’ a right to receive openly declared facts that may lead to public debate by the citizens and their elected representatives”.

Despite this regulatory board’s rulings holding a government to be publicly accountable, most of the written analysis in Westchester County’s budget submissions is merely a public relations document, simply a listing of projects each department has been working on or new developments for 2009. What is missing is a critical analysis of the department’s budget including any alternatives to their current mode of operations and justification for their proposals. Numbers alone do not tell the story which is why all budgets are properly submitted with a full written analysis
from each department disclosing both known information, detailed analysis of every cost item submitted, and any potential developments. The departmental budgets have items for contractual services but do not provide the details of who is providing these services, what the services
are for, how much is being paid to each contractor, how long the contractor will be on the County budget, and why the services cannot be performed by County employees.


The County also does not provide an inventory of all County assets and assets such as cars, phones, computers, houses, in an individual’s possession or for their exclusive use, or a detailed listing of investments, approved contractors, and prior departmental, project, and County-wide audits including any recommendations and areas for improvement or concern.

Such analysis does not have to be elaborate. One County department (as of press time), the Laboratory and Research Department, did provide a
simple typed analysis of their overall mission and every major category of expense along with critical performance information such as their ISO accreditation and turnaround time in DNA cases. They also provided a detailed expense chart that only their fellow scientists (and us accountants) would love. But in contrast, the Parks Department‘s presentation to the County Board of Legislators was a slick PR job – a full color glossy document providing skewed financial information.


The Parks department provided a chart showing a decrease of employees from 381 in 2002 to 335 in 2009. Their staffing levels have been flat at
336 since 2006. Yet the Parks Department’s budget still increased from $50 million in 2007 to $55 million in 2009. For some unknown reason,
they are spending $2 million more in base salaries for the same number of employees.


In addition, the Parks Department is outlaying $6 million to hourly staff, $1.3 million in overtime, $4.2 million for “contractual services”, up $300,000 from 2007, $515,000 for entertainment services and $925,000 for marketing services, up $200,000/40% and $300,000/30% over their 2007 costs. So where are the savings from the alleged decreases in staff? Or is the Parks Department simply shifting costs from salaried employees to outside contractors? If so, then there are no tangible savings to the taxpayers at all despite what their fancy color chart implies.

Suspiciously, an entire property, constituting of 187 acres of County-owned land, does not appear at all in the Parks Department’s budget, Hilltop Hanover Farm. This farm has $14 million in renovations in the County’s capital budget under the Public Works Department, spread out through 2013 (Project B0080). Yet the matching operating budget is buried in the County’s Planning Department. Why? What do a bunch of administrators, real estate commissioners, and architects know about running a farm? And what are they “planning” for this farm, apart from
the Houlihan-Lawrence McMansion development next door. Why isn’t the management and improvements of this farm under the auspices of County employees experienced in handling open spaces, the Parks Department?


The Planning Department’s budget for Hilltop Hanover shows none of the costs associated with the $14 million renovations planned through 2013 or any of the expenses related to the $3.5 million in projects already financed since 2004. The capital budget for Hilltop Hanover is under the Department of Public Works, the staff operating budget is under the Planning Department, but the debt service and interest expenses for the capital projects to date on this property are missing from this statement. Where are these costs buried? What kind of shell game is this? Why aren’t all of the costs of the Hilltop Hanover Farm revealed in one operating statement consistent with generally accepted accounting principles?

The County displays inconsistent accounting principles in its budgets making comparisons almost impossible by anyone other than a trained auditor, which is the point of such shell games. For other County properties, the Parks Department budgets show all employees, operational
costs, and “debt service” expenses, annual expenses related to borrowing for the capital projects, on each statement, per property, so that each property can be compared with another. So why are the expenses for the Hilltop Hanover Farm spread out across departments and not on one statement?


Comparing County employee costs across departments is no easier. Some departments, such as the Information Technology Department, do this correctly. They show all employee costs, including FICA and unemployment taxes, grouped together so the total employee costs can easily be determined; whereas other departments, such as the Board of Legislators, do not reveal employment taxes or disability insurance costs but do show their share of retirement and health benefits “below the line.”

Still other departments, such as the Hilltop facility, do not show any of these costs at all. What part of “consistent accounting principles” do the
County’s Finance and Budget departments not understand? Do they not have a standard pro-forma format for the budget reporting process? And
why are two of the largest costs, retirement and health, buried “below the line”, and then, only in summaries of each County division, and not reported as employee costs for each and every department?


In the main “Operating Budget Comparative Analysis”, the County actually reports retirement, health, and employment tax costs as miscellaneous and fixed expenditures”, and not as employee costs allocated to each administrative function. Indeed, the County shifts $485,679,066 of its proposed 2009 costs into the “Miscellaneous” category in defiance of generally accepted accounting principles. Miscellaneous
accounting costs are defined as: “Costs where no other category has been established. This account is used when all other accounts have been reviewed”.


Do the County accountants actually expect the taxpayers to accept that they consider $485 million of employee benefits, insurance payments, fund contributions, and sales taxes to be “miscellaneous” and not to be part of the functions of the government? In fact, the County accountants
are so lax here that they dumped $81,827,031 of taxpayers’ dollars into “miscellaneous budgets”. Who is spend-ing $81 million of our tax dollars? And why isn’t this identified as a specific function or cost in the total budget?


Since when is $81 million considered to be miscellaneous? Is this a reflection of the administration’s attitude towards taxpayers’ money, that $81
million of our taxes shouldn’t be properly accounted for? The individual department budgets also reveal inconsistencies in the administration’s
management. The County Executive’s office has three secretaries and eight assistants for only seven staff members whereas the Board of Elections
has seven secretaries for 74 staff. Why does the County Executive need so many secretaries? Spano has even more assistants hidden in other budgets such as the Office of Government Relations, a department whose main responsibility is to “liason with other levels of government” and “coordinate communications with the Board of Legislators”.


If the Office of Government Relations is coordinating the Legislators’ communications, then what do the 22 aides in the Board of Legislators’ Department do? And perhaps if the County didn’t have 57 people in the Board of Legislators department and another thirty 30 people in
the County Executive department, they wouldn’t need 46 aides and secretary’s running back and forth between 41 administrators to begin with!


There are more inconsistencies in the budgets at the individual department levels, and increases to the budgets, such as staffing in the Board of
Elections, which The Guardian will address in detail next week. In the interim, The Guardian advises its readers to review the County budget online at
www.westchestergov.com/aboutwestchesterbudget.htm. The final public hearing for this budget is December 3, 2008 at 7:30 pm: Board of Legislators’ Board Chambers: 8th Floor – Michaelian Office Building, 148 Martine Avenue, White Plains, 10601 Additional information may also
be obtained by contacting the Board directly at 914-995-2800.


I would suggest to readers intending to attend the Board of Legislators’ hearing on the Budget that they bring this and last week’s (Nov. 20) issue of The Guardian with them for purposes of referencing specific areas of concern.

Where are these costs buried? What kind of shell game is this? Why aren’t all of the costs of the Hilltop Hanover Farm revealed in one operating statement consistent with generally accepted accounting principles?

Do the County accountants actually expect the taxpayers to accept that they consider $485 million of employee benefits, insurance payments, fund contributions, and sales taxes to be “miscellaneous” and not to be part of the functions of the government?

The County also does not provide an inventory of all County assets and assets such as cars, phones, computers, houses, in an individual’s possession or for their exclusive use, or a detailed listing of investments, approved contractors, and prior departmental, project, and County-wide audits including any recommendations and areas for improvement or concern.


