Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Reporter Jim Dolan of WABC Eyewitness News in NYC has documented an extensive expose of drugs and kidnapping in Mexico. Included in his series is the sad saga of Dana Rishpy. For more info, check out http://www.7online.com/
Monday, March 23, 2009
March 23, 2009
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith just released the following statement in response to the news that Sen. Hiram Monserrate has been indicted on multiple charges that he allegedly assaulted his girlfriend last December:
"Today, Senator Monserrate and I met to discuss the proceedings he is facing. As a result of this meeting, Senator Monserrate asked to temporarily step down as Chair of the Senate’s Consumer Affairs Committee."
"I have accepted his request and such action is effective immediately. Senator Monserrate will retain his duties as a member of the State Senate during this time, but will not have the privilege of serving as chair until such time as his legal proceedings have been completely resolved."
(Recall that Monserrate had already given up the $12,500 stipend this committee chairmanship carries not long after he took office in January).
A group of reporters staked out Monserrate outside the Senate majority's conference room on the third floor of the Capitol. When he finally emerged, he was immediately was swarmed by cameras - both videographers and still photographers - and print reporters with tape recorders.
Monserrate managed to hold his tongue all the way down the hallway. He paused just short of the door leading into the Senate majority's lounge and said, in his best Bob Dole impersonation:
"Senator Monserrate is innocent and I will not be resigning."
As for what's going to happen now that all those consumers are going unprotected by the chairless Consumer Protection Committee, here's what Smith's spokesman Austin Shafran had to say:
" It hasn't been decided how they're going to work the committee yet. The committee staff is going to report to the Senate secretary (Angelo Aponte) in terms of the the business of the committee. We definitely do need a chair, that still remains the same, but with the extra time constrains of the legal process and the budget we thought this was the best thing to do."
By Nicole Bode
Daily News Staff writer
Updated Monday, March 23rd 2009, 12:48 PM
New York State Sen. Hiram Monserrate
The grand jury charged Monserrate (D-Queens) with three counts of felony assault on girlfriend Karla Giraldo and three counts of misdemeanor assault.
The former City Councilman, sworn into the state Senate in January, is expected to be arraigned later this week.
He faces up to seven years in prison, if convicted.
Giraldo needed more than 20 stitches near her left eye because of the attack inside Monserrate's apartment Dec. 19, 2008, prosecutors said.
The petite 29-year-old first told staffers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center she got the cuts from a fight with Monserrate, prosecutors said.
Giraldo later changed her story, submitting a sworn affidavit saying it was all an accident.
She said Monserrate tripped on her shoes while bringing her a glass of water in bed, court documents show. She accused police of trying to get her to incriminate Monserrate.
Prosecutors said the fight began after Monserrate found another man's business card in Giraldo's purse.
Surveillance video from inside Monserrate's apartment building showed him yanking Giraldo by the arm as she clutched a stairway banister. It also caught her banging on a neighbor's door while screaming for help, prosecutors said.
Sources said Giraldo testified before the grand jury that the injuries were accidental. They said Monserrate did not testify.
Monserrate released a statement through a public relations firm in which he denied wrongdoing.
"I've said all along this was an accident," he said. "Karla has said all along this was an accident. The district attorney's politically motivated decision to pursue this case doesn't change the fact that this was an accident."
A source close to Monserrate said his lawyers will ask for a special prosecutor to handle the case. The source said the lawyers declined a plea deal offer from prosecutors last week.
Monserrate and District Attorney Richard Brown have feuded publicly over a series of contentious murder cases.
Monserrate criticized Brown's handling of Queens College student Manuel Mayi's 1991 murder, accusing the office of misplacing key court documents and transcripts when the NYPD cold case squad reopened an investigation in 2005.
Brown accused said Monserrate was misstating the facts.
Monserrate also blasted the top Queens law enforcement officer for failing to prosecute a retired NYPD detective who accidentally shot an 18-year-old Mexican bodega worker in the chest in 2004.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Drop Dead is Just the Beginning
By Gary Tilzer
The melt down on Wall Street and the national rage against AIG bonuses will result in a major cut to the City’s budget and services for generations to come. Today’s Post editorial hinted that the congressional reaction to the AIG bonuses will badly hurt New York’s budget, but the public remains clueless about the devastating effects the nation's broken economy will have on the financial capital of the world.
The City’s incumbent elected officials remain silent about the greatest economic failure in the history of New York, so that they can be reelected. These are the same elected officials who convinced the City’s newspapers that only they had the experience to save jobs, businesses and the City’s tax base. The media is allowing them to use every tax trick they know of, from raising taxes, collecting fines from cell phone usage while driving and raiding budget reserves to get past this election-year budget without the public becoming aware of the fact that the level of services to which they are accustomed will soon end. What is especially hard to take is the fact that those challenging the incumbents have also remained silent about the coming budget cutbacks, even while allowing the incumbents to fund their member-items reelection government slush funds without a peep.
Monday, March 23rd 2009, 4:00 AM
Adolfo Carrión Jr. speaks outside the Bronx County Building.
620 City Island Avenue, on City Island, the home of Adolfo Carrion.
The former Bronx borough president, who started last month as President Obama's director of urban policy, has acknowledged that he has not paid the architect, even though the work was done two years ago.
Now a law enforcement agency has obtained documents from the contractor who built a new porch and installed a balcony on Carrión's Victorian home on City Island, sources familiar with the investigation told The News.
