The Kessel NYPA Watch, January 23, 2011 – By George J. Marlin

Charity Begins at (Long Island) Home; Merrick, LI gets more than Massena.  Why?

On August 22, 2010, over five months ago, Street Corner Conservative delivered FOIL requests to NYPA.  The request letter was a mere page and a half and covered few issues: community sponsorships, use of NYPA cars, health insurance provided to NYPA trustees and the like.

The request was short, reasonable and focused.  For instance, the request about health insurance was made because of the work of Attorney General Cuomo to stamp out health insurance provided to authority board members in violation of State law.  Ditto the request about this public authority’s community sponsorships.

During the last five months, NYPA functionaries, at the direction of President and CEO Kessel, have time and again stonewalled Street Corner’s proper FOIL requests and have written several times that the matter is under review.  Well, a few days ago, NYPA spit up a response to the community sponsorships and charitable contribution FOIL request, the contents of which are discussed below.

But why does NYPA intentionally delay responding to citizen requests for information?   Well, Street Corner, like many of its readers, fears for the worst, namely, that Kessel and his minions are possibly stonewalling and denying the public access to information required to be disclosed under State law to hide wrongdoing.  Or perhaps, the answer is that the Kessel-led NYPA is so dysfunctional that this once great agency is unable to comply with the minimum requirements of State law.  We shall see.

Now, for the community sponsorship question.  While NYPA is primarily an upstate agency whose operations are financed from the profits of two huge upstate hydropower plants, Kessel’s charitable largesse begins and ends on Long Island.  Tens of thousands of dollars have gone to Long Island organizations in support of the Kessel PR machine.  A few in particular stick out.  NYPA was one of the biggest contributors to the Merrick Chamber of Commerce in his first full year at NYPA.  Merrick on the South shore of Long Island is served by LIPA and is not a core NYPA territory.  But Richie lives in the hamlet of Merrick.  Mystery solved.

Another questionable sponsorship went to the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores.  Bellmore is an affluent South Shore hamlet on Long Island, right next door to Kessel’s hometown.  No NYPA business reason for this.  But the Bellmores were graced with nearly $5,000, what is believed to be far and away the Bellmore Chamber’s largest donation. The Bellmore Chamber has one utility member—not LIPA which serves the area, but NYPA which generates its power hundreds of miles away.

By the way, the Massena Chamber of Commerce received $1,700 from NPYA in 2010.  Street Corner suspects Massena would have done better had Richie lived there.  Here’s the scoreboard:

  Merrick/Bellmore Cougars Massena Red Raiders
NYPA Power Facilities 0 1
Sponsorship Points 9,550 5,824
Average Home Price in 2009 500,000 94,556

Finally, why should Massena subsidize Merrick? Street Corner doesn’t see it. In 2009, the average price of a home in Massena was approximately $94,556 as compared to about $306,000 across the State and about $500,000 in Kessel’s Nassau County.  So, this is a case of the Long Islander taking from the less well off to reward his local community.  Kessel is the Reverse Robin Hood.

Here’s more: in 2009, Kessel directed NYPA to give $6,500 to the Fair Media Council, a media watchdog group based on Long Island.  As a result, Kessel was invited as a guest of honor to the Council’s annual “Connection Day” at the Long Island Hilton in Huntington, Long Island and spoke before lots of media people.  In 2009, believe it or not, Kessel was on a panel about twittering.  A year later at the Long Island Hilton in Huntington, Long Island, he moderated a panel on a topic on which he is a true expert– How To Create a Buzz (Without a Budget).  At least when he was a consumer gadfly without portfolio, Kessel spoke to the press without spending taxpayer money  for the opportunity.  (Street Corner will for a moment hold its comment on the CEO of the largest public power utility in the State, a successor to Robert Moses and John Dyson, spending his day orating about twitter and creating buzz for free.)

And another: Kessel had NYPA pay $3,500 so he could be honored on Long Island by a Long Island environmental group in 2009.

In total, Kessel directed at least 16 contributions totaling just under $50,000 of NYPA money to Long Island groups with no known benefit to NYPA.  Street Corner believes that NYPA had never given public money to any of these Long Island groups before Kessel was placed at NYPA by then Governor Paterson.

Here’s why NYPA’s board, regulators and State taxpayers should care. Authority CEOs can’t use public money as their piggybank to make them big men in their communities.  State law requires that there be some clear public purpose to charitable contributions.  Then-Attorney General Cuomo made stamping out wasteful public authority donations a priority.

Compare this with the actions of Kevin Law who succeeded Kessel at LIPA and was charged with cleaning up the Augean mess left by Kessel. In 2007, Law sought a formal opinion from Attorney General Cuomo concerning LIPA’s former (read: Kessel’s) practice of charitable giving and community sponsorships.  The AG determined that the practice of charitable giving of ratepayer funds was not permissible and that community sponsorships with no nexus to the core mission of LIPA should be ended.  Law did exactly that and stopped most LIPA contributions.  Good for him.

