Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ricardo Morales, Top Deputy at DCAS, Claims He Was Fired For Complaining About City Hall and de Blasio Campaign Donor

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio
The name of this game is corruption. Nothing complicated, just pay-to-play under de Blasio. That's what he does.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

De Blasio says axing city official who lifted deed restriction on NYC nursing home wasn’t his decision

De Blasio official axed over probe says it was to warn others to keep quiet

Top official claims he was axed for complaining about City Hall's ‘inappropriate involvement’ with de Blasio donor
Harendra Singh
A top city deputy commissioner says he was fired because he complained that City Hall inappropriately intervened on behalf of a major campaign donor to Mayor de Blasio who owed nearly $750,000 in back rent on his Queens restaurant, the Daily News has learned.
Ricardo Morales
Ricardo Morales was a top deputy at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, the agency that was pushing the donor, Harendra Singh, to cough up the loot.

And records show Singh raised $24,000 for de Blasio and held two fund-raisers for the mayor at his Long Island City restaurant, Water’s Edge. He failed to bill de Blasio’s campaign for hosting the fund-raisers, The News found.

Records reviewed by The News also show one of de Blasio’s top aides directly intervened on Singh’s behalf while he was trying to get out of paying what he owed.

Morales was a key figure at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) assigned to deal with Singh, who owed $747,000 in back rent on his restaurant’s lease, records show. The restaurant is on city land.
Water's Edge Restaurant
Morales was fired Feb. 24, hours after de Blasio was interviewed by federal prosecutors in their investigation of the mayor’s fund-raising tactics.

Morales’ attorney, Robert Kraus of Kraus & Zuchlewski, quietly filed a notice of claim in May that he intends to sue the city. “Ricardo Morales was fired for objecting to the pay-to-play culture that surrounded City Hall’s dealings with Harendra Singh,” Kraus said.

“City Hall punished Ricardo in a completely unprecedented manner because he refused to give in to that culture.”

A City Hall spokesman denied any wrongdoing.

“Members of this administration have acted appropriately and there’s never been a credible suggestion or shred of evidence to the contrary,” said spokesman Eric Phillips.

Morales says he was fired “because he reported violations of the NYC Charter’s conflict-of-interest rules as they pertained to City Hall’s inappropriate involvement in negotiating a complex real estate transaction and accompanying litigation” involving Singh and Water’s Edge. He specifically noted that the Water’s Edge owner was a “politically connected donor.”

Morales, then DCAS’ deputy commissioner for asset management, was also involved in the waiver of a deed restriction that allowed a nursing home owner to sell a Lower East Side building to a luxury condo developer.

In his notice of claim, Morales says his firing was also because he “objected to City Hall’s lack of truthfulness regarding the lifting of deed restrictions” on the lot and unspecified violations of City Charter rules.

In March, acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim closed a yearlong investigation of de Blasio without bringing charges, but he made a point of stating that de Blasio and his aides had intervened on behalf of some of his donors. The donors weren’t named, but one of them is Singh, according to sources familiar with that investigation.

In 2014, DCAS officials, including Morales, started going after Singh for back rent. At the time, the restaurateur was well-known to Team de Blasio.

In 2011 and 2013, Singh held two fund-raisers for de Blasio at Water’s Edge — but he didn’t send the campaign a bill. He also bundled more than $24,000 in campaign checks for the mayor. In early 2014, Singh was placed on an elite list of de Blasio donors being considered for political appointments. The list, obtained by The News, shows Singh was up for a slot on the Mayor’s Fund for the City of New York and a committee to lure the Democratic convention to Brooklyn.

The document related to the potential appointments makes clear that even as they considered awarding him these plum assignments, de Blasio’s team was aware there were issues with him. Under “confidential notes,” the document notes Singh had an unspecified “vetting issue.” The document states that city Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Emma Wolfe had listed Singh as a “maybe,” and suggested calling another City Hall employee in another city agency regarding “r/flags” on Singh.

For two years, de Blasio’s campaign hadn’t paid the $2,615 bill owed for the two Water’s Edge fund-raisers.

Then in December 2014, the city Campaign Finance Board began auditing de Blasio’s campaign. It demanded documentation showing that the mayor had paid for the Water’s Edge events.

In a Feb. 19, 2015, email, on the day the documents were due to the Campaign Finance Board, de Blasio campaign staffer Sam Nagourney asked Singh for invoices. Emails show Singh ordered restaurant staffers to “please take care of this today.”

Records show Water’s Edge then provided invoices but it appears they were created long after the events.

De Blasio Ally Didn’t Register as Lobbyist Despite Big Push for a Donor
Neil Kwatra
Frustrated by the pace of negotiations with a city agency over millions of dollars that were in dispute, a restaurateur decided to bring in a hired gun: Neal Kwatra, a political consultant and lobbyist with ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mr. Kwatra ended up working so closely with top City Hall officials on behalf of the restaurant owner, Harendra Singh, that a city commissioner complained that officials were giving Mr. Kwatra confidential information during delicate negotiations to settle a lawsuit with Mr. Singh.