The documents show the project's estimated cost was $50,000. Carrión wound up paying less than half the estimate - $24,000.
The Bronx district attorney has said he's looking into The News' report that Carrión had yet to pay his architect. The office declined to comment about the latest inquiry.
Early last week, investigators seized documents from Nationwide Maintenance of the Bronx, the firm's owner said. Investigators also obtained an October 2006 document signed by Carrión and filed with the city Buildings Department listing the "estimated total cost" as $50,000. That figure is typed in, as the document requires.
On that same document, the $50,000 figure was crossed out and replaced with a penciled-in lower figure - $32,000.
The owner of Nationwide said the final cost was even lower - $24,000.
Owner Marcie Manfredonia said she didn't know what the other figures were and said Carrión and his wife paid her for the construction work. No other entity helped pay the bill, she said.
Asked how she got the job, she said she was referred to Carrión by someone in the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. She could not recall whom.
Asked if she built both the porch and the balcony, she replied, "I'm not really sure. I think we did both of them, but I don't know. We did a job and we were paid for it and exactly what we did we were paid for."
Carrión has said he paid the contractor for the work, although he has refused repeated requests by The News to supply proof of that payment or reveal the total amount.
In one of several statements on the house renovation, Carrión said, "I hired a contractor to perform the porch renovations and fully paid that firm for the construction work that was completed."
The questions about the cost of construction come on the heels of revelations that Carrión has yet to pay the project's architect.
Carrión has said the architect, who at the time was seeking his approval for a major Bronx development, worked 51-1/2 hours for a total of $3,627.50. Carrión said the architect has yet to submit a bill.
On Friday, Carrión's only response to several News questions about the payments to the contractor was to say the contractor "was paid in full for his work by personal check."
The White House, which last week fielded questions about Obama's NCAA picks, refused to respond to multiple questions about Carrión's house.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
MEXICO CITY (AFP) – A suspected Monterrey in October has been arrested by security forces, said President Felipe Calderón.hitman accused of organizing an attack on the US consulate in the northern Mexican city of
"The Mexican army has arrested Sigifredo Najera, aka El Canicon, (who was) directly responsible for the torture and killing of soldiers and the attack on the US consulate," Calderon announced late Friday.
In October, two gunmen opened fire and threw a hand grenade, which did not explode, at the US consulate in Monterrey.
Najera is also accused of a grenade attack in January on the headquarters of television broadcaster Televisa, also in Monterrey.
The Mexican army said Najera was a main player in a group of former soldiers known as "Zetas," working for the notorious Golfo cartel.
The arrest comes a day after Mexican authorities detained the son of the notorious Ismael Zambada Garcia, who is also a leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
The gang is one of the major drug cartels involved in bloody feuds over Mexico's lucrative trafficking routes.
Meanwhile Saturday officials seized some four tonnes of marijuana in the northern state of Sonora, which borders the United States.
Police and soldiers arrested a 35-year-old man apprehended driving a trailer containing 635 highly condensed packets of the drug, according to a statement released by Mexico's Public Security agency.
More than 1,000 people have been killed so far this year alone in suspected drug attacks amid the government's crackdown on warring cartels, while last year saw more than 5,300 killed in drug violence.
The violence flared after Calderón declared war on drug cartels nearly two years ago, prompting armed resistance from the country's drug barons and setting off a turf warfare between rival gangs.
Who is this combover shithead poking his head nervously around the corner? Why, it’s none other than Joseph Cassano, who should be high up on everyone’s list for a little game hunting this weekend. Joseph Cassano, the thief who created AIG’s Financial Products division–that’s the division that racked up $500 billion in losses. Yep, that’s half a trillion dollars–enough to provide health care for tens of millions of Americans, all gone–poof! All because of this fuckhead named Joseph Cassano. He’s doing fine though, thanks for asking–he’s got all the health care he needs and then some, thanks to the fact that while he bequeathed to us a half trillion dollar bill, he pocked for himself about $315 million. Plus after he was forced out of AIG last year, he awarded himself a $1 million monthly pension. That’s $1 million per month. Meanwhile, we’ve dropped $170 billion into AIG and that’s just so far, to clean up his mess… and we had to cough up another $450 million the other day to pay big fat bonuses to Cassano’s former colleagues in his Financial Products division. They must love Joe there!
But as awful as this sounds, at least there’s a silver lining to this story. A silver lining smeared with blood and cum, that is: yes, Joseph Cassano may soon be gagging on a heapin’ helpin’ o’ prison cock.
That’s right, according to the good folks at TPM, both the Justice Department and Britain’s Serious Fraud Office are pursuing criminal investigations into the way Cassano hid losses, lied to investors and the public, and forced one AIG accountant to resign, and forced Price Waterhouse to lay off the prying eyes, when they were on his trail of fraud. Latest news is that Cassano has hired himself a famous white-collar crime lawyer, F. Joseph Warin.
M’mmm, that’s a mighty perty mouth you’ve got there, Joe!
Maybe he’d be better off hiring himself a dentist to remove his teeth? Because we hear that the first thing they do to a guy like Cassano in prison is bash out all his teeth to make fucking his mouth a little easier. Joe, you might want to read this site, Men Can Stop Rape, just to get acquainted. Because you know, prison rape is no laughing matter. Unless it happens to you. Then it’s a screamer!
