“I Seen My Opportunties, and I Took ‘Em”
George Washington Plunkett
Richie Kessel has a history of being chastised by his overseers for various misdeeds at LIPA. For instance, Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democrat like Kessel, criticized Kessel for violating bidding requirements when LIPA paid the Republican lobbying company, Strategic Planning Systems, $45 thousand to conduct political polls (all LIPA contracts over $5,000 require competitive bids). The Attorney General of New York, also a Democrat, later critiqued Richie for improper charitable contributions made by LIPA. Most recently, Governor Paterson and various Federal and State pols blasted NYPA CEO Richie for proposing to raise rates—a natural impulse for the big-spending, rate-increasing and vendor-pleasing Kessel—at a time when upstate ratepayers are falling under the burden of sky-high taxes and utility rates and when the Governor has himself surrendered $18,000 of his salary to the public treasury and frozen salaries.
When Richie took the helm at NYPA, Richie proposed to hire as NYPA Inspector General, a Saratoga-based Republican judge sent to the showers by the electorate this past November. Richie, no doubt, moved by human kindness and the entreaties of Senators Bruno and Skelos, proposed to hire the newly-unemployed Republican judge as inspector general of the $3.1 billion revenue NYPA. That plan may have been upset by newly empowered Senate Democrats who were determined to live by the golden rule— “to the victor go the spoils.” So, in February 2009, NYPA announced in an unusual release that “Judge Anthony Carpinello earlier this week requested the NYPA Board of Trustees to no longer consider him for appointment to the Authority staff. The Authority has been engaged in a review of the scope and practices of its current Office of Inspector General. A potential reorganization plan could include a redefined position that would not provide the same professional opportunities that were originally discussed when Judge Carpinello was conditionally appointed in December, 2008.” Very interesting but not very informative.
So, did the defeated Republican judge turn down a State government gig paying $40,000 annually more than his seat on the bench due to concerns about job description? Did the removal of the job’s real responsibilities lead an experienced jurist to take a pass on being a messenger between NYPA and the State IG? Did Richie reconsider the inconvenience of having a real person serving as IG when there was lots of business to be done?
Now, our story takes another turn. As Fred Dicker of the New York Post reported, Richie announced this month that the remaining NYPA IG folk—four in total, were being sent to the unemployment line and an unidentified person would be hired to serve as a “liaison” to the State Inspector General. A NYPA spokesman said, “The Power Authority is in the process of initiating a series of reforms from previous practices to address some of the criticisms in past and current investigations,” the spokesman said, adding: ”We have made the decision to eliminate the NYPA Office of Inspector General and instead will have a liaison position to the state IG.” This despite the fact that NYPA’s by-laws require a real IG and not the cartoon version created by Kessel. Fans keeping score at home will know that the By-Laws provide: “There shall be a separate Inspector General which shall report to the Trustees, the Governance Committee and the President and Chief Executive Officer and shall have such other powers and perform such other duties as customarily pertain to such officer. The Inspector General shall attend the meetings of the Governance Committee.”
We leave the parsing to the lawyers but note the language that the IG “shall have such other powers and perform such other duties as customarily pertain to such officer.” And thus did Richie convert the oversight role of five NYPA IG staff into one liaison placeholder.
So, a NYPA CEO, used to operating without an internal IG at LIPA, has dispatched the proposed IG and all of the remaining incumbent staff. Now NYPA is a large operation that requires an independent IG—assets of $7 billion, revenues of over $3 billion and net income last year of $300 million. Plus Richie is working on bringing more hydropower down from Quebec, building more transmission lines to carry wind, solar and hydro power from upstate to the City, the Island and Westchester and other projects that will require the letting of many mega contracts. As a result, many vendors and their lobbyists await the opportunity to bite into the newly-gorged NYPA pie. And no real IG to watch the store.
Our story ends with the henhouse under the watch of none other than the egg-devouring feline. Now there is no one to watch the NYPA treasury and the compliant NYPA Board poses no oversight threat to Kessel’s designs. Street Corner Conservative thanks its correspondents for their information and assures them strict confidentiality.
THE KESSEL COUNTDOWN: 622 DAYS UNTIL RICHIE KESSEL IS FIRED BY THE NEW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.