Westchester Guardian/Rethinking Westchester County Government.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rethinking Westchester Government
Contrary To Those, Including Phil Reisman, Who, Immediately Following The First
Gathering At Yonkers’ Will Library, Predicted That The Movement To Eliminate Or Dramatically
Downsize County Government Would Dwindle And Fail, There Is Growing
Evidence Of Broad-Based Support And The Willingness Of Many To Work For It


Last Wednesday night, Nov. 19th, 150, by actual count, Westchester taxpayers filled the Grand Room at the White Plains Women’s Club on Ridgeway. They were there to hear from several speakers, including Paul Feiner, Candice Corcoran, Glen Hockley, Dennis Robertson, Joan Gronowski, John Murphy, Steve Mayo, and Sam Zherka, to name a few, who presented their thoughts and gathered information on the subject of
possible methods by which to eliminate Westchester Government or, at the very least, cut it down to size. The movement, which got underway
with an initial organizational meeting at the Will Library in Yonkers some six months ago, has continued to evolve, rapidly picking up momentum and charting direction as economic conditions continue to decline in Westchester, the Nation’s most heavily-taxed county.


Given the extremely gloomy outlook nationally, tax increases across the County have brought residents together in a common cause, including homeowners from Yonkers whose County taxes went up 24 percent; homeowners from Ossining, who have been hit with an 18 percent hike, and their counterparts from Harrison, who have been tapped for a 13 percent increase. Those present, from all over the County, were essentially making it clear that they were “angry as hell and not going to take it anymore.”

To his credit, Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz, probably the one individual in County Government more than any other, directly responsible for Westchester residents’ heavy property tax burden, sat in the middle of the audience, appearing to be taking notes for most of the nearly two hour session.

Glen Hockley, White Plains Common Council member, told the audience, “It’s an ongoing mission to get County Government to cut the budget.”
He characterized County legislators, and particularly County Executive Andy Spano, as suffering from “a huge disconnect.” Hockley asked, “Can you imagine the audacity of Andy Spano cutting only 15 percent from his security detail? Our County Executive wants to increase our taxes.”

Hockley’s mere utterance of Bill Ryan’s name brought out a loud, spontaneous “boo”. He was not willing to accept the old standby excuse of County Government, that it is forced by “unfunded state mandates” to continually raise taxes. He declared, “State mandates can be challenged
and changed.”

John Murphy, of Yonkers, gave a slide presentation demonstrating how the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts managed to eliminate their county governments. He told the audience, “Corruption, patronage, and mismanagement is what we have in Westchester.” He reassured everyone,
“In ten years, since eliminating their county governments, there has been no problem in Massachusetts; so we believe they provide a blueprint.”
He then reminded everyone, “The state of Connecticut eliminated county government in 1960.”

Bobbie Anne Flower Cox, attorney for the project, stepped forward and explained that the necessary legislation to eliminate county government could come either from state government, the County Legislature, or by referendum. She indicated that the Justice Department had already been contacted. She asked for attorneys present to volunteer their time to the effort.

Guardian publisher Sam Zherka took the podium and informed the gathering that he had applied for a permit, with the City of White Plains, to hold a massive public demonstration April 25, 2009. He predicted more than 10,000 County residents would attend to drive home the point that County Government needs to be dismantled.

Acknowledging the presence of Larry Schwartz, Zherka said, “If Larry attempts to block the effort, I will go to court,” quipping that he is known to sue government when necessary. Paul Feiner, Greenburgh Town Supervisor, and the individual most closely identified with the movement, told
the gathering, “Government at every level wastes a certain amount of money; we need volunteers. We also need funds.” Announcing the official launch of www.rethinkingwestchestergov.com, he said that County residents are encouraged to use the interactive blog as anonymous whistleblowers who could “expose waste in government.”

Feiner then suggested, “What we need are 17 professional pests,” one for each County Legislator, who would monitor and stay on top of their activities.


Westchester Guardian/The Advocate/Gary Kriss/Andy Spano/Ron Gatto/Janet Difiore.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

If Gary Kriss Is Guilty Of Theft,
So Is County Executive Andy Spano


Several days ago, Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore called a press conference in regard to her Office’s investigation of Gary Kriss, former Chief Advisor to Bill Ryan, Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators. The investigation, conducted over several months, was occasioned by the revelation that Kriss had made several purchases of computer software and communication devices seemingly unrelated to the activities of his employer, with taxpayer funds. Those purchases totalled more than $12,000 and, in some instances, were sent directly to his
home.


When the questionable purchases first came to light, Chairman Ryan, his immediate superior and a good friend, attempted to shoulder some of the responsibility for the troubling purchases, even suggesting that the filmmaking software was actually needed for some effort by the Legislature to
produce public service communication of a novel sort.


However, despite Ryan’s best efforts, given the uproar just a few months earlier over his demands for a huge pay increase, his desire to be compensated nearly the salary of a full time department commissioner for his clearly part-time position, not to mention exposure of excesses in
County Government, rising property taxes, and falling revenues, there was no way Kriss’ problem would go away quietly.


DA Janet DiFiore announced an investigation into the matter, thus abruptly halting all public statements by Ryan and sending Kriss scrambling for
a lawyer. Simultaneously the Board of Legislators, unwilling to surrender their right of self-examination and governance, formed their own ad hoc
fact finding committee headed by none other than Ken Jenkins, water carrier extraordinaire for the County Executive, and, a legislator with residency problems.


Savvy political observers, of course, realized that Janet DiFiore would not be investigating Gary Kriss’ activities unless she had the prior approval of Larry Schwartz by way of Andy Spano. And, Spano had no concern since the target, Gary Kriss, was Bill Ryan’s problem; at least it seemed that way. Of course, Kriss, who had been involved in County Government for nearly 20 years, was a guy who wasn’t accustomed to obeying the rules.

Despite regulations to the contrary, he accumulated many hundreds of hours of unused sick leave, vacation, and personal days, which, as it turns
out, he’s going to receive a fat cash settlement of some $70,000 for, not to mention $56,000 per year in annual pension, and possibly more.


Troublesome and wrongheaded as his actions had been, Janet knew that she had to be very careful how she went about bringing Gary Kriss to justice, if she wasn’t to cause a major conflagration; one that could have injured her political mentor, Andy Spano, and those closely tied to him. Thus, she decided not to pursue charges against Kriss for that which was most obvious and provable, the $12,000 worth of purchases with taxpayers’ funds; items for his personal use and enjoyment, because Big Bill Ryan had already implicated himself, at least partially, in those expenditures, and might suffer injury, and seek revenge. Open warfare between Ryan and Spano could bring down the whole ugly blood-sucking operation.

So, instead, DA DiFiore opted to charge Mr. Kriss with crimes to which there could be no connection to Bill Ryan, and thus no scarring implications for Andy and Company. Declaring, “Anytime a public employee uses taxpayer dollars for his own purposes, a crime has been
committed,” Janet Difiore proceeded to charge Gary Kriss with four Misdemeanor counts, each punishable by a year in prison, for his alleged Theft Of Services of his legislative aide Sarah O’Brien’s county paid time when he engaged her to perform personal tasks for him such as designing book covers for manuscripts he had written, and creating artwork for his wife. If found guilty on each of four counts, Kriss could face four years in prison.


That having been said, We now ask why Andy Spano should not be placed under similar investigation by DA DiFiore’s Office and similarly charged,
given his unlawful dealings with County employee Ron Gatto as exposed in the July 17, 2008 edition of The Guardian. On page 5, in The Advocate, readers were informed, “Gatto was overheard recently telling someone at the Yorktown Diner ‘I’m untouchable; I put in garage doors and did other work at Andy Spano’s house for free’”.


The article went on to state, “In that connection, The Guardian confirmed that on multiple occasions, in December 2003, Gatto was called to Spano’s house, while on duty, on County time, to work on garage doors he installed. On one occasion, he was apparently called to Spano’s house because the County Executive was locked out.”