UPDATE: Ah, the good news just keeps a’-pourin’ in, folks. The New York Post published the names of three scared-shitless AIG pigs who gave themselves bonuses from taxpayer money. Their names are: James “Jackpot Jimmy” Haas, Douglas Poling and Jonathan Liebergall. Haas and Poling both live in Fairfield, Connecticut, while Liebergall lives in New Canaan, Connecticut. Here’s a photo of Haas outside his multi-gazillion-dollar Fairfield home, just in case you want to ID your target:
And here is “Jackpot Jimmy” Haas’s house in Fairfield:
James “Jackpot Jimmy” Hass’s mansion. Address: Sasco Hill Road, Fairfield, CT. Google It!
David Poling, who pocketed a $6.4 million bonus, relaxes in this mansion located up the street from his pal Jimmy’s, at Golden Pond Lane, Fairfield, CT. Google It!
So while Andrew Cuomo goes over the plusses and minuses of releasing the list of AIG bonus thieves (plusses: they suffer horribly; minuses: still thinking…), meanwhile, AIG’s employees are shitting in their pants and expecting the worst. Supposedly so scared that they’re actually doing what we want them to: both Haas and Poling are giving their money back, or so they say. That’s no reason not to ding-dong ditch them, but it does prove once again that violence works.
Here’s a memo that AIG sent out to its employees showing how scared shitless they are. Kinda looks like a memo that Americans visiting Iraq might receive–which means Americans are finally doing something right in the class war. Here’s the memo, this is pure Jiffy Pop popcorn fun to read:
Saturday, March 21, 2009
March 20, 2008
The most shocking political news of the year came today in the indictment in New York County by a 23-member grand jury of Hank Morris, former campaign manager for former City and State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, and David Loglisci, former top investment officer of the New York State pension fund. The indictment followed a two-year investigation by the office of State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.
The Times’ story, by Danny Hakim, began on pA1 above the fold, and jumps to pA24. The headline: 2 ARE ACCUSED OF VAST FRAUD OVER PENSIONS. The lede:
“Two top advisers to Alan G. Hevesi, the former state comptroller, were charged Thursday in a 123-count grand jury indictment that said they had turned New York’s $122 billion pension fund into a criminal enterprise. The scheme netted them and other Hevesi associates tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks from firms investing the fund’s money, the indictment said.”
This case is by far the most important political corruption case in many years. The State Comptroller makes many decisions regarding how the moneys in the pension fund are invested. Companies that wish to receive funds hire agents to assist them, and Mr. Morris became a highly successful agent because he was Mr. Hevesi’s campaign manager.
Morris is alleged to have received thirty million dollars in commissions from those firms that hired him to get the pension fund to invest in them. He concealed these transactions by various methods described in the indictment.
As you know, we are used to writing about political corruption; unfortunately, it is all too common in Albany. But the enormity of this scheme far outstrips the previous record holder among accused influence peddlers, former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, who was said to have taken $3.2 million from various groups seeking state contracts or other benefits.
Several questions arise:
What, if anything, did Alan Hevesi get out of the scheme, under which his campaign manager is alleged to have received thirty million dollars? If he did share in Morris’ alleged loot, where are the funds concealed. Hevesi could not have lost all of it in the stock market, or in a Ponzi scheme.
Whether he received money or not, how could Hevesi have tolerated an obviously criminal operation in his own office? A Ph.D. in political science and a college professor, Hevesi was known to be among the most intelligent of public servants, and an authority on gaming the system, particularly the pension plan.
It appears inconceivable that such an extensive and far-reaching fraud could take place without his knowledge and tacit consent. Could Morris have been cheating Hevesi? It is difficult to believe that such a previously highly respected and well-educated figure could betray his oath of office and engage in such rampant criminality.
Even Eliot Spitzer was not accused of cheating the government.
We defended Hevesi in 2006 when he was pilloried for using his car and driver to take care of his sick wife. What he did then was wrong, but it did not justify the removal from office of a state-wide official just re-elected by the voters after a campaign in which the facts of his misuse of the car were widely publicized. In a democracy, public approval can cleanse an official from minor offenses.
But this is an entirely different matter. If proven, the charges indicate a colossal misuse of high office and betrayal of the public trust. The last such omnibus indictment came in the case of former Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, now awaiting sentencing for a panoply of offenses from selling jobs to stealing from a Little League.
The Morris-Loglisci indictments were widely publicized. The Post story, on p5, DEM DUO IN $30M PENSION ’SCAM’, 123 ‘PAY TO PLAY’ RAPS, was written by Brendan Scott in Albany and Laura Italiano in New York.
The Post carried Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s strong statement: “Morris used the fund as his own piggy bank. The indictment charges crimes that go beyond the grossest manifestations of pay-to-play.” The Post also reported that the “indictment mentioned two anonymous co-conspirators, including one high-ranking Hevesi official who allegedly took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, including cash and rent payments for his girlfriend.
A source familiar with the investigation identified that person as Hevesi’s former chief of staff, Jack Chartier, who was dating one-time ‘Mod Squad’ star Peggy Lipton.” Chartier and Lipton have been mentioned previously in connection with the misuse of state cars assigned to the Comptroller.