What is the nexus of contributions to Richie Kessel’s hometown chambers of commerce with public money? Let’s assume that the people at the Merrick Chamber of Commerce and Bellmore Chamber are good folks, doing good work to beautify the lovely hamlets of Merrick and Bellmore.  Why exactly should the hard-pressed good people of Massena, Niagara and Buffalo subsidize that work? Why should they pay for Kessel to speak to a ballroom full of Long Island reporters on Long Island—something he has done countless times gratis? How did NYPA benefit when NYPA paid Citizens Campaign for the Environment $3,500 so Kessel could be “honored” on Long Island in May 2009? Street Corner has the same questions about each of these Long Island sponsorships. Proving that this is not about NYPA business, the NYPA sponsorship disclosure shows no donation to Holbrook in Suffolk County where NYPA has a small facility.

Street Corner will have more on the charitable contribution scandal as it continues to review this shocking data.  In any event, Street Corner now understands why Kessel and his enablers dreaded releasing this evidence of improper, perhaps illegal, donations and embarrassing material.  The full list of NYPA’s 2009 and 2010 sponsorships will be posted here shortly.

Explore posts in the same categories: Richie Kessel NYPA Watch-SCC

47 Comments on “The Kessel NYPA Watch, January 23, 2011 – By George J. Marlin”

  1. UpsatePower Says:

    The reason that Kessel got away with all of this is because the Board of Trustees allowed it to happen. They were (and still are) asleep at the wheel. M. Townsend didn’t want to rock the boat and lose his $100K deal. Not bad for part time work. Then another trustee (one of the vacant positions) works her way into getting hired and not showing up for work. I can’t remember her name.

    Usually problems start at the top … NYPA is no different.

  2. Watchcarefully Says:

    Kessel is trying to come up with schemes at any cost to provide power to the city and long island so Indian Point can be closed. The board should stop him before he destroys the place

  3. ScreenDoorSlams Says:

    2011 Losers so far


  4. CallmeSkeptical Says:

    Anyone notice shredding machines running OT around Kessel and Fran’s offices? Wonder why.

  5. PASNYLongTimer Says:

    It was always important to Mr Dyson that the AA rating be maintained.

  6. Beancounter Says:

    Financial folks in White Plains increasingly worried about effect of Kessel’s management and projects on PASNY “AA” rating. A downgrade would cost us money and would be a major blow to morale here

  7. runawaySue Says:

    All–how does Kessel over a period of years get away with this?

  8. JackieandDiane Says:

    City Hall Magazine named Sen Maziarz one of winners of the week. He is on the ascent which means sun will soon set on Kessel

  9. StoptheWaste Says:

    the new AG SChneiderman started a taxpayer waste initiative yesterday. If what Kessel did with these sponsorships I dont know what it is. You can reach Schneiderman

    or call the local AG office near you and ask for the Taxpayer Protection Unit

  10. InquiringMinds Says:

    If Kessel can give NYPA money to the Merrick Chamber of Commerce, why not to the Las Vegas Chamber? If he could give NYPA money to all these Long Island groups with no connection other than they are friends of his, could he give to London Philharmonic if they were his friends? Schneiderman could investigate

  11. QueensMarauder Says:

    When the contribution thing has been reviewed somebody should look at NYPA vendors like Alcoa that were leaned on to make contributions like $25 big ones from Alcoa or to buy tables and sponsorships where Kessel was being honored

  12. SyossetSal Says:

    Friend in government says that Kessel had something to do with delaying NIFA decision to yesterday. dont know details

  13. PaulieS Says:

    Please print the list of donations. I want to know whether Niagara got is piece

  14. NYPAObserver Says:

    NYPA friends tell me all work on NYPA-LIPA merger has stopped. Stupid deal was of interest only if Kessel could be the big kahuna. But with Kessel on the way out no reason for LI lobbysists to push this merger since now it does nada for them

  15. Cheapskate Says:

    Why would the ceo of nypa spend time on long island talking with reporters about twitter. what a waste of time. how does that help keep cost of energy down upstate?

  16. GoodCause Says:

    I run a new Long Island charity. Where can I get some of this NYP money I’ve heard about. Baby needs a new pair of Guccis.

  17. KesselSkeptic Says:

    Kessel was at LIPA for 20 years and it’s a mess. Kessel was at NIFA for 10 years and County is a mess and was taken over by State yesterday. Kessel at NYPA since 2008 and has caused destruction and waste. See a pattern?