A press release from the County Executive’s Office issued February 28, 2008, was headlined, “Unlicensed Contractor Arrested, Van Seized
By County Police. First Such Seizure Under New Consumer Protection Law.”The press release remarkably confirmed what was contained in a
letter to the editor published in The Guardian’s June 5, 2008 edition, detailing the fact that the owner of Door Doctor, a major competitor of Ron Gatto’s family’s garage door business, had been arrested by E.S.U. Director Ron Gatto, Detective Car , and E.S.U. Inspector Allen Carroll at a home on Constant Avenue in Peekskill, where he was found repairing a garage door, for failure to have a Consumer Protection License.


Talk about theft of services; Gatto, going several times on County time to County Executive Spano’s home to fix the garage doors installed for free by his family business? Not to mention, Gatto, an Environmental Protection Officer for the County, instead going on County time to apprehend and arrest one of his family’s biggest competitors, literally knocking him out of business.

We believe DA DiFiore has a serious problem here. In light of her pronouncements and the action she has taken against Gary Kriss, there is no way she can let Andy Spano’s Theft Of Services and his acceptance, unlawfully, of merchandise; a quid pro quo from a subordinate, go uninvestigated
and unprosecuted. It has to do with Equal Protection Under The Law, as well as Due Process, and a whole host of other issues.




Westchester Guardian/Janet Difiore/In Our Opinion/Our Readers Respond.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In Our Opinion...

What Makes Janet DiFiore A Democrat?

After twice running for County Court, once running for State Supreme Court, and then, in 2005, for Westchester District Attorney, as a Republican, with the full support and hard work of Westchester Republicans, Janet DiFiore suddenly announced she was really a Democrat. When asked by a reporter what it was that prompted her to abandon not only the Republican Party, but all of those who had been so loyal and giving to her over many years, she could not articulate a response.

Surely the switch couldn’t have been occasioned by the fact that enrolled Democrats now outnumber enrolled Republican registered voters in Westchester County by more than 100,000. That would be too crass, to cynical, too downright dishonest for someone whose mandated
job description is rst and foremost to search for the Truth in the pursuit of Justice.

Then, again, she was the candidate whose spouse, Dennis Glazer, as reported in the New York Times, attempted to bribe the Right-To-Life candidate, Anthony DiCintio, off the ballot with the offer of a job in the DA’s Office; something about “a free hand” if Janet became DA. Of course, when Attorney DiCintio refused to participate in such an unprincipled scheme, Janet attempted to get the entire Right-To-Life ticket pushed off the ballot. But, we digress.

More to the point, what makes Janet DiFiore a Democrat? Better yet, who says she’s a Democrat? One would think that rank and file party members, at the very least the 990 committee members and active Democrats at the 2005 Party Convention at the County Center who rose to their feet and nominated Tony Castro for District Attorney by acclimation ought to have some say in the matter.

If anything, Janet’s antics, her dirty campaign, that not only involved attempted bribery, but ethnic slurring, outright misrepresentation, and the wholesale destruction of the political signs of Mr. Castro, the Democratic candidate, should have turned loyal, principled Democrats against her.

Truth be told, Janet DiFiore is no Democrat. In four separate elections she ran against loyal, lifelong Democrats. When she ran for County Court Judge against Les Adler, she lied to the Journal News, telling them that she had “prosecuted two thousand cases.” Research by that newspaper quickly revealed she had prosecuted a total of 12 cases as an Assistant DA, all misdemeanors.

Janet DiFiore clearly has a problem with the truth. She has no problem withholding exculpatory information from innocent, incarcerated individuals; no problem sending her assistants into federal courts to deliberately lie to federal Judges. She had no problem lying about the circumstances of an heroic young police officer’s death, Christopher Ridley; going so far as refusing to give his parents the clothing he was wearing, and the personal effects he was carrying, at the time of his death, because they might contradict her version of how their son died.

We are not the least bit convinced that decent, hard-working Democrats across Westchester are prepared to accept a district attorney who continues to prosecute and punish innocent victims of Yonkers police brutality; Irma Marquez, Rui Florim, and many others not so well known; a
district attorney who maintains an incestuous relationship with that violent police department, and the Republican mayor who categorically refuses to put an end to the brutality.

We witnessed the re-count in Yonkers in the election of 2005 with its 23 machines with broken seals, and bizarre voter patterns that explain why Janet was in need of an impound order fully three days before the election. Nick Spano, his henchmen and operatives, not to mention the Yonkers Police Department and 330 impounded machines kept everything under wraps.

The fact is, the individuals who are anxious for Janet DiFiore to be accepted as a Democrat are Andy Spano, Larry Schwartz, Reggie Lafayette and Company; those who have a vested interest in keeping one of their co-horts, someone who will keep the lid on their criminal conduct and election fraud, just as Jeanine Pirro did, in the DA’s Office.

Janet would like to have it both ways; run for DA as a Republican, use Nick Spano and Boys for dirty tricks, Mike Edelman for the ethnic smears, and Rudy Giuliani for his endorsement, not to mention all the decent rank and file Republicans who did their best for her. And then, flush them all down the toilet and declare that she’s a Democrat. We are con dent that when, and if, it comes down to it, rank and file Democrats will recognize her for the counterfeit she is, and reject the lies and the fraud she is truly all about.

Our Readers Respond....

Get Rid Of The Rumble Strips

Dear Editor:

When rumble strips appeared along the shoulder of Route 100 in Yorktown and Somers this spring, Westchester Cycle Club leaders warned that the ill-conceived highway “safety” project would make the road more dangerous.

Six months later, their warnings have proved true. At least four cyclists have gone down hard on the pavement, and one cyclist who was seriously injured has since sued the state. There is something that stinks about this travesty of a public-works project, conceived with scant planning, poor professional judgment and in violation of state highway policy.

The policy states the rumble strips, which are intended to awaken drowsy drivers and prevent what’s called drift-off-road accidents, should be installed on limited-access highways. The policy warns of the dangers of installing the strips on two-lane roads frequented by cyclists. It states the DOT could consider rumble strips on “limited stretches of highway or specific locations with a proven history of drift -off-road accidents, in advance of bridges where the shoulder substantially narrows, at gore areas (triangular intersections), and as short warning strips on the outside of curves that follow long tangents.”

Accident data shows there were just seven such accidents caused by fatigued or drowsy drivers in six years. That’s not the kind of “proven history” to justify the extraordinary measure of installing rumble strips on a two-lane road. The accident data provided by DOT showed that this four-mile
stretch of Route 100 in Yorktown and Somers is safe, and getting considerably safer. From 2001 to 2004, there were 1.02 accidents per million
miles traveled. From 2004 to 2007, there were 0.6 accidents per million miles traveled, a 42 percent drop. The statewide average on two-lane
roads is 1.45 accidents per million miles traveled.

So the most recent data available to the state DOT show that this stretch of Route 100 is more than twice as safe as the average road in New York. The data here should not have driven the state DOT officials to install rumble strips on Route 100.

When I shared these facts with DOT Regional Director Joan Dupont, and her assistant, Mike Cotton, Cotton said the DOT didn’t base its decision upon accident data but on a sense that there was a conflict between motorists, cyclists, and the fishermen who have shared the road quite well for years. - ere is no evidence of any such conflict. Over six years, there was one collision between a cyclists and a motorist. Heavily redacted emails from DOT Regional Engineer Michael J. McBride revealed that the strips were installed after McBride, and two of his employees, were rear-ended on Route 100 as they turned into the DOT regional facility. The emails were only released after I was forced to appeal to the DOT’s general counsel in Albany under the state Freedom of Information Law.

What did the regional office want to keep secret? The emails show that McBride ordered 700 feet of rumble strips around the DOT facility entrance. But Paleen Construction Corp., located on Route 100 a few miles north of the site, installed 43,000 feet of rumble strips, and was paid about $41,723 for the no-bid job. That included $24,579 to run the rumble-strip gouging machine for a day.

