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Archive for the ‘Richie Kessel NYPA Watch-SCC’ category
KESSEL’S NYPA REIGN: IT’S ALL ABOUT DINING
Our NYPA correspondents report that C.E.O. Richie Kessel rarely shows up for work at his White Plains office. On the average, his office appearances are often limited to two half days a week. The rest of the work week he spends flitting around Long Island and New York City going to luncheons, giving speeches and receiving vanity honors.
Dining plays a very important and expensive role in the lives of Kessel and the hacks on his senior staff. For instance, NYPA employees have been ordered to pick up food from Manhattan’s Carnegie Deli and from one of Kessel’s favorite Long Island Chinese restaurants to feed Kessel and senior staff at his White Plain’s Executive Management Committee meetings. In these difficult economic times, it is an outrage that ratepayers’ hard-earned dollars are being wasted on NYPA employees traveling all over the metropolitan region to procure chow for Kessel and his hacks.
There’s more: Recently received FOIL information from NYPA reveals that Kessel and his staff spend plenty of ratepayers’ money to wine and dine at luncheons and dinners that have nothing to do with NYPA’s mission. Here’s a very small sampling:
|June 2010||The Long Island Housing Partnership
$1,500 – The Crest Hollow Country Club
|June 18, 2010||Vision Long Island Smart Growth Awards Dinner
$2,000 – VIP Table
|September 2010||Nassau Council of Chamber of Commerce 2010 Breakfast
|September 18, 2010||The Latimer House Museum Luncheon
$350 – Flushing, Queens
|September 22, 2010||Building Long Island
$2,500 – Carlyle on the Green
|September 24, 2010||The Regional Alliance for Small Contractors Annual Awards Luncheon
$3,000 – “The Lighthouse” Pier Sixty
|October 7, 2010||The Bronx Chamber of Commerce 8th Annual Awards Banquet
$2,400 – Marina Del Rey
|October 16, 2010||Rockville Center, L.I. Chamber of Commerce
“A Taste of Elegance – An evening of dining, dancing and wine tasting.”
|October 25, 2010||White Plains Youth Bureau 40th Anniversary Gala
$750 – Crowne Plaza Hotel
|November 2010||Save What’s Left 33rd Anniversary Awards Gala
|November 10, 2010||Kids X-Press “Touch the Sky” Awards
$500 – Ritz Carlton, White Plains
|January 12, 2011||Long Island Association County Executives Report Luncheon
$200 – Crest Hollow Country Club
|January 29, 2011||“Bellmore in Bloom” Dinner
Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores, L.I. –
$400 – Woodbury Country Club
Questions for NYPA Trustees:
1) Why is NYPA’s CEO permitted to be absent from his White Plain’s work office most of every work week? Why is he treated differently from every other NYPA employees who must report to their workstations every day? Why isn’t he disciplined or fired? Isn’t this theft of service? What do Kessel’s time sheets say about how he spends his time at the public trough?
2) Why is Kessel permitted to force NYPA employees to serve as gofers spending their work day picking up food for him? Doesn’t that sound like what got Alan Hevesi in a heap of trouble?
3) Why are Kessel and his staff members permitted to squander money on luncheon and dinner events that have nothing to do with NYPA’s mission?
RICHIE KESSEL: POSTER BOY FOR ETHICS REFORM
One day when historians of New York State look back on the 20th century, they may debate who was the most and least effective Governors, most corrupt legislator and best Senate Majority Leader and shrewdest Assembly Speaker. But it is likely there will be little debate as to the most investigated State official in the last 30 years: Richie Kessel. To give Kessel’s legacy its due, let’s recognize that Kessel has been investigated during the Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson and Cuomo Administrations.
Whether at LIPA or NYPA, the one constant has been investigations of Kessel. Even now as his inglorious career lurches to its long overdue denouement, Kessel is being investigated simultaneously for potentially unethical behavior at two separate State authorities. Street Corner Conservative believes this achievement is unprecedented in the history of the Empire State. Indeed, it is possible that when Kessel takes his leave of State service he will remain under investigation by the Cuomo Administration Inspector General for his actions at two separate authorities in two decades.