A Post column by State Editor Fredric U. Dicker was published on p5 as well: The headline is GRAFT JUST LIKE BAD OL’ DAYS OF TAMMANY. The lede:
“Longtime Democratic political consultant Hank Morris saw his opportunities when Alan Hevesi became state comptroller in 2003. As Tammany Hall’s George Washington Plunkitt famously declared to justify what he called ‘legal graft’ -- 'I took 'em.'"
The Daily News put the story at the top of p2, with the headline, OUT OF CONTROL: 2 Top Former Hevesi Aides Indicted in Huge Pension Fund Kickback Scheme. The news report was written by Kenneth Lovett and Melissa Grace. Their lede:
“A key political consultant and a top aide to former Comptroller Alan Hevesi were slapped with corruption charges yesterday over the state’s $120 billion pension fund. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office conducted a two-year pension fund probe, warned there could be more indictments.”
1) This is a really bad case. Pay to play is never a sound practice, but it is widely tolerated in small amounts. When large sums are required to be raised for political campaigns, incumbents know that the individuals and corporations with whom they deal are natural feeding grounds. What is alleged to have happened here goes far beyond what any reasonable person would tolerate.
The defense lawyers contend that the state did not lose a penny because of the fees paid to their innocent clients. That is ridiculous to us; if the companies did not have to bribe their way into getting contracts, they would have been able to pay the $30 million to the State of New York rather than to the fixers. And who can tell whether they were offering the best opportunities to the fund?
2) Another question arises regarding whether the State pension fund investments obtained through bribery were financially sound. Did the terms of the transactions provide the pension funds with the best possible rate of return? Did any of the investments fail?
3) If the office of the State Comptroller was operated for four years under Hevesi as a criminal enterprise, as the Attorney General alleges, did any of its thousands of employees complain about what was going on? Were the employees threatened in any way? How much money, if any, did the State lose by not being able to make investments that might have been more remunerative for the pension fund?
4) How many other people, State employees or not, were involved in this scheme? Did Morris and Loglisci, like Bernie, do it all by themselves?
5) Those paying the bribes, or the victims of extortion (as one might see it) appear to have escaped being held accountable. Granted that their co-operation was necessary to the investigation, doesn’t it take two to tango?
We have not seen the last of this matter. It is always possible that the alleged wrongdoers will not be convicted by a jury, or that the case will be thrown out by the judge. If they are convicted, however, we think twenty years is about right, with time off for good behavior, of course. We want very much to deter this kind of conduct by other fixers.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Op-ED – From Senator Martín Maláve Dilan
Straphangers faced with rising housing, food and child care costs shouldn’t have to shell out extra cash under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) proposal to close its $1.2 billion budget gap by taxing riders with extensive service cuts and fare increases of up to 23%.
The Senate’s plan will avert devastating fare hikes, drastic service reductions and job losses in what the MTA calls a “doomsday plan” which it could vote for March 25. We don’t want to make a hasty decision by handing agency executives a blank check at the expense of working families.
Now some have criticized the Senate plan, but it’s the one New Yorkers can live with: no tolls on East River and Harlem River crossings; a proposed 8% fare increase slashed in half to 4% giving riders the lowest fare hike to provide the MTA $117 million in operating revenue for MTA, LIRR and Metro-North; reduced commuting costs for MTA riders through a broader distribution of TransitChek at no cost to employers; elimination of the MTA payroll tax of 33 cents per $100 of payroll, replaced with a 25 cents per $100 of payroll that provides the MTA with $1.16 billion.
New Yorkers would be worse off under an MTA-backed Ravitch Commission plan that would toll now free East River and Harlem River crossings, and they would be hard-pressed under a scheme to add a regional tax of 33 cents per $100 of payroll on business payrolls in the 12 county region served by the MTA.
The Senate proposal will address the most pressing concerns - maintaining service and keeping people moving to maintain the economic vitality of the state. Our plan will meet the MTA’s short-term crisis and then address its long-term capital plans.
Under the Ravitch plan, fares and tolls would skyrocket in June. New Yorkers are faced with enough economic hardships and they don’t need an immediate added expense.
In every and all discussions I have had over the MTA budget, I meet on behalf of the public with their best interests at heart. Plans may differ but my colleagues and I are all working toward a common goal for the betterment of New York State. You must know how you money is being spent. The MTA should not get any more of your hard earned dollars without you knowing where the money is going.
The MTA must be held fiscally accountable for their actions and cannot be irresponsible spenders of the public’s money and must be held fiscally accountable for their actions. That is why our plan establishes a new MTA Task Force on Transparency and Public Information to ensure that the public’s money is spent wisely.
New Yorkers deserve honest accounting, so our plan calls for governance changes and greater measures of public oversight and transparency through a forensic audit of MTA finances over the next few months. The Senate plan also strengthens State Comptroller oversight of finances and operating budgets to ensure that a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility and prudent spending practices are upheld.
Hard working tax payers and small businesses are the backbone of our economy and rely on having prudent access to an affordable public transportation system. Under the Senate plan, they would not be as burdened as the MTA would have them.
New York State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan
Chair The Transportation Committee
Tuesday, March 17th 2009, 8:55 AM
While former Bronx Borough President/Obama urban policy czar Adolfo Carrión has been squirming under the investigative spotlight, the feds have reportedly dropped their two-year-long investigations into Assemblyman and BP candidate Ruben Diaz Jr. and his state senator dad, Ruben (The Rev.) Diaz Sr.