If these accidents had happened at a private residence or a private business, the state might have put up a No Left Turn sign there because
turning left at the DOT facility was dangerous. Or they might have figured out how to squeeze in a left turn lane if they were insistent on turning
left there. But they wouldn’t have installed rumble strips. Now cyclists are getting injured. New York City police officer Richard Wilt, who lives in Boone Road in Yorktown, went down on June
26 when he lost control, bashing in his two front teeth and slicing his lip. Christine Dasa of Mount Kisco went down on Aug. 12 when she rode over the rumble strips to avoid a car legally parked on the shoulder.

She lost control of her bike and went down in the travel lane, where cars and trucks speed by at 55 miles an hour. Dasa was lucky that she wasn’t knocked out and ended up laying there in the travel lane. But I guarantee you that someone will suffer a serious injury if something isn’t done soon.

The breaks in the rumble strips, which were a concession to cyclists, aren’t much help. They were installed every tenth-of a-mile to give cyclists a rumble-free way to avoid parked cars. But using the breaks with traffic is very dangerous. They are short, so you have to make a turn into the traffic lane to use them. Creating a situation in which you have cyclists turning into the travel lane, with cars and trucks traveling 55 miles an hour, creates a dangerous situation.

The rumble strips have already begun to deteriorate, and potholes are developing among the rumble strips, even before the winter freeze-thaw cycle opened up more craters on the once-smoothly paved road. The DOT has yet to attend to the potholes. I know it will be expensive to pave over the rumble strips. It will cost more than the $41,000 already wasted by the state on the hastily conceived plan this spring. But the alternative promises to be even costlier for the state’s taxpayers when they have to pay on a lawsuit, like the one Yorktown resident Wilt has filed. Attorney Michael Allen, of Shapiro Forman Allen & Sava of Manhattan, put the state on notice on June 25 that the DOT has created an “extremely hazardous situation” along Route 100 in Yorktown and Somers.

“The cost of restoring the road surface is minor compared to the danger that the DOT has created, not to mention the cost of potential lawsuits should someone be seriously hurt as a result of the DOT’s actions,” warned Allen, a Westchester Cycle Club member, in a June 25 letter to DOT
Region 8 Regional Director Joan DuPont. “The potential cost to the DOT could increase exponentially if it is in fact the case that the installation of the rumble strips was done in violations of the DOT’s own rules and regulations.”

This spring, DOT Regional Director Dupont promised to review the project, with a decision made by Sept. 1. By mid-November, the state was still studying the issue. It’s time for the state to acknowledge its dangerous blunder. It’s time to pave over the rumble strips and restore Route 100 for
safe cycling.

David McKay Wilson


Concerned Citizens Of Mt. Vernon

Dear Editor:


We the Concerned Citizens of Mount Vernon Action Group present this list of much needed remedies for our ailing school districts to the Mount Vernon Board of Education Trustees. Upon the Trustees receiving and reviewing this document, we the undersign request, within thirty business
days of receipt, a written plan of action as a public notice to be printed in the local newspapers, and as written handouts, available to the public in all municipal buildings in the City of Mount Vernon by December 5, 2008.

1. Fiscal Accountability: Fiscal accountability means that citizens can follow where the money is going in a line for line budget. This would allow the public to compare and contrast money allotted and spent for each school, show where bond money has been spent and why it did not cover
the items that were suppose to be covered. New budgets must show specifically what proposed bond is to be used for and who is accountable for meeting the terms.

2. Term Limits: BOE Trustees can only run for election for 2, three year terms.

3. Open forums about issues that concern the public. This allows Trustees to explain, explore, and exchange ideas, concepts, and concerns about the direction of public education in our city. As concerned citizens, we recognize there are legal and confidential issues that cannot be open for
public discussion, but there are issues and trends that the BOE is not responding to the public’s concern. The purpose is to gain the public trust and understanding instead of their scorn.

4. CSEA members get livable and fair contracts.

5. Mandatory Volunteer hours: 100 volunteer hours must be worked before high school students can graduate.

6. A varied curriculum: Students from K to 12th grade can be employable upon graduation from High School.

7. Superintendents, deputies and principals must have community roots.

8. Monthly discussion and exchanges with trustee members, i.e., mandatory visitation and rotation with all schools in the Mount Vernon School District. We expect the Trustees to visit all of the schools without warning several times during the year and not just a select few for photo ops or
special events.

9. Mandatory multi-cultural educational experiences. With the order of exploring the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Library and Harlem’s’ History, in addition to other multicultural educational experiences

10. Instructions in daily living skills. is should begin in the 4th grade and continue through 12th. An example of topics can include but be limited to: students should know how to find community information, learn about credit and credit cards, register to vote, and apply for state ID cards. Many of these topics used to be included in Family Life discussions.

11. Board-friendly public meetings.

On October 15, 2008 the Concerned Citizens of Mount Vernon Action Group (CCMTVAC) met to discuss the problems and how to address them with the Mount Vernon Board of Education (BOE) Trustees and New York State Department of Education. In addition to circulating the petition, have the trustees replace the list of demands created.The meeting was attended by Wilma O Reid, Vicki Camacho, Abdul Oadoare, Glen Herious and Elijah Bryant. All agreed to the list of demands listed below.

Vicki Camacho, Mount Vernon


Mount Vernon Reader Writes To Expose Unlawful Housing

Dear Editor:


On or about October 6th 2008 I had a below-the-knee amputation, and on or about October 18th I was admitted to the Mosholu Parkway Nursing Home for care and treatment and infection control.

On or about November 20th I signed out of the Mosholu Parkway Nursing Home against medical advice because I did not like the smell of human waste or the food and the care I was receiving. Around last April 15th, Mrs. Sheri Marhi Goueia (Brokers License # 37go731107 ) informed me that she owned a nice legal rooming house and also informed me that it would be easy access for me since I could no longer gain access to my 3rd oor apartment in the Bronx because of my recent amputation.

Ms. Marhi also informed me that 66 West 2nd Street was one of the few legal licensed rooming homes here in Mount Vernon. On or about November 5th I was informed by members of the Mount Vernon Building Department, that 66 West 2nd Street was NOT A LEGAL ROOMING
HOUSE AND HAS NOT BEEN A LEGAL ROOMING HOUSE SINCE 1996.

I also heard Ms. Kelly, an employee of AEF Realty, bragging about how she gets extra money for keeping two sets of books for AEF Realty regarding their taxes. I was then taken to see this room by one of AEF Realty’s employees by slowly walking with my wheel chair in front of me
and following the employee to 66 West 2nd Street.

Ms. Marhi then gave me Security deposit forms and Brokers fee forms for me to take to the Mount Vernon local Welfare Office, located at 100 East First Street, Mt Vernon. The Case worker informed me that AEF would be a bad move for me because they have had problems with them in the past, and DSS would not be paying any Brokers fee.

I informed the case worker that I would pay the brokers fee from my Disability check on the 3rd of the month. The case worker approved the security deposit check and signed the paper work from AEF Realty. When I first moved in I noticed that the front door to my room was not secure when I tried to lock the door. I informed Mrs.Marhi and AEF Realty about this issue. Mrs. Marhi promised me that the door and lock would be fixed.

During the next few months I was harassed by AEF Realty’s cleaning personnel, Ms. Rhonda White, would enter my room illegally and without my permission and go into my personal belongings and food. I also caught Ms. White illegally using my phone when I returned from one of my Doctor’s appointments. Ms. Rhonda White was fired and was removed from the illegal rooming house.

