This commentary I wrote, Marlin: Time for a Mangano tax revolt in Nassau County, appears on the Long Island Business News web site.
Archive for October 2009
EVERYBODY WANTS TO QUESTION RICHIE IN JOE BRUNO CORRUPTION TRIAL
Sadly, former Senator Majority Leader Joe Bruno is spending his golden years defending himself against eight felony corruption charges in Federal District Court in Albany. (Senator Bruno is presumed innocent until proven guilty.) Street Corner Conservative has no inside information on the charges and hazards no prediction as to the outcome of the trial. But Street Corner Conservative does note with interest that both the Federal prosecutors and Senator Bruno’s defense team have listed Richie Kessel, former LIPA Chairman and CEO and current NYPA CEO, as a witness they expect to call at trial.
As Jim Odato reported in the Albany Times Union late last year, Senator Bruno played an unknown role in introducing Richie when he was Chairman and CEO of LIPA to a married couple in Brooklyn engaged in construction work for utilities. The husband has since been indicted for alleged bribery of Con Ed employees to obtain road construction work. (He too is presumed innocent.) In fairness, there is as yet no suggestion that Richie committed any violation of federal or state law. But Street Corner will be following the trial with interest and will keep its readers informed of developments. In addition, Street Corner notes with bemusement that, in keeping with his well-deserved reputation as a bi-partisan purveyor of favors, both the prosecution and defense want to question Richie. This trial, which is scheduled to start November 2, and Kessel’s testimony promise to be interesting.
Finally, readers will remember that Odato and Newsday’s Mark Harrington reported last year that Kessel would neither confirm nor deny whether he had received a subpoena in the Bruno corruption trial. It is now safe to vouchsafe that Kessel was subpoenaed and despite his usual lengthy eloquence with the press clammed up on this uncomfortable subject.
Thanks to several correspondents for focusing Street Corner Conservative on this unique development.
THE KESSEL COUNTDOWN: 440 DAYS UNTIL RICHIE KESSEL IS FIRED BY THE NEW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.
THE IG’s GUIDE TO RICHIE KESSEL’S NYPA
As we observe the first anniversary of the Kessel regime at NYPA, and since Richie disbanded the internal Inspector General function at NYPA, Street Corner thinks a primer on NYPA’s annus horribilis will be useful when the inevitable investigations begin.
1. How was NYPA Chair Michael Townsend able to vote on part of the NYPA money transfer to the State earlier this year but not the portion in which his upstate law firm had been hired to represent the Division of the Budget on the transfer documents? Did Townsend’s affirmative vote on one transfer which made possible the second transfer on which he abstained not call into question the entire matter? Is this in accord with State law and regs? With the Legal Canons of Ethics?
2. A related question—how was it that of all the hungry lawyers in the State of New York, Budget hired the firm of NYPA’s Chairman for this task? Propriety and avoiding even an appearance of impropriety would have called for some other lawyer to do this work. Did Kessel play any role in requesting or directing DOB that this work go to Chairman Townsend?
3. Has any past or present NYPA Trustee received health insurance since Attorney General Cuomo’s announcement that such coverage was illegal for unpaid, part time directors and trustee of State agencies such as NYPA?
4. Has any NYPA trustee received Kessel’s Knicks tickets or other sports tickets gratis from Richie?
5. Does Kessel pay fair market value for his game ticket when he travels to the Super Bowl each year?
6. Did Kessel play any role in directing business directly or indirectly to any NYPA trustee?
7. How much has NYPA given to charities not related to its core mission in violation of State law since Attorney General Cuomo’s determination that State authorities could not use public funds for such contributions? Has Kessel asked vendors, actual and prospective, to support events in which he receives a plaque, commendation or tchotchke?
8. What were the circumstances under which NYPA entered into sole source contract with Bank of America to issue an opinion blessing the turnover of hundreds of millions of dollars of NYPA funds to the State? Why was this sole sourced when lots of firms could do this work for over $100,000?
Street Corner Conservative notes that this is a partial list, some of which like Chairman Townsend’s interesting conflict kabuki and the BofA contract are a matter of public record and others of which were passed along by our readers. We thank NYPA staff for their suggestions and welcome further thoughts. As always, confidentiality will be strictly maintained.
THE KESSEL COUNTDOWN: 444 DAYS UNTIL RICHIE KESSEL IS FIRED BY THE NEW GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK.
This commentary I wrote, Marlin: Rudy shouldn’t be GOP’s choice, appears on the Long Island Business News web site.
This article I wrote appears on The Catholic Thing web site on October 7, 2009.
NYPA CUSTOMER ALERT: KESSEL EYES UPSTATE MONEY TO REVIVE DOWNSTATE POLITICAL CAREER
LIPA’s decision, reported by Mark Harrington in Newsday on Saturday, September 24, 2009, (www.newsday.com/long-island/nassau/lipa-will-not-buy-barrett-power-plant-in-island-park-1.1476123), not to buy National Grid’s Barrett power plant in Island Park for $70 million (annual property taxes, $34 million!) and the logical consequence—LIPA not buying any of the Grid plants—is a relief.
Kevin Law, LIPA’s CEO, once again put the interests of Long Island businesses and residents ahead of empire-building. Law said he hasn’t seen any evidence to convince him that owning the other plants would be worth it. “We can’t make a compelling financial business case to acquire it,” Law said, “even if it were offered for free.” That’s a public servant taking the long view and acting like an adult. Kudos to Law who is cleaning up the mess left by his predecessor, Richie Kessel.
Newsday also reported in that story that NYPA was a possible buyer for the National Grid plants. The next day, Newsday editorialized that deep-pocketed NYPA could buy the plants and thereby lower rates on Long Island (http://www.newsday.com/opinion/oped/editorial-five-old-power-plants-and-the-future-of-long-island-1.1476207).
Now, Street Corner Conservative pays LIPA’s high rates and would like to see rates controlled. We put a large part of the blame for the Island’s extortionate electric rates on Kessel.
Street Corner Conservative served on Governor Pataki’s LILCO Transition Team many years ago and has followed LIPA and Kessel since 1995. Upstate businesses and ratepayers and legislators should consider themselves on notice that Kessel has designs to buy the National Grid plants using NYPA’s stronger balance sheet. Having seen the movie before, we foresee Kessel promising lower rates and using that vow to return to the Long Island political scene. Why upstate would allow NYPA to be hijacked to reverse the sky-high rates Richie favored Long Island with and to advance his political career is a mystery.
The political demise of Kessel’s promoter, our accidental Governor, David Paterson, will likely entice Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi to run for statewide office in 2010 and leave Kessel well-positioned to run for County Executive, a position he ran for in 1993 but lost resoundingly, according to The New York Times, in the Democratic primary. Worst case, Kessel’s friend and best man, Joe Mondello, Chair of the Nassau County GOP, might arrange for Republican County Legislators to deliver Suozzi’s chair to Kessel and avoid the inconvenience of elections in which Kessel has a career record of 0-2.
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Street Corner notes the significant increase in calls, emails and notes from NYPA staff since President Obama defenestrated Governor Paterson last week. Please keep your cards and letters coming.