Their lawyers tell us Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin's office told them the grand jury investigations were "terminated" with "no finding of wrongdoing."
A spokeswoman for Dassin said office policy is to neither confirm nor deny information in such matters.
As we previously reported exclusively, the feds were looking at the Diazes allegedly using workers at Soundview Community in Action for campaign work on nonprofit time and at potential voter registration fraud.
Ed's brother Ken Padilla is district leader in Assemblyman Peter Rivera's 76th A.D. and backed a challenger against Rubencito in his recent assembly race.
Then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer wrist-slapped Daddy Diaz in 2005, making him repay $5,000 in state and fed funds to SCA that he used to buy furniture for his district office as well as campaign loudspeakers.
El-i-ot, phone home
No, we're not talking about E.T., but Rep. Eliot Engel, who suffered the embarrassment last week of being outed on his questionable residency issue.
The state of Maryland rejected his request for a 7G tax break on his $1 million family manse there, though Engel claimed it was his official residence.
Guess that Bronx apartment on his voter registration is just his crash pad when he's working the campaign circuit.
Where's dat Wascal?
A lot of west Bronx constituents are wondering just when and where newly elected State Sen. Pedro (The Wascally Wabbit) Espada Jr. is finally going to open a district office.
His senate Web site lists his Albany phone number and a questionnaire asking for contact information - and if you're registered to vote.
News blogger Liz Benjamin recently reported Pedro is eying offices at 400 E. Fordham Road. We, however, have received no phone nibbles back from the Wabbit.
Chicken with pork
We asked the borough's three congressmen to give us the top earmarked item they inserted among the 8,500 in the new omnibus spending bill signed by President Obama, who was not all that happy with the pork-larded document.
But as of deadline, two of them basically chickened out on the pork-barrel items.
Rep. Jose Serrano (D-South Bronx) said in a statement: "All the projects that I fund are important and worthwhile. I would have trouble ranking their significance against one another because, in so many ways, they are all vital to our community."
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-North Bronx) didn't respond, and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-East Bronx) didn't give us his top money item.
One congressman's aide, whom we shall mercifully spare with anonymity, told us, "Problem is, one group sees how much another one's getting and they get pissy."
Those board appointments
Since Adolfo left all those open community board appointments hanging fire, folks are wondering what's next.
City Council members appoint half the members, leaving the BP the rest, for each of the 12 50-member boards, with the BP's office screening for a final okay.
It's not likely Acting BP Earl Brown will want to approve any of the reappointment and new appointment applications.
A source in Rubencito's camp said he's ready to review and approve them (though maybe not all) should he win the special election, rather than wait for the winner of the general November election (wonder who?) to take office in January.
Councilman Larry (The Fox) Seabrook is still NOT running for boro prez, if anyone cares.
Grand Old Party party
The Bronx Republican Party and chairman Jay Savino are throwing a "Spring Reception" Thursday at the Villa Barone, honoring supermarket mogul and mayoral wanna-be John Catsimatidis. Be interesting to see if the Man Who Would Be King Bloomberg stops by.
BY Kenneth Lovett
DAILY NEWS ALBANY BUREAU CHIEF
Thursday, March 19th 2009, 4:00 AM
ALBANY - Hank Morris, a top political consultant to former Controller Alan Hevesi, is one of two people facing indictment Thursday for their roles in a state pension fund scandal, the Daily News has learned.
Morris and David Loglisci, former deputy controller for Pension Investment and Cash Management under Hevesi, would be the first charged in a nearly two-year probe by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's office, a source told The News.
The specific charges weren't clear last night. Hevesi will not be charged, the source said.
The News reported in September that Cuomo had convened a grand jury.
Morris pocketed at least $25 million in middleman fees from financial firms that won business with the pension fund during Hevesi's tenure.
The largest chunk was from the Carlyle Group, one of the world's biggest private equity firms in the world.
Carlyle, which invests $1.3 billion for the state pension, paid $12.3 million to Searle from 2003 through 2006.
Morris, Loglisci and their lawyers could not be reached. Searle's lawyer said he was unaware of any charges. Cuomo had no comment.
Morris, a longtime Democratic consultant who also worked for Sen. Chuck Schumer, quietly registered as a financial broker just months after Hevesi took office in 2003.
Few people are said to have known of his involvement with Searle & Co., which is located above a Greenwich, Conn., Christian Science reading room.
Meanwhile, Morris created five firms - four of which shared his East Hampton home address. His name was not listed on the incorporation papers.
At least three of the companies received fees from firms doing business with the fund, documents show. Morris no longer works at Searle.
Hevesi, who quit in 2006 before pleading guilty to an unrelated felony, has denied knowing Morris made money off the pension fund.
Loglisci resigned suddenly in May 2007 amid the probe.
A Hunt Financial Ventures lawyer said the firm was told before it won $116.7 million in pension business to contact Morris, who instructed it to pay the referral fees to certain companies.
Records show the companies were Searle and Nosemote, one of the five firms Morris created.
By Erik Schatzker
March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. plans to spend about $10 million on new offices for Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit and his lieutenants, after the U.S. government injected $45 billion of cash into the bank.
Affidavits filed with New York’s Department of Buildings show Citigroup expects to pay at least $3.2 million for basic construction such as wall removal, plumbing and fire safety. By the time architect’s fees and expenses such as furniture are added, the tally for the offices at the bank’s Park Avenue headquarters will be at least three times as high, according to a person familiar with the project who declined to be identified because he’s not authorized to comment. Citigroup said the project will help it save money over time.