My little niece, age 7 years old, was castigated by an employee, Mr. Moe, and called a “BITCH” who had blocked entrance in the community bathroom and was sticking a needle into his body. I came out and tried to enter and confronted him about yelling foul words to my family, but could not gain access into the bathroom. Mr. Moe began castigating me and threw a syringe against the bathroom wall and kicked the bathroom
door so it closed all the way.

On or about October 10th Mr. Marhi and Mrs. Marhi, the Broker in this matter that is now before the court, knocked on my door at approximately 8:30 am. When I came to the door Mr. Marhi began yelling at me about some noodles being left in the community kitchen on the
first floor. I informed Mr. Marhi that I do not use the kitchen that much only to use the oven, since I have a two-burner gas hot plate in my room.

On or about November 13th the fire department and Inspector Dennis from the Building Department informed Mr. Marhi that all the gas burners
are illegal and must be removed Mr. Marhi then informed me that he was going to throw me out on my ears and/or words to that effect. Mr. Marhi began accusing me of so many things and yelling at me I could not even here myself think. After Mr. Marhi stopped yelling at me he told me that he wanted me out of his house and left my doorway.

I rethought this incident over the next few days and decided to file a Notice Of Intention with the Courts and contacted the Building Department etc. about these violations in my room that AEF Realty has not fixed in the 6 months that I have been here.

I have also been informed by the Commissioner that 66 West 2nd, Mount Vernon, has not been a Licensed Rooming House since 1996 and the old rooming license for 66 West 2nd Street as not been renewed since 1996.

There is also a complaint regarding Mrs. Marhi for violating disclosure laws and unethical practices. I have also informed the IRS regarding this urgent matter. I have also informed the Department of State concerning Mrs. Marhi’s illegal Brokers actions.

Thank you for your time in this above mentioned matter.

Napoleon Bonie, Mount Vernon


Westchester Guardian/The Court Report.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


The Court Report

By Richard Blassberg

Press Release on Westchester County Corrections Officer's Union (COBA) asking DA Difiore to look into the actions of Dept of Corrections Commissioner - Joseph Spano.

Pg 3 - Link To: www.westchesterguardianonline.com, Then Link To: http://www.westchesterguardianonline.com/year/08/11nov08/vol3_no17_nov_27_2008/WG-11-27-08.pdf

Pg 6

United States Attorney
Michael J. Garcia Resigns

MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, 47, announced his resignation effective December 1, 2008. Upon Mr. GARCIA’s resignation, LEV L. DASSIN, 43, the Deputy United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, will serve as the Acting United States Attorney.

Mr. GARCIA, a graduate of Binghamton University, the College of William and Mary, and Albany Law School of Union University, first served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York from 1992 to 2001. For his work on a number of high-profile terrorism cases as an Assistant United States Attorney, Mr. GARCIA was twice awarded the Department of Justice’s Exceptional Service award (the Department’s highest honor) as well as the Distinguished Service award.

Mr. GARCIA then served as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement until 2002 when he was appointed Acting Commissioner of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. Upon the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. GARCIA became the first Assistant Secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In September 2005, here turned to the Southern District of New York as the Senate-confirmed
United States Attorney.

During his tenure as United States Attorney, Mr. GARCIA served on the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and was the chair of its Subcommittee on Terrorism and National Security. He was also a member of the President’s Corporate Fraud Task Force.

Mr. GARCIA plans to join a private law firm in New York City.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Westchester Guardian/Jeffrey Deskovic.

Jeff Deskovic

Barry Gibbs and Scott Fappiano Give
Presentations On their Wrongful Convictions


On November 6, 2008, Barry Gibbs, who served 19 years in prison in New York for Murder and was proven innocent of, and Scott Fappiano, who served 21 years for Rape in New York before being proven innocent, gave a talk about their wrongful convictions) at Baruch College in Manhattan. The purpose of the event was to raise public awareness about the problem of wrongful convictions, and to reinforce the reality that anyone can be wrongfully convicted at any time.

Vincent Pullara Jr. was the master of ceremonies, and the primary event organizer. is was the second such event at Baruch College that Pullara had organized. I was the presenter at the previous event, which had taken place the prior semester. Booklets that e Innocence Project had put together entitled Special Report: 200 Exonerated, Too Many Wrongfully Convicted, which contained many facts and statistics about wrongful convictions, along with the names, photos, time wrongfully spent in prison, and short case synopses of 200 wrongfully convicted people, were distributed
to the audience. e booklet also contained information and statistics regarding the causes of wrongful convictions. Pullara opened the event by speaking about how he had learned about the world of wrongful convictions as a result of his interning and volunteering at The Innocence Project, and that he had become quite passionate about the issue. He mentioned that it was a countrywide problem, and that New York had a particular problem with them, with 23 DNA-based exonerations.

After mentioning that misidentification was the cause of wrongful convictions in 75% of the 223 DNA proven wrongful convictions, he recognized a few of the members of e Innocence Project who were in attendance. He then acknowledged my presence and invited me to speak about what I had been up to since I had spoken at Baruch.

I mentioned that I had given several presentations since then, the most recent one being at the 34th annual gathering of The Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists, which featured many people who work in crime labs testing DNA, and that they were receptive to speaking to
members of the Legislature about passing reforms to prevent wrongful convictions. I had written more articles on the same, given more interviews with the press, was in the process of trying to obtain a grant to be able to do additional presentations, and had beefed up my website with more
articles.

Pullara thanked me for sharing, and then introduced Barry Gibbs. Before getting into his story, Gibbs praised The Innocence Project, and he also thanked me for both my opening remarks and for my advocacy work in raising awareness about wrongful convictions and seeking legislative changes. Gibbs then began his story. Prior to his arrest, Gibbs had worked as a postal worker and was a Vietnam veteran.

Gibbs mentioned that he had been framed by former New York Police Department Detective Lou Eppolito for Murder. He mentioned that The
Innocence Project had been looking into his case for a while, but they had to close it because it was learned that the DNA had been destroyed. He had ultimately been cleared because when the FBI raided Eppolito’s house, they discovered that he had Gibbs’ file there, even though he had no business with it since he had been retired. When Eppolito was asked what he was doing with the file, he stated that he was going to make
a movie.

From there, the false case against Gibbs began unraveling and he was ultimately cleared. Eppolito and his partner, Stephen Caracappa, were convicted of being gangsters and carrying out hits for the mob. Their charges included eight murders, kidnappings, and other crimes. The
trial court judge overturned their convictions, although stating that he believed that they were guilty, because he thought that racketeering portion of the case conspiracy did not continue past a five-year statute of limitations, and that the convictions for that charge influenced the jury verdict as to the other charges.

But the Federal Court of Appeals disagreed, stating, according to an article in USA Today: “A conspiracy to provide services to members
and associates of organized crime continued well past the point in March 2000 when charges otherwise would have had to be filed. Many of
the worst crimes occurred between 1986 and 1990.” Gibbs spoke about his case and his time in prison. The facts of Gibb’s case, taken from the blog Strange Justice by Marc Simon, are as follows: “In 1999 the Innocence Project took up the case of Barry Gibbs, but with no success. Unwilling to admit remorse for a crime he did not commit, Gibbs seemed doomed to live out his entire sentence without Parole or vindication. Then, in March, 2005, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration raided the Las Vegas home of former NYPD Detective Lou Eppolito after arresting him, his son Anthony, and his former partner Stephen Caracappa on drug trafficking charges. Eppolito and Caracappa were also accused
of participation with the Mafia in numerous murders. Inside Eppolito’s basement agents found the case file on the Barry Gibbs prosecution,
which Eppolito had been an investigator on. Clearly, there were problems with the case. Gibbs had been convicted primarily on the testimony of one man, Peter Mitchell, who claimed he saw a man in a park dumping the slain body of Virginia Robertson. Mitchell had picked Gibbs out of a police line-up as that person and testified as to such at Gibbs’ trial. However, once confronted two decades later by Federal agents, Mitchell claimed he had been coerced by Detective Eppolito into falsely identifying Gibbs.”