  18. islanderFan Says:

    We should make Long Island control of NYPA official and permanent and amend the law to require a majority of Long Island seats on our board

  19. SouthShoreVin Says:

    You know the State took over Nassau COunty yesterday. Maybe Kessel could go back and run again for County exec. He lost the last time but this time he has a whole campaign team at the power authority from Long Island that will be looking for work

  20. PennyPincher Says:

    New NYPA chair should look carefully at NYPA press shop and communications people throughout the place wasting money doing newsletters glorifying Richie. Start cutting there

  21. NassauPower Says:

    Kessel was board member for 7 years of NIFA whihc yesterday took over control of Nassau County. Word is that Kessel was against NIFA action and tried to stop it. More to this story

  22. WNYNYPA Says:

    Watch this excerpt of Senate energy comm meeting. Sure sounds like Dyson will be back on board soon.

  23. colleague 1.0 Says:

    Dyson should start by trying to get the first chief risk guy to come back…only sr mgr who had pair to stand up to the Whale and the suck up Gil Q.

  24. WNYNYPA Says:

    At Energy Committee meeting yesterday, Sen Maziarz mentioned that he had spoken with John Dyson who would be reaching out to members of the committee. Maziarz said he thought this would be Dyson’s 9th Senate confirmation and Maziarz said he expected public hearings on Dyson nomination in the short term.

  25. WNYNYPA Says:

    Skelos just named Maziarz as VP pro tempore of Senate. Increases Maziarz power. Not good for Kessel.

  26. NYPAObserver Says:

    Very interesting that the only director of any authority Cuomo has nominated so far is Dyson whihc to me suggests Governor wants Dyson on board asap so he can become Chair, ease ol’ Kessel out and clean up the place

  27. CallforAction Says:

    Working at PASNY for some time now and watching Kessel in action what is needed is a full forensic audit and a comprehensive IG review of the whole operation under Kessel and the sooner the better

  28. CallmeCynical Says:

    Board should look at who the GLOW and Hudson River Transmission bidders have hired as lobbyists and lawyers. Lots of funny business there

  29. TaxpayerandBroke Says:

    NYPA board should look at the 70 or so people Kessel has hired since 9/30. many of them political or community relations hacks.

  30. HudsonValleyNYPA Says:

    Spitzer was right to fire Kessel a few years ago.

  31. NYPALifer Says:

    I am a former NYPA lawyer and there is legal principles that support Kessel’s right to give more money to Merrick/Bellmore Chamber than to Massena Chamber. It’s droit du roi which basically means the King can do as he pleases. King Kessel has adopted this approach.

  32. suefromrye Says:

    I listened to Marlin on the radio show. Dyson has to fire him for this. Just can’t allow this

  33. pasnytech Says:

    Listen to the Dicker web cast with Mr Marlin:

    Starts around 14min 30seconds and lasts about 4 minutes.

    VERY interesting…..

  34. JoeAccountant Says:

    Look these donations to LI groups are a terrible waste of money. The real scandal is that this guy will leave NYPA broke in pursuing GLOW and the Hudson River Transmission Line. He has already cost NYPA hundreds of millions. He must be sent home

  35. SouthShoreSal Says:

    I live in North Merrick and dont see the problem with the South Shore getting some love from NYPA. Go Richie

  36. SouthShoreGuy Says:

    Did Kessel spend $7000 of PASNY money to go to Puerto Rico for Somos convention of State legislators in 2009 and 2010?

  37. NorthCountyYokel Says:

    Kessel and governor Patterson were honored by the Pine Barrens Society in October 2009. Kessel leaned on vendors to pick up the tab for this soiree

  38. PennyPincher Says:

    Marlin was on Dicker radio show this morning. Dicker was all over the story like a bad suit. This may have legs. Not good for our Rcihie

  39. KeepHopeAlive Says:

    New York Times says heads of MTA and Port Authority are being retained according to Governor’s office. But no mention of Kessel

  40. albanyobserver Says:

    So, Kessel $50000 to Long Island groups. A guy does have to spread the action around. They all do it

    • Resistanceisfutile Says:

      They all do it? Show me where LIPA or other State Authorities have donated monies to upstate towns like Massena, Tonawanda, Buffalo, Plattsburgh, etc?

      Kessel is charitably donating directly to a select group of LI residents by hiring the FOKKERS for six figure “no work” jobs at NYPA. To add insult to injury, he is “donating” from my salary pool which was frozen for three years, and variable pay pool which is extinct since he came aboard.

      When will Richie’s supporters see him as the Grinch, and not the Santa he disguises himself as?

  41. LittleBirdie Says:

    What about nypa money to something called the pine barrens assoc or society or something. Nypa gave them money and kessel improperly leaned on alcoa to give too after the alcoa deal was made

  42. Bookkeeper Says:

    I’m an accountant in white plains and the long islanders gave even more to long island in the second half of ’10, Keep on trucking

  43. PASNYlongtimer Says:

    Kessel screwed upstate and gave money to his hometown instead. This guy has to go. I dont believe Cuomo will allow this

  44. KesselWatcher Says:

    Wow. Senator Maziarz aint going to be happy. Ricky Kessel has some ‘splainin’ to do

  45. WestchesterBob Says:

    Office will be abuzz tomw with this one. I expect this will create some fireworks. Keep up the good work

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