Pandit, criticized by lawmakers over Citigroup’s use of U.S. bailout capital, canceled an order for a company jet in January and told Congress on Feb. 11 that, “I get the new reality and I’ll make sure Citi gets it as well.” Of the biggest U.S. banks that received federal aid, only Citigroup has turned to the government three times for rescue. The company, once the biggest U.S. bank by assets and market value, has agreed to limit perks and restrict executive pay.
“In this environment, it absolutely sends the wrong message,” said Charles Elson, director of the Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware, referring to the office renovations. “Timing in life is everything.”
Citigroup said in a statement that the construction is part of a global space-saving initiative.
“Senior executives in our corporate headquarters are moving from two floors to smaller, simpler offices on a single floor,” the company’s statement said. “Based on estimates made when the project was initiated, we expect to generate savings in the next few years well in excess of the project costs.”
Citigroup began planning the renovation last June and obtained demolition permits in September, before the bank received any bailout funds, said a person briefed on the process.
Some city approvals for the project weren’t issued until after Citigroup got its first $25 billion from the U.S. in October, under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, according to records available at the New York Department of Buildings.
The new executive suite will be located on the second floor of Citigroup’s office on 399 Park Avenue, a floor below the one Pandit, 52, inherited when he took over as CEO from Charles “Chuck” Prince in December 2007. The second floor previously contained offices, which are being demolished, as well as boardrooms and executive-dining quarters.
Plans and instructions for the bank’s contractors, on file with the city, specify the installation of at least one Sub-Zero Inc. refrigerator and icemaker in the renovated space, along with “premium grade” millwork and Madico Inc. “Safety Shield 800” blast-proof window film. The project encompasses 17 private offices, each with space for administrative assistants, as well as two conference rooms and open areas with “soft seating,” according to the plans.
Citigroup hired New York-based Conant Architects, whose Web site says it designed the bank’s offices in downtown and midtown Manhattan. The plans also list acoustical, telecommunications and lighting consultants, as well as engineers.
Lawmakers have criticized banks over the way they’re using TARP funds. Democrats led by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd say more of the money should be going to consumer and small-business loans.
Liddy to Thain
American International Group Inc. CEO Edward Liddy was lambasted by lawmakers at a hearing in Washington yesterday for allowing the insurer to allocate $165 million for bonuses to employees after taking government loans.
President Barack Obama spoke out against inappropriate spending at banks on Jan. 23, following reports that former Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO John Thain incurred more than $1 million of expenses to redecorate his personal office at the New York- based securities firm after it was acquired by Bank of America Corp. Thain was ousted the same month.
Monday, March 16, 2009
BY Benjamin Lesser
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Sunday, March 15th 2009, 8:04 PM
As Bronx Boro President, Adolfo Carrión spent lavishly on staff retreats and his State of the Borough address.
In the past two fiscal years, Carrión - now White House urban policy director - spent about $19,000 on his State of the Borough tours, records show.
Anne Fenton, a spokeswoman for the Bronx borough president's office, said it was justified because many of the venues "had very old auditoriums that were not equipped for large events and did not have an adequate lighting or sound system."
om Carrión also had taxpayers fund his $140-a-year satellite radio subscription because he spends "a great deal of time traveling throughout the Bronx and the city. It was important for him to have a 'mobile' source for news and information," Fenton said.
The former borough president also charged taxpayers more than $13,000 a year for his membership in the County Executives of America organization. No other borough president did so.
"[He] was invited to serve on this board and found it to be a tremendous resource for sharing information and resources with other elected officials, as well as exchanging practices and ideas that were extremely beneficial to the Bronx," Fenton said.
When asked, Fenton did not provide a specific example of how the membership benefited residents of the Bronx.
The Bronx borough president office spent $24,000 on overnight travel for conferences and other meetings in fiscal years 2007 and 2008. The other four borough president offices spent a combined total of $2,750.
Among the trips was a November 2006 trek to Puerto Rico for a conference sponsored by Somos El Futuro, an organization of Hispanic legislators. A group of five borough president staffers, including Carrión, spent $5,295 on hotel rooms at the four-star International San Juan Resort and Casino.
Fenton said the trip was worthwhile because Carrión held a well-attended, three-hour-long discussion about economic development and trade.
Other Carrión expenditures included:
- $87,212 for three Toyota Priuses for the borough president office staff. In an e-mail, Carrión defended the purchase: "I am proud ... that we upgraded our vehicles with new green, environmentally friendly vehicles."
- $8,121 for picture frames and mats.
- $1,700 to buy and install "blue fabric" to cover a podium.
- $690 on gold-sealed business cards.
Carrión also set aside $250,000 for a new "mobile BP office" from the millions in capital funds allocated each year to the borough president offices.
The mobile office was going to have a TV, computer ports and a bathroom but was canceled because of "budget constraints," officials said.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Whereas: In observance of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we, the undersigned Council Members, are proud to honor journalist Eric K. Williams for his distinguished contributions to raising public awareness and advancing our knowledge of breast cancer; and
Be it Known: We, the undersigned Council Members, most gratefully honor
Eric K. Williams
for his outstanding contribution in journalism and in the fight against breast cancer.
