Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Courage to Govern II

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

US Prosecutor Says NY Corruption 'Rampant'
By Jake Pearson and Michael Gormley
The Associated Press

NEW YORK- U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told a new state commission Tuesday that corruption in New York politics has created a "show-me-the-money culture" that's permeating state and local officials, both Democrats and Republicans, and has reached intolerable proportions.

"Public corruption, based on all evidence, appears rampant," Bharara told The Commission To Investigate Public Corruption  at its first public hearing. "And the ranks of those convicted in office have swelled to absolutely unacceptable levels." .... U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch testified about "self-interest and double-dealing" in New York politics. She called for "truly transparent financial disclosure" by politicians to ward off conflicts of interest. She also called on honest politicians to report misconduct by colleagues. "I do think there is room for public officials who see this wrongdoing and who hear these conversations to step up," she said.

The article continues, but we can chew on just the first two paragraphs for a while because they apply so directly to East Greenbush. As you've read in these pages many times: If you don't nail it you license it. The U.S. Attorney notes that BOTH state parties are actively and willfully corrupt, with that corruption running down like dirty water into the surrounding cities, towns, and villages. Any surprises? Shouldn't be. We've seen years of corruption at every level of Town life exposed in these pages and others. Anything changed? Maybe some. Not enough. Notice the way Ms. Lynch called for  transparent financial disclosure among politicians. We've had an Ethics Law stalled for over a year on  this very issue, and here we have a U.S. Attorney telling us exactly what we already knew but didn't have the courage to do.

Notice also the call for "honest politicians" (if they exist) to step up and report suspected violations. Over the last several years the citizens of East Greenbush have pointed out countless examples of possible corruption and conflict of interest by the Majority party. (Both sides have held a majority in that time, though the Democrats have had the honor for most of it.) What has the Minority done with this power? Almost nothing. There was one notable exception when the Democrat Minority actually brought a case to court over what they perceived to be wrong: the infamous "Double-Dipper" case. Regardless of the merits, the Minority at that time showed enough courage to spend the money and the political capital to go out on a limb for what they thought to be right. They won, and eventually won their Majority back as a result. But usually the Minority has left it to ordinary taxpayers to pursue honest government and political accountability on their own. In many cases the Minority has even gone so far as to turn on the very citizens doing the job that THEY should be doing! Obviously it doesn't work that way, and the U.S. Attorneys quoted in this article know that. They are specifically calling on the Minority Party to have the courage to govern. Town Hall, Candidates: You don't need a Majority... you just need a little courage. So far this year Mrs. Matters leads the pack in that category.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Courage to Govern

In September of 2010, the truncated Town Board (McCabe, O’Brien and Matters), after several attempts to get it right, passed a retirement incentive to allow 5 insiders to retire early with full pensions.  The initiative cost taxpayers $500,000 – paid to the retirement system.  The initiative was, by law, supposed to save taxpayers 25% of the salaries eliminated in each of the next two years.  The Board pledged that it would save more.  I believe that there was also supposed to be a report.  We never heard any more about it, even though the question was raised from time to time, and one “Einstein” suggested on the blog that the report wasn’t for the people and that I should FOIL for it.  Well, I did FOIL.  Here’s the correspondence:

“Sent: Friday, August 02, 2013 4:12 PM
To: Keith Langley ; Linda Kennedy ; Kim Carlock
Subject: FOIL

Some time ago the Town spent $500,000 to fund an early retirement
incentive program for certain employees.  One of the provisions involved
in that action required a report on the savings achieved as a result of
that early retirement action.  Under the provisions of the Freedom of
Information Law, I am requesting any and all reports to any and all
governmental entities which document such savings. If such report(s) do
not exist, please advise.

Don Johnson

Re: Foil

Mr. Johnson,

This is to inform you that we have received your request on 08/02/2013 for
Town records.

We have forwarded your request on to the Finance Department and the
Comptroller’s Office because these records are not in our office.

You will be able to obtain the requested records no later than 09/01/2013.
You will be notified by phone if the information you requested is available
sooner or by mail if they need more time.

If for any reason, any portion of your request is denied, the “denial of
Access” section of the Public record request will be completed in full and
returned to you.

You have the right to appeal any denial by writing to the Supervisor of the
Town of East Greenbush, 225 Columbia Turnpike, Rensselaer New York 12144.

Hi Don.
I wanted to let you know that we were unable to locate the records that you
were inquiring about. I know I said September 1st in my letter but I did not
take into consideration the Holiday. Have a good day.

Kimberly Carlock Deputy Town Clerk”

The Town Board(s) which were supposed to deliver on the legal requirements of the incentive, have basically given the people of the Town the Finger.  As Mr. Malone would say, “we’re the majority, and what we pass, passes.”

The Fiscal Advisers, the Bond raters, the OSC and the Independent Auditors all have basically the same litany of recommendations to get the Town out of the financial mess that it’s in.  These include a financial recovery plan, a hiring freeze, a workload analysis, a more intelligent budgeting process, accounting software, etc. But just like no report on the retirement incentive, we’ve seen NO action on the other generally accepted solutions to the financial difficulties. There will be no relief from the financial stresses which the Town faces until the people elected to govern muster the courage to stop the juvenile play-acting at government run a grown-up business-like operation.  This will take tough decisions in the interest of all the people and will require abandoning the parochial Party interests.