Gibbs said that after being released with nothing, his life circumstances were difficult. He was living in a heavily subsidized room; was on food stamps and was in really bad shape financially. He stated several times that he was bitter. In a prior interview with e New York Post, he mentioned that his son was young when he went to prison, and that he has not been able to reconnect with him. As he put it, his “son has his own life and doesn’t have any time for me.”Though not mentioning it at his presentation, Gibbs had attended the sentencing hearing of Eppolito, at which
point the following verbal exchange, taken from e New York Times article on June 6, 2006, took place: “Mr. Eppolito!” he yelled from the gallery. “Do you remember me?”

Apparently baffled, Mr. Eppolito said, “No.” “I’m the guy you put away for 19 years! I’m Barry Gibbs! You don’t remember me? You don’t remember what you did to me? To my family?”

Next Scott Fappiano spoke. The facts of Fappiano’s case are taken from e Innocence Project’s website: “On October 6, 2006, Scott Fappiano
walked out of the Kings County Supreme Court as a free man. After serving 21 years for rape, sodomy, burglary, and sexual abuse, post conviction DNA testing proved his innocence.

On December 1, 1983, in Brooklyn, New York, a white male intruder with a gun woke the victim and her husband, a New York Police Department officer. The perpetrator instructed the victim to tie up her husband in the bed with a length of telephone wire. He then ordered the victim to remove her clothing. The perpetrator vaginally raped her throughout the house and forced her to perform oral sex on him. The perpetrator
then smoked a cigarette and drank a beer, leaving both in the living room. The victim was able to flee into the hallway and bang on a neighbor’s door for assistance. The perpetrator then fled the scene. The victim described the perpetrator as a white male of Italian descent. She was brought to the police station to view photographs of individuals who fit her general description. She selected a photograph of Scott Fappiano. She chose him again in a live lineup containing Fappiano and police officers serving as “fillers.”

On the same day, her husband viewed a live lineup and selected one of the “fillers.” The victim was taken to the hospital and a rape kit was collected. The vaginal smears and swabs tested positive for the presence of semen. The victim’s white jogging pants that she had put on after the assault also tested positive for semen in the crotch area. Police also collected a towel containing semen stains, cigarette butts, and a beer bottle
from the victim’s apartment. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) performed serology on the semen-stained towel and cigarettes.

Fappiano was type O and the victim’s husband was type A. These items had type A antigens on them. The jogging pants and rape kit could not be tested at the time of trial due to technological limitations. Fappiano was tried twice for this crime. The jury could not reach a verdict in his 1984 trial. He was tried again in 1985 and convicted of rape, sodomy, burglary, and sexual abuse. The court sentenced him to 20 - 50 years in prison. In 1989, Fappiano was granted post conviction DNA testing of the semen-stained sweatpants. The District Attorney sent the evidence to LifeCodes, a private DNA laboratory.

LifeCodes detected spermatozoa on the sweatpants, but no results were obtained. The sweatpants and rape kit were sent back to the District Attorney’s Office. In 2003, The Innocence Project began representing Fappiano. A two-year search at the Office of the District Attorney and NYPD storage facilities did not turn up any evidence. In August 2005, however, Orchid Cellmark notified the Innocence Project that they had inherited materials from LifeCodes. Cellmark had two tubes of DNA extract from the sweatpants that corresponded to Fappiano’s case number.

This evidence was transferred to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York. In 2006, the OCME performed multiple rounds of DNA testing over the course of the summer. They first determined that there was DNA from one male and one female in the sample. They then excluded Fappiano and the victim’s husband from the male portion. Lastly, the OCME confirmed that the victim was the contributor of the female portion of the extract from the sweatpants, establishing that the evidence had indeed come from the same crime and proving that Fappiano could not have been the perpetrator. On October 6, 2006, Scott Fappiano’s convictions were vacated and he was released after serving 21 years in prison. He was greeted in the courthouse by his family

Fappiano also mentioned the particular difficulties he had in prison as a result of being incarcerated for a sex offense. He mentioned that he had been beaten up various times, including an incident in which he had been hit with a metal pipe. He added that because the crime he was wrongfully convicted of involved a police officer’s wife, the correctional officers, who were supposed to provide security, instead were hostile to him. Thus he had to beware of both the guards and the prisoners.

At the time of his wrongful conviction, Fappiano was living in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and was attending St. John’s University, majoring in law. Fappiano mentioned that he and Barry Gibbs knew each other from prison. Speaking of his life today, Fappiano mentioned that he considered himself to be fortunate, unlike Barry Gibbs, because he had a lot of support from family and others.

He said that he was now living with his mother, in the same house he grew up in and in the same bedroom, and that he had the same girlfriend that he used to have before he was wrongfully convicted. She now had two kids by a previous marriage, and as it happened she had broken up with her
husband two months before his conviction was overturned. He said he regarded that as sign that they were meant to be together. He stated that unlike Barry Gibbs, he was not bitter. Backing that up, he had a smile on his face as he spoke and his personality, that of a likable, funny person,
clearly radiated through, despite his frequent use of the F-word.

Throughout his presentation, he commented on the absurdity of different parts of his case and laughed at the prosecution arguing absurdities both at his trial and during the post conviction process, in an attempt to win no matter what. For example, he referenced the prosecution continuing
the case against him rather than dismissing the indictment, because, as previously mentioned, his blood type did not match that left at the crime scene, and her police officer husband selected a filler out of the police lineup.

As Fappiano saw it, he thought that the police officer’s selection should have been given more weight since he had police training, and that this went to the matter of the accuracy of the victim’s identification. Taking that theme a bit further, he said that at the conclusion of his first trial which ended in a mistrial, the jury was polled and the count was 11-1 for acquittal. Nonetheless, despite all of the above, a determined prosecution retried him anyway, rather than dropping the case.

Another example that he felt was crazy was the prosecution insisting that the DNA found on a towel at the crime scene had to be tested to prove that it did not come from a consensual sexual encounter between the victim and he husband three days earlier. “Who has marital relations, ejaculates, then saves it on a towel for three days?” The crowd burst into laughter at that one. At the conclusion of his presentation, Pullara called me up to make a few closing remarks. I began by pointing out that when exonerees speak about their stories, based upon my own experience, as well as conversations I’ve had with others, it seems we do it in order to raise public awareness about wrongful convictions, with the hope that this will inspire people to urge their representatives to pass legislative changes, and also as a way of trying to make a difference. But the price that we pay is that we relive what happened to us: including being arrested, falsely convicted, the horrors of prison, missing our families and significant
events that occur throughout the natural course of a life cycle i.e. births, weddings, deaths etc.

I thanked Gibbs and Fappiano for sharing their stories. I then stated that most politicians do not pass legislation because it is the right thing to do morally, but instead they do so when the passage or nonpassage of legislation is linked to votes and getting re-elected. Therefore, I said it was
important that they call, email, and visit their representatives and insist that they pass legislation making the criminal justice system more accountable.

I have a variety of thoughts about this event. I have listened to many exonerees, including Alan Newton, Yusef Salaam, and Gary Beeman. But, this lecture was different in a variety of ways. Firstly, Fappiano said the F-word a lot. I had never witnessed that before. My sense was that the audience was giving him a pass because he had been incarcerated wrongfully for 21 years.

I thought that his speech jumped around a bit, going from his case to jail and then back to his case, rather than being more sequential. Of course, I realize that he had not given many presentations and had not received training.