Signed this 31st day of October in the year Two Thousand and Eight. The proclamation was signed by Council Members, John Liu, Tony Avella and, Diana Reyna of Queens. Council Member Annabel Palma of The Bronx and, Council Members Bill de Blasio and, Letitia James of Brooklyn.
The DiBrienza scandal, which I wrote about a couple of days ago, may die out quickly...that is sure what DiBrienza, Quinn, Yassky and some other City Council members would like. Or it may be the beginning of a major scandal that could being some or all of those people down.
In brief, Steve DiBrienza, cormer City Councilman for the 39th Council District who wants to run for his old office again, has essentially been using for his own private use his old council office office, paid for by the city (which means by us) ostensibly for a non-profit whose only impact on the community seems to be a name on an awning. DiBrienza has been drawing a salary from this shadowy non-profit as well. And this has all been done right under the nose of Christine Quinn, who seems to have a large number of these scandals going on right under her nose without, she says, her knowledge. Perhaps she is too busy having petty little tantrums to actually conduct the business of the city effectively. But not only did DiBrienza's little scam escape her notice (to be fair, that scam started under Gifford Miller), but there was also slushgate, and Bloomberg's little sweetheart deal for developer Stephen Ross. All of which Quinn has expressed complete unawareness of and her utter and complete shock when it became so public she couldn't ignore it anymore. A scam like DiBrienza's, if true (the notoriously inaccurate Post broke the story, but I have my own sources who support it), cannot happen without the connivance of the Council leadership, and that means Quinn has been either incompetent or accepting of these scams.
And my own sources add one more little piece to the DiBrienza scandal. David Yassky, who is running for Comptroller, the position responsible for making sure city money is effectively spent, may have been a part of DiBrienza's little scandal. Can David Yassky explain why he gave DiBrienza $40,000 in discretionary funds in 2006? Where did this money go? Was it part of DiBrienza's nearly invisible non-profit that paid for DiBrienza's office and salary?
This is the problem with the current city council. They are far more concerned about their own little schemes, keeping themselves in office and supporting the mayor's backroom sweetheart deals for developers than they are about actually running the city. That is why they couldn't put term limits to a public vote: they knew it would turn into a no confidence vote for them.
These are the reasons why we need to stand up to the current City Council and elect some real reformers. I have discussed this before. This is why we need someone like John Liu for Comptroller. This is why we need to support Yetta Kurland or Maria Passannante Derr against Quinn. You can see my whole slate of City Council candidates (still tentative) here.
Mayor Bloomberg has wriggled free of every force that tried to block his bid for a third term, but he still hasn't heard from one body he can't sweet talk, bulldoze or buy off.
The Department of Justice's section for voting rights must decide by Tuesday whether the October term limits extension will hurt minority voters.
If it does, every two-term incumbent in the November elections would be suddenly ineligible - sending Bloomberg and a boatload of other politicians on a retirement cruise.
The city Law Department filed 1,789 pages with Justice to make sure that doesn't happen, saying that "term limits by definition affect all candidates and their constituencies in precisely the same manner" without any racial overtones.
Norman Siegel and Randy Mastro - lawyers on the other side of the issue - sent their own sheaf of paper to Justice pointing out what should be glaringly obvious to anyone who looks at the City Council: Without term limits, incumbents stay in their seats.
"Since 1993, no minority candidate has ever unseated a white incumbent for any municipal office in New York City," Mastro said. "It's a textbook case of a civil rights violation."
Granted, white challengers also have a hard time ousting white incumbents, which is why we have term limits in the first place. And Mastro has already lost a separate lawsuit to block the term limits law.
He may be on to something, though. Three of New York's representatives in Congress - Ed Towns and Gregory Meeks, who are black, and Nydia Velazquez, who is Hispanic - have written Justice to say the law is discriminatory.
The funny thing is nobody quite knows whether their political pressure will help or hurt.
Career lawyers in Justice's voting rights section mutinied when they felt pressured by the Bush administration to slant their decisions his way.
They now report to a Democratic President and an attorney general who believe Justice should still oversee changes that affect the Voting Rights Act.
Bloomberg, meanwhile, never showed President Obama much electoral love on the campaign trail - and he acknowledged last week that he hasn't spoken to the President since before the inauguration.
But Justice lawyers may also feel newly empowered to ignore political pressure from all sides, whether from a mayor with plenty of Washington tentacles or from Congress members who see minority voting rights being in peril.
"There's always political pressure, but historically, the Justice Department has fought that," said Joseph Rich, who headed Justice's voting rights section from 1999 to 2005. "It should make no difference. They should be looking at whether this third term hurts black voters."
Friday, March 13, 2009
Tuesday, March 10th 2009 at 2:42pm
Tusk "never had anything to do with parts of that administration," Bloomberg told the Times. He knew this, he explained, because Tusk, Blagojevich's first-term Deputy Governor, had told him so, bringing it up himself "to make sure we were aware of the issues" before he was given the all-powerful campaign manager post.
Since Bloomberg made that announcement, he has derisively dismissed press questions about the campaign as if it were unconnected to him. The message from him is clear: The self-vetted Tusk is now in charge, handpicking, for example, the most expensive collection of advisers ever assembled under a single city campaign.
