Thursday, November 27, 2008

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

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.

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