Lest future generations not recognize Kessel’s lifetime achievements in ethical investigations, Street Corner points out that Kessel was previously investigated by a Democratic Comptroller for his actions at LIPA and received well-deserved criticism for bypassing its own bidding requirements when it paid a Republican consulting firm $45 thousand to conduct “political polls.” Later, he was investigated by the Inspector General in the Paterson Administration.
Since Kessel partisans may claim their benefactor was a victim of partisan politics, it is critical to note that each of the four investigations was undertaken by a Democratic official.
While the State Legislature considers the Governor’s much needed ethics reform bill in the closing days of this legislative session, I call upon the NYPA board to investigate promptly the following Kessel issues:
1) whether at Kessel’s direction health insurance was improperly provided to a NYPA trustee;
2) whether Kessel improperly sole sourced any of the scores of such contracts;
3) whether donations to Long Island organizations of hundreds of thousands of dollars were improper because they were unrelated to NYPA’s mission; and
4) whether Kessel violated any State laws, including the various public authority reform acts, regulations and NYPA policies.
AN OPEN LETTER TO NEW YORK POWER AUTHORITY TRUSTEES
Street Corner Conservative respectfully requests that the NYPA Board of Trustees review the following issues relating to what appears to be abuse of State FOIL law based on much delayed and recently released FOIL request information:
1) Showing Love to Long Island entities. In January, 2011—five months after the request, the NYPA Corporate Secretary responded to a August 22, 2010 FOIL requesting among other items, “information and records as to contributions and payments to not-for-profit entities from NYPA or any subsidiary or affiliate including purchase of tickets or sponsorships to events conducted by any such not-for-profit for the period January 1, 2009 through and including July 31, 2010.”
The recipient list certified by the Corporate Secretary included approximately 187 not-for-profit entities with contributions totaling approximately $808,289. A significant number of recipients were Long Island entities including Mr. Kessel’s hometown Merrick Chamber of Commerce and the neighboring Bellmore Chamber of Commerce.
On April 18, 2011, in response to FOIL requests dated February 20, 2011 and April 3, 2011, the NYPA Corporate Secretary, included a revised list of contributions for the period January 1, 2009-July 31, 2010.
The revised list contained the following contributions not listed on the original list released in January, 2011:
Research Foundation of SUNY Stony Brook
Stony Brook Foundation
N.Y.S. Energy Research & Development Authority
The revised contributions for the period January 1, 2009-July 31, 2010 totaled $1,844,413. Of the amounts omitted from the prior list, at least half and perhaps 100% went to Long Island recipients. Why?
Who is responsible for the omissions? Was that person ordered by the NYPA CEO or members of his cohort to violate the law and suppress information embarrassing to the NYPA CEO?
Was any staff memo ordered to omit the contributions? If so, who gave the order?
Should the deliberate withholding of information from a FOIL request, a violation of State law, be ignored?
If there are violations, will proper authorities be notified?
Were the three omitted contributions totaling $1,036,124 approved by the board? Were the hundreds of thousands of dollars of other donations approved by the board?
If not, should they have been approved by the board?
What was the purpose of the $486,124 contribution to the N.Y.S. Energy Research Development Authority? Was it a vehicle to fund additional money to Long Island entities favored by the CEO?
The Long Island Pine Barrens, which honored Mr. Kessel and Governor Paterson at their 2010 gala dinner, received from NYPA $29,850 in contribution/grants. Because Mr. Kessel was honored, was this an appropriate gift? Did the board approve this gift? Was it an appropriate use of public money for NYPA to pay the Pine Barrens entity tens of thousands of dollars for Kessel to appear on public access TV programs unwatched by millions of people and to appear in the Pine Barrens newsletter? Is such an expenditure of money consistent with NYPA’s marketing plan?