Gibbs didn’t give a clear, easy-to-follow picture of how he was wrongfully convicted although obviously he was, it jumped around as well. Of course, simply knowing about one’s case doesn’t mean that upon release the exonerated person is ready to be a member of a speaker’s bureau. In terms of his being bitter, his present life circumstances, along with serving the 19 years wrongfully, certainly make that understandable. And, I recognize his right to feel that way. Yet I would like to see him enjoy the rest of his life rather than being bitter and unhappy, because he is a likable person despite that bitterness.

I believe that being released with nothing and having to struggle financially, while waiting years for lawsuits to wend their way through the legal system, is criminal, in and of itself. Money should be provided independent of what is awarded as a result of any lawsuit, simply by way of assisting
the exonerated person to get back on their feet and get on with their life.

The fact that that isn’t how the system is set up is criminal and speaks volumes to the current lack of commitment to justice and equality in the criminal justice system, as does the fact that most states, including New York, still haven’t passed reforms to both criminalize prosecutorial misconduct and to make the system more accountable to prevent wrongful convictions.


Westchester Guardian/Catherine Wilson.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Catherine Wilson, Bureau Chief
Northern Westchester

Scrutinizing County Executive’s
Proposed Capital Spending


Westchester County is currently in the middle of its annual budgeting process. On Friday, November 14, County Executive Andy
Spano released the County Budget for 2009. The public has only three weeks to review and question this budget before it is presented to the
County Board of Legislators for approval on December 8th. According to the League of Women Voters of Westchester, the schedule for the
public hearings for the County’s budget study sessions are:

Wed., Nov. 19 - Mini-Public Hearing, Yonkers.

Tues., Nov. 25 - Mini-Public Hearing, Peekskill.

Wed., Dec. 3 - Public Hearing, County Board of Legislators Chambers, White Plains.

In addition, the County will Scrutinizing County Executive’s Proposed Capital Spending be hosting a Question and Answer session where the public can meet the County’s Budget Director, Ms. Anne Reasoner, and her staff. That session will be held on Thursday, November 20, 2008 1pm at White Plains Library, 100 Martine Avenue, White Plains Before the budget is submitted to the County Board of Legislators for their approval, it is first reviewed by the Board’s Committee on Budget and Appropriations.

The purpose of this committee is to “review and modify, where appropriate, the proposed County Budget.” This Committee claims that they seek regular input on fiscal matters from the public through public hearings and through monthly meetings of the Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee.

They meet on the first Wednesday of every month at 6pm in the Westchester County Board of Legislators Committee Meeting Room located on the 8th floor of the Michaelian Office Building at 148 Martine Avenue in White Plains. The public is invited to attend these meetings. The next meeting of this Committee will be on Wednesday, December 3rd.

According to the County’s Budget Department, the Board of Legis-lators designates the Committee of Budget and Appropriations as the
lead Committee for the review of the County Executive’s budget submission. The budget is also submitted to the Board of Legislators’ audit firm for an independent review. However, while Westchester County has two budgets currently up for public review, the Operating Budget (day to-day operations) and the Capital Budget (major long-term projects and investments), only the Capital Budget was available online at press time for the public’s review.

In his proposed capital budget for 2009, County Executive Andrew Spano acknowledges a bleak forecast for next year and notes, “My
proposed Capital Budget is 19% less than last year’s, representing a $21.7 million decrease”. However, what Mr. Spano fails to note is that any projects approved in prior years affect the current year’s Operating and Capital Budgets.

Since the County borrows and/or issues bonds to finance budgets with terms up to 20 years, any County budget for the past 20 years may still have an impact on current spending. While this year’s $93,176,000 proposed capital budget is indeed less than the $114,880,000 budget in 2008, the impact of the $114 million authorized in 2008 is affecting our County’s current 2009 Budgets. Government capital budgets
can be used to determine fiscal policy, to improve the government’s net worth, and aid in economic development. Since most capital
projects are long-term, such as the construction of a bridge, they are usually financed by debt or external aid rather than through increases in
taxes. Capital budgets should plan for and cover all four stages of each proposed project: planning (setting goals and objectives and considering alternatives), budgeting (selecting projects to be developed, and determining financing), implementation (procurement, monitoring
and oversight of projects), and “ex post” audits (evaluations of the actual impact of projects). According to the International Monetary
Fund, “Experience shows that in the absence of properly organized capital budgets, governments resort to borrowing without due consideration of the sustainability aspects, assets are inadequately maintained, and major projects suffer from overall poor management and performance.”

The IMF also notes that the investment/project proposals need to be appraised in terms of both capital and operating costs, such as
interest costs on debt needed, costs to maintain acquired assets, etc. In addition, the IMF recommends that governments set targets
to limit their level of debt. The County notes on its budget website that it has a borrowing capacity of up to $11,453,604,375 – that’s
over $11 BILLION dollars – based on a County real estate value of $163,622,919,651, meaning the County is basing how much it can
borrow on the value of local property, values that are declining.

As of September 1, 2007, the latest date for which figures are available on the County site, the County’s total debt was $748,089,787. The
total interest due on all outstanding County debt is $217,403,429; this is the total of all payments due through 2038. It does not include
any interest payments on any additional debt approved by the County for 2009 in the proposed budget. As it stands, the County is burdening future generations with almost a quarter of a BILLION dollars in interest payments alone. Yet nowhere in the County’s budget does it note what targets our local government has set to limit the level of debt.

During the Great Depression, capital budgets concentrated on ensuring economic recovery. Several governments used public funding
to create self-financing assets leading to increased net worth. Those “investment” budgets were replaced in later years by a dual budget approach where normal expenditures in operating budgets were simply shifted into the capital budgets providing a convenient way for governments to reduce their deficits while justifying a rationale for borrowing. The IMF warns that if governments do not integrate their capital and operating budgets, they could end up with unsatisfactory balances between current and capital spending, e.g., developing new hospitals, but having insufficient trained staff or inadequate maintenance and funding for utilities. Westchester County, however, issues its Capital and Operating Budgets separately, with no documented integration between these budgets.

Mr. Spano alleges, in his presentation to the Board of Legislators, that his administration continues “to review every item with an eye
towards eliminating or delaying anything which is not absolutely necessary.” He further asserts, “The programs in this Capital Budget
reflect this policy. That is why we are able to reduce spending by 19%”. The Guardian reviewed every line item in Mr. Spano’s proposed
Capital Budget and found this statement to be misleading. Many of the “savings” for 2009 are simply postponed to 2010 and beyond,
meaning the taxpayers will still absorb the costs, they are just being deferred until after the County Executive’s re-election bid next year.

A review of the Capital Budget revealed that the proposed capital projects given to the Board of Legislators for their approval do not contain
sufficient information for them to make a decision.

Full Disclosure


This reporter was the Budget Manager for Reader’s Digest, handling multi-billion dollar operating and capital budgets. The County’s
project descriptions lack:

1. Alternative solutions, including the option of doing nothing;

2. Annual costs and any revenues for the full life of the project;

3. The types of financing for the project and full cost disclosure for each alternative, any future costs or project stages beyond the five years
presented in the Capital Budget;

4. Audits of the previous project stages to determine feasibility of the future stages, and any changes that may need to be made to the original
proposal;

5. A full assessment of the needs, opportunities, and resources;

6. A confirmation of how the proposed project conforms with the County’s long-term Master Plan and investment strategies;

7. The priority ranking of the project;

8. A statement of compliance with all local, state, and Federal laws and regulations including safety and environmental standards;

9. A statement of compliance with the County’s “Best Practices” standards;

10. Causes no negative impact on other County projects or interferes with local, state, Federal projects, or any individual, system, policy, law, or regulation;

11. An audit trail of signatures of all individuals authorizing their approval of the project in accordance with documented County procurement, fixed asset, inventory, and capitalization policies;

12. Any other issues that would have the potential to impact the project, or any issues that have the appearance of impacting the project;

13. Copies of all bids, proposed contractors, approved suppliers, etc.;

14. Any conflicts of interest among contractors, suppliers, legislators, and government officials regarding this project, including political support, ownership of assets, etc.;

15. A statement that the budget and financing determinations are in compliance with all accounting regulations set by the Government Accounting Standards Board.