That team of seasoned consultants, including the face of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, Howard Wolfson, now all report to the youthful Tusk, who has never worked on a campaign, even at the most junior level. Tusk's career—other than his four years as Blagojevich's top aide—consists of five years of leash law and litter policy at the New York City Parks Department, two years as a spokesman for Senator Charles Schumer, one year as a low-level adviser at the start of Bloomberg's first term, and nearly two years as a lobbyist for another 2008 debacle, Lehman Brothers.
Since the Blagojevich job is Tusk's only significant managerial experience, it oddly becomes the rationale for his hire, an uncomfortable reality for a mayor known to pick the best talent available. Having shunted aside Kevin Sheekey and Bill Cunningham, who steered Bloomberg's prior campaigns, the mayor settled on Tusk, says Wolfson, because he wanted "a fresh perspective." (Maybe it's the mayor who's grown stale.)
Tusk is now in charge of an operation that has promised—on the front page of the Times, no less—to spend $20 million on attack ads against anyone who dares get in the way of the mayor's trifecta. While many New Yorkers will never come to know who Tusk is over the course of the coming months, his message for Mike will be coming at us in our living rooms and mailboxes at a peak rate of millions of dollars a week.
If Tusk succeeds, his strategy will shape the city's public life for the next four crisis years. He's not the mayor, of course, but he is, right now, the second most important player in our politics, orchestrating the frontrunner's every move, dispensing a fortune in a time of scarcity, studying the best polls about our fears, and guiding our fingers invisibly toward whichever column carries Bloomberg's name on November's ballot.
That's why it's important to know all about the last sale Tusk made: helping to re-elect Rod Blagojevich in 2006 from his post at the helm of Blagojevich's government. And that's why Bloomberg's embrace of him—without any independent examination of his record in Illinois—raises questions about a mayor who increasingly appears to act and speak on impulse, having traded in the open mind for thoughtful detail that characterized him when he first ran for mayor.
Unlike so many other onetime Blagojevich supporters, Tusk has yet to say one critical word about the former governor. Though communications jobs have been a big part of his biography, he doesn't talk to the media now, an indication, perhaps, that there are too many questions that he prefers not to answer.
The Voice submitted several broad questions to Wolfson, and he eventually e-mailed a partial reply. He said that Tusk had done "policy, budget, operations, legislation, and communication" for Blagojevich, not "procurement, appointments, hiring, or grants," a separation so artificial that no one who has ever spent a day at a top executive level in a large government would make it. This story shows how misleading that answer is, and how the Blagojevich experience compromised the young Bradley Tusk.
The Chicago Sun-Times compared Tusk to Karl Rove, the Tribune called him "the center of gravity," Crain's said he was "as inside as you can get," and Republican State Senator Kirk Dillard called him a "junkyard dog protector of the governor" with "immense power and influence."
"Love him or hate him, Tusk was your governor in the first term. He made everything happen, and those of you on this committee who knew him knew that to be true," wrote Bob Arya in a nine-page letter to the Illinois House impeachment panel recently. Arya is an Emmy-winning television journalist who has covered Blagojevich and became his communications director shortly before Tusk left.
Even Tusk was less modest than he is now about the scope of the job that lured him away from Bloomberg's City Hall in 2003: "If anything, it ended up being bigger than I expected," he said in a departing interview at the end of 2006. "I don't know of any policy decisions that got made without me involved." And perhaps more disquieting, as late as 2005, he was telling reporters he was "pretty dedicated to this guy," adding that he and Blagojevich had "hit it off so well."
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Albany's Term-Limits Bill Passes Committee Without a Republican VoteBy Jimmy Vielkind
ALBANY—With fireworks not normally seen in committee hearings, the Senate Elections Committee just voted along strictly partisan lines to approve a bill that would require a voter referendum on the repeal of term limits.
It was expected to pass the committee, but is not necessarily expected to get much further.
Republican State Senators Tom Morahan, Joe Griffo and Tom Libous voted against the bill, with Libous leading the charge and raising questions. He claimed that there was not enough time to pass the bill and hold a referendum by May.
"The bill is poorly drafted and it should be specific to New York City," he said. His questions were cut short due to time constraints, causing more ire.
State Senator Kevin Parker, the bill's sponsor, attended the hearing and fielded Libous' questions.
"I don't think that the democratic protections should be only for the people of New York City," Parker said. "By definition, democracy is the highest value we have in this state. Frankly I don't think we could put a price on that."
After the committee's vote—Chairman Joe Addabbo voted for the bill, as did Jose Serrano (by proxy), and both Martin Malave Dilan and Brian Foley voted yes but "without recommendation"—Parker claimed that the Republicans opposed the bill in "collusion" with Michael Bloomberg.
"They're in the pocket of Mayor Bloomberg," he said. "The amount of money that Mayor Bloomberg gave to stop us from taking the majority is well-documented." (Libous denied any collusion with the mayor.)
In the room I spotted Michael Avella, now counsel to the Bloomberg campaign; Michelle Goldstein, New York's top lobbyist; and Bloomberg's spokesman Matthew Gorton.
Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler told me earlier that this issue is "not on [his] agenda."
The bill will now go to the Senate Finance Committee. It is currently also sitting in the Assembly Ways & Means Committee, where Chairman Denny Farrell told me yesterday, "We're reviewing it."
Parker seemed confident it wouldn't have problems in the Senate Finance Committee. Libous vowed to bring up his concerns there.
Jimmy Vielkind can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.