According to NYPA FOIL released contribution lists covering the period January 1, 2009 to March 31, 2011, NYPA contributions/grants to not-for-profits totaled approximately $2,271,000. Contributions to Nassau and Suffolk County not-for-profits totaled $663,931 or 29% of total gifts. If the NYPA grant to NYS Energy Research and Dev. Authority of $486,124 is added to Long Island’s gift list, total contributions for the period would be $1,150,055 or 50.6% of total NYPA gifts.
Since NYPA’s total portion of electrical power generated on Long Island is less than 5%, what is the possible business justification for NYPA allocating anywhere from 29% to 50% of its not-for-profits contributions to Long Island? Is it fair for upstate ratepayers to contribute to Long Island not-for-profits favored by the CEO?
Was the board aware of the amount of contributions to Long Island not-for-profits? If so, did the board approve these contributions?
There are numerous dubious contributions that appear to be unrelated to NYPA’s mission (i.e., West Side Cultural Center – $10,000). Why were these dubious contributions permitted?
2) Health Insurance. Did Kessel violate State law as set forth in letters from at least two Attorneys General of the State? The response to the FOIL request released on April 18, 2011 suggests that a former NYPA trustee did receive free health care benefits paid for by NYPA. According to the Attorney General, it is illegal to give health care benefits to N.Y. Agency board members. Who authorized the NYPA trustee to receive this illegal benefit? Has the Inspector General’s office been notified of this violation?
I appreciate your consideration of these serious matters. I understand how unpleasant it must be to spend your time cleaning up the mess left by your soon to be former CEO.
THE KESSEL MEDIA BLACK OUT
At a Western New York event on Wednesday, April 13, 2011, Governor Cuomo signed into law one of his leading energy initiatives, “Recharge New York” legislation which passed with bipartisan support and will reduce the utility bills of companies, hospitals and other not-for-profits. According to Newsday, “The new program cuts an employer’s bill over the life of the seven-year contract with the state-run New York Power Authority.”
Since Kessel considered “Recharge New York” a pet project, his absence from the bill-signing event was most conspicuous. In fact, Kessel and NYPA were not even mentioned or quoted in the governor’s press release. All calls to NYPA’s press office were directed to the governor’s communications office. One Street Corner correspondent reported that Kessel’s self-aggrandizement “Recharge New York” extravaganza was shelved.
A review of the governor’s website reveals no mention of Kessel’s name in any press release this year although other agency heads and commissioners are named in various announcements. This Kessel media blackout was in effect even before word of the state Inspector General’s investigation of Richie was publicly reported.
At the last NYPA public board meeting on April 4, 2011, uncharacter-istically, Kessel did not say a word but listened chastened to new trustee John Dyson and the other NYPA trustees and NYPA senior staff discuss projects. Following the meeting, Richie declined to answer media questions. This behavior is bizarre for a person who has devoted his public career to governing by press release, blabbing to reporters and creating and attending public events where he can be the center of attention.
Finally, NYPA’s April 4 announcement of hydropower allocations to companies around the state, including Yahoo!, quoted Chairman Townsend and Trustee Dyson but not Kessel. Shockingly, there was no NYPA press release on the changes approved to the controversial HTP project that Kessel has advocated for and of which the NYPA board required major reworking at the April 4 board meeting. Things sure have changed recently at NYPA. But there is one break in the media blackout. Typically, Richie’s blog’s latest post is dated March 14—from Stony Brook, Long Island.
Here are some questions Street Corner has received from its correspondents:
Has Kessel been muzzled by the NYPA board?
Has Kessel been removed as a negotiator on NYPA deals?
Can he run NYPA now that he has been so publicly discredited?
Is Kessel too busy answering Inspector General inquiries to attend public events?
Is Kessel too busy emptying out his office and updating his resume?
Will Kessel’s government service, which has been marked by the wasteful expenditure of billions of dollars, soon end not with a bang but with a whimper?
Street Corner Conservative invites NYPA employees to post why they believe the once omni-present Kessel has become a recluse.