Without all of the above information, the Board of Legislators cannot know if the projects have been thoroughly analyzed, can cause potential harm to the County and its residents, or will incur future costs or difficulties. For example, the GASB has set a new accounting
requirement affecting how all governments will report their fund balances, the difference between the County’s assets and liabilities. This
balance is used to identify the available liquid resources that the County has to repay its long-term debt, to add new government programs, or
expand existing ones. The GASB regulation calls for governments to isolate their fund balance into the portion that is restricted, for specific purposes only, limited, earmarked by County ordinances, assigned, e.g., funds for computer purchases where a total budget amount is assigned, and unassigned, general purposes. This regulation is to take effect in June, 2011 and all government financial statements at
that time must adjust all of their prior year information presented.

Therefore the current 2009 budget will eventually have to comply with this new GASB regulation, yet no mention of this is made in the Capital Budget and the fund balance does not yet reflect the new regulation. According to the County’s Balance Sheet, as of September 1, 2008, its fund balance is a negative $58,231,357, as follows: The County only has $35,185,628 in assets in its Capital accounts, but owes $93,416,985. The Guardian’s review of this budget revealed other issues and concerns as well. The 2009 budget calls for $6.3 million in modifications to the Department of Public Works facilities, Project #B0071, including upgrades to heating and air conditioning, yet makes no note of any alternative energy sources or green alternatives that were considered.

• Project B0080 calls for $14 million in renovations to the Hilltop Hanover farm, spread out through 2013. This farm was purchased in 2003 by the County for “agricultural preservation, drinking water protection and the promotion of environmental stewardship through demonstration projects and programs for sustainability”, yet the November calendar for this County farm only lists two activities: A knitting
class on November 15th, and a hike on November 28th. Does such limited use justify an additional $14 million in expenditures on top of
the annual operating costs for this farm? How many Westchester residents even know this exists?

• Project B0081 calls for a $1.4 million rehabilitation of the County’s record center, a 50,932 square foot facility in Elmsford. An article
last August in The Guardian lauded how the County Clerk’s office is transferring all of their paper files to digital records with significant savings to the taxpayers. So why isn’t the County using these proposed funds to get rid of the paper it’s storing and eliminate the need for this building completely? Why is the County rehabilitating a building that provides an antiquated and inefficient service? And, why did the County purchase 450 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley, at a certain cost of $14 million and possibly as high as $20 million before it is totally rehabilitated and outfitted?

• Project B0084 calls for emergency generators at several County sites to “provide the necessary response and emergency services needed during a natural disaster, terrorist act or long-term power outage”. Yet the bulk of this $4.5 million project is deferred into 2010, only $540,000 is being requested for 2009. Isn’t safety a top priority for the County’s Capital Expenditures? And, if these generators are truly to
provide responses to a terrorist act, why, then, does this project make no mention of seeking Homeland Security funds for this?

• Project BFT05 calls for a new fire training center to simulate conditions “typically found in a commercial strip mall”. These funds are
being deferred into the 2010 budget. However, no mention is made in this project of the amount of use this training center would receive.
If there is considerable downtime, could this center be leased to other fire districts outside of the County? Do neighboring counties have a
similar training center that Westchester County could use instead of building a separate facility? Can these training facilities be consolidated
among all the counties in the lower Hudson Valley?

• Project BIT3A calls for $1.2 million each year, for the next three years, for the purchase of replacement computers and estimates an
approximate cost of $1,200 per computer. Given that personal computers now sell for less than $500 each for a basic system, why does
the County need to budget an average of $1,200 for their equipment? Does every employee need an elaborate system? Can these computers
be purchased in bulk, possibly in consortium with neighboring counties and local municipalities? The project proposal presented to the
Board of Legislators does not address these issues. It does, however, beg the question, “What ‘fat cat’ is lining his pockets?”

• Project BIT20 calls for $1.5 million in 2010 for “the purchase and installation of broadband wireless network equipment at access points throughout the County”. What’s wrong with the wireless systems already setup by the telephone companies? Why can’t County employees
use the T-Mobile and Verizon systems? And, what about the $22.5 million spent, over five years, from March, 2000, in a no-bid contract with Lightpath, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cablevision? That system has been so poor that we waste four County police cars every day that stand parked, at the ready, at 148 Martine Avenue. And, incidentally, is it merely a coincidence that Norm Jackness, who set up that system, now participates in Lightpath commercials?

• Project BLA01 allocates $35 million for land acquisition for parks; Project BLA03 allocates an additional $4.5 million for development
rights. Given the significant amount of County parks in existence, this program would appear to be a low priority at present. The project request also does not note alternative measures to obtain this land such as through land gifts from local residents or funding from “Friends of Parks”, a County nonprofit organization earmarked for local parks and recreation needs.

One would wonder what Commissioner Stout, and his Special Assistant who, between them, pull down more than a quarter of a million dollars annually, might be capable of coming up with in this regard? Perhaps after budget season, it might be a good idea to look into the operations of Friends Of Parks, but I digress.

Several projects call for funds for the determination of long-range plans, budgets, and audits. Why aren’t County employees used for these
plans? None of these projects note which companies are under consideration to be hired, or their connections to any elected representatives and any possible conflicts in the outcome and implementation of these plans.

• Project BPL07 has $1.3 million “under review” for aerial photos and digital mapping of the County. Hasn’t the internet already covered this with Google Earth and Yahoo maps? Can’t we already look into our neighbors back yards via our home computers?

• Project BPL10 allocates $25 million for affordable housing over the next five years. However, this project does not note alternatives
like the rehabilitation of existing properties, especially abandoned and foreclosed homes to prevent community blight, not to mention
numerous houses owned by the County on County park grounds.

• Project RCP7C calls for $1.8 million for the rehabilitation of camping sites at Croton Point including 20 sites for recreational vehicles.
is project does not note how many of the RV campers, if any, are actually County residents. Since it is highly unlikely that a local resident would drive an RV to a County camp site, these expenses could conceivably be only for the benefit of non-residents.

The County is planning to spend $231,956,000 for parks and recreation over the next five years, of which $50,981,000 is for Playland
and $22,525,000 is for the County’s golf courses. Yet only $396,000 has been allocated for creating accessible walkways and pathways in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, and even that is being deferred until 2010. Once again, re-election year, 2009, is being given deferential treatment.

If the County can afford to spend $2 million for golf course path rehabilitation, $1.2 million in 2009 alone, Project RGC18 for able-bodied
individuals, why isn’t accessibility an equal, if not higher, priority for the County’s budget?

The Guardian encourages its readers to voice their opinions of the County’s Capital Budget either at the public hearings, or by contacting
the Budget Committee directly.

The Chair of this Committee, Jose Alvarado, is an accountant, and therefore has both a fiduciary and a professional responsibility to the
taxpayers of this county. He may be reached at 914-995-2846. According to the Board’s website, the other Legislators on this Committee are: Thomas Abinanti: District 12, 914-995-2821
William Burton: District 9, 914-995-2812
Peter Harckham: District 2, 914-995-2810
Ken Jenkins: District 16, 914-995-2829
Michael Kaplowitz:District 4, 914-995-2848
Judy Myer: District 7, 914-995-2802
George Oros: District 1, 914-995-2828
Martin Rogowsky: District 6, 914-995-2834
Bernice Spreckman: District 14, 914-995-2815
Lyndon Williams: District 13, 914-995-2837

In addition, The Guardian readers may email any of the above representatives through the Board’s web site at
http://www.westchesterlegislators.com/. Any capital expenditures our local legislators approve for 2009 will impact our economy for years to come.

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