Archive for December 2008

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, December 22, 2008 – By George J. Marlin

December 22, 2008

The continuing investigation of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno has washed up on Long Island.  The Times Union’s Jim Odato reported last week that LIPA had received a subpoena, which by its terms appears to be focused on Richie Kessel’s tenure as Chairman and CEO of LIPA, related to construction work done for LIPA by an obscure firm named Roadway Contracting and its principals, Russell Ball and Dori Evans, and one Robert Bannon — all reported to be political supporters of Senator Bruno. Interestingly, Kessel who always enthusiastically welcomes press inquiries told Odato and Newsday’s Mark Harrington that he was aware of the LIPA subpoena but would neither confirm nor deny whether he personally had received one. By all appearances, LIPA is cooperating with the US Attorney and the current LIPA senior management team is uninvolved in the matters under investigation.

Street Corner Conservative had many issues with Senator Bruno’s policies during his time as Majority Leader and his role in increasing State spending and taxes but hopes that a thorough investigation reveals that Bruno’s conduct in this matter did not violate the law. We note, however, that Kessel’s history reveals him to be a bipartisan purveyor of favors with public monies and that during his time at LIPA, Kessel directed monies to lobbyists and other politically-favored vendors through subcontracts paid with LIPA ratepayer funds. We will be watching this matter with interest.

Merry Christmas to all Street Corner Conservative readers especially those past and current NYPA employees whose interest in the matters covered by this blog is most appreciated.

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, December 15, 2008 – By George J. Marlin

December 15, 2008

According to the State Authority Budget Office’s Annual Report issued on July 1, 2008 for the Year Ended December 31, 2007, LIPA which was run by Richie Kessel until Fall 2007 and for the prior ten years, has 49 employees making over $100,000 or fully 49% of its workforce. Not only is NYPA which actually operates power plants throughout the State a much larger entity than LIPA, NYPA’s 1,600-person work force is also more modestly compensated. At NYPA, only 18% of the workforce makes more than $100,000 and the average salary is $81,000. Comparing Kessel’s LIPA to authorities across the State, the 49% of LIPA’s workforce making more than $100,000 compares to 7% of the State authority employees making over that pay level. Finally, the 49 LIPA employees making over $100,000 make an average of $154,000 a year (the comparable number for NYPA is $125,000). Look for NYPA’s non-union workforce to enjoy Kessel’s largesse with public money and for State electric customers to pick up the tab.

In looking at these numbers, it is important to remember that at LIPA, the actual maintenance and generating and transmission and distribution work is done by KeySpan’s (now National Grid) well-qualified workforce so that LIPA’s highly paid employees are operating from the comfort of their offices in Uniondale and elsewhere on the Island and not atop utility poles.

Street Corner Conservative will have more on the ABO Report in the future. Thanks to James Heaney of the Buffalo News for focusing the public and Street Corner Conservative on the ABO report.

Slouching towards Insolvency – and Servitude – By George J. Marlin

December 10, 2008

This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on December 10, 2008.

Unwise Investor? New York State Pension Peril – By George J. Marlin

December 6, 2008

This article I wrote appeared in the New York Post on December 2, 2008.

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, December 1, 2008 – By George J. Marlin

December 1, 2008

Newsday’s Rick Brand reported on November 17, 2008 that Suffolk County had paid $100,000 in order to market the County’s non-emergency call number to Zimmerman-Edelson, a Long Island PR firm headed by Robert Zimmerman, a member of the Democratic National Committee and a “Democratic Strategist” who frequently appears on CNN.   Brand also disclosed that since 2006 Zimmerman-Edelson has received another $336,000 from the County’s DWI program. Newsday detailed Zimmerman’s work including $28,500 for billboards, $21,462 for radio ads, and $5,400 for 5,000 promotional pens and 10,000 magnets (overpriced kitchen magnets are a critical part of any political messaging effort).

A review of LIPA’s spending shows that under long-time Chair and CEO Richie Kessel, LIPA paid over $1,000,000 to Zimmerman-Edelson for PR and marketing work over a period of years to burnish LIPA and Richie Kessel’s reputation. Of course, we over-taxed and over-burdened ratepayers paid for this critical work.

Who says bipartisanship in Albany is dead?  Not only did Kessel hire Democratic rent-seekers and hangers-on, he hired Republican hacks as well when Pataki was Governor. Thus, the Citizens Budget Commission reported these two instances of LIPA procurement controversies on his watch:

“State Comptroller’s audit finds that LIPA bypassed its own bidding requirements when it paid [the Republican lobbying organization] Strategic Planning Systems $45,000 to conduct “political polls,” LIPA is required to put contracts of $5,000 or more up for competitive bid “to the maximum extent possible.” . . .

An investigation by Assembly member Richard Brodsky revealed that LIPA awarded a $120,000 a year no-bid contract to former top advisors to Governor Pataki, Kieran Mahoney and Michael McKeon.  McKeon and Mahoney recently left the Pataki administration to become private political consultants.” (Then there was the time Richie did “customer service” polling on Long Island and improperly charged electric customers for polling about candidates for office and other clearly political matters. More about that on another day.)  To his credit, new LIPA CEO, Kevin Law, terminated these and other suspect lobbying and PR contracts.

Street Corner Conservative will be watching NYPA’s procurement going forward to see whether Zimmerman-Edelson ends up back at the NYPA trough.