When one meeting with city officials resulted in an unsatisfactory offer, Mr. Kwatra angrily responded, “I guess you didn’t get the memo from City Hall,” according to the city official in charge of the talks, Ricardo Morales, a former deputy commissioner of the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, known as DCAS.

Yet none of Mr. Kwatra’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Singh, in 2015, were registered as lobbying work, even though Mr. Kwatra and his company, Metropolitan Public Strategies, have registered as lobbyists for other clients, including United for Affordable NYC, a short-lived nonprofit group created by Mr. de Blasio to support his housing policies.

A search of the public record websites of the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the New York City Clerk’s Lobbying Bureau found no record that Mr. Kwatra or his company had registered as a lobbyist for Mr. Singh or his restaurant, Water’s Edge, in Queens, or any of Mr. Singh’s companies.

Mr. de Blasio pushed city officials to help Mr. Singh, a mayoral campaign donor, and the case became a focus of a federal investigation into what prosecutors viewed as a pattern of mayoral favors to campaign donors.

On Monday, Mr. de Blasio, appearing on “Road to City Hall” on NY1, dismissed the notion that Mr. Singh received special treatment because he was a campaign donor.

“It’s been looked at, and there’s just nothing there,” Mr. de Blasio said.

“I think it’s very clear how we run our government,” he said. “It’s an open and transparent government, where we help people bring forward legitimate issues and try to see them through to conclusion.”

Mr. Kwatra, whose mother, Pam Kwatra, is a donor and fund-raiser for the mayor, played a key role in Mr. Singh’s case, but his involvement was not revealed publicly until The New York Times reported it on Monday.

Austin Shafran, a senior vice president of Metropolitan Public Strategies, said on Monday that Mr. Kwatra’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Singh did not meet the definition of lobbying under state and city law.

”Our firm consulted experienced legal counsel, and was advised that we were not required to register as a lobbyist in this case because our work involved the renegotiation of an existing lease that was the subject of litigation, which is explicitly excluded from the lobbying law,” Mr. Shafran said by email. He would not identify the lawyer who advised his company, and said that Mr. Kwatra was unavailable to speak with a reporter.

A group of city documents and emails reviewed by The Times that describe the talks do not mention renegotiation of the lease. They focus instead on unpaid rent, money that the city said was owed by Mr. Singh to rebuild a pier near the restaurant, and lawsuits deriving from those disputes.

Despite all the problems, Mr. Singh was eager to start negotiations on a new lease for the restaurant that would take effect when his existing lease was to expire in May 2017. And documents indicate that Mr. Kwatra was involved in pressing the case for a new lease with city officials.

Officials at the administrative services agency had told Mr. Singh they could not discuss a new lease while he owed back rent and millions of dollars for the pier reconstruction. They made clear that even though Mr. Singh was already operating the restaurant, a new lease would require public hearings under city land use laws and would need to be offered for competitive bidding. Efforts to influence procurement decisions, including decisions regarding new leases on city properties, are frequently considered to meet the definition of lobbying.

That did not stop Mr. Kwatra and Mr. Singh from continuing to push the issue of a new lease. Their efforts included discussions with Mr. de Blasio’s top political aide, Emma Wolfe, the director of intergovernmental affairs, who began participating in the negotiations in mid-2015.

A new long-term lease would have been very valuable, in part because the city’s Economic Development Corporation was considering ways to use other city-owned parcels near the restaurant for a development project that could have included housing, office and retail space — potentially increasing the value and earning power of Water’s Edge.

Mr. Kwatra and Ms. Wolfe’s office worked so closely that Stacey Cumberbatch, the administrative services commissioner, accused a City Hall official of disclosing confidential information during talks to settle the lawsuits and discussions about Mr. Singh’s interest in negotiating a new lease.

The emails show that city officials had discussed the possibility of moving talks for a new lease out of the administrative services agency to the Economic Development Corporation, known as EDC. That could have benefited Mr. Singh by freeing him from negotiating with staff members at the administrative services agency, which had shown itself to be a tough negotiating partner. In addition, Mr. de Blasio had recently appointed Ms. Kwatra to the corporation’s board.

The emails show that this possibility was being discussed internally among city officials (who ultimately rejected it) and was not intended to be shared with Mr. Singh and his representatives. But Gabriel Schnake-Mahl, an aide to Ms. Wolfe who was working closely with Mr. Kwatra, did just that.

“I am speaking with Kwatra today at 5:30 p.m. for an update on their end,” Mr. Schnake-Mahl wrote in an email to Ms. Cumberbatch and Ms. Wolfe on Sept. 3, 2015. “Anything I can share re: why needs to stay in DCAS for future lease? I floated EDC idea to them in past conversations.”

Ms. Cumberbatch wrote back almost immediately: “It’s a DCAS function. Thought EDC idea was confidential bet. us until all worked out with Maria?” she wrote, referring to Maria Torres-Springer, the president of the development corporation.

Mr. Schnake-Mahl replied: “Apologies if I got out in front.”

Mr. Singh was arrested days later in an unrelated political corruption case on Long Island.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Whistleblower John Tipaldo Wins His Case Against the NYC Department of Transportation, 20 Years After Blowing The Whistle

John Tipaldo

Court rules acting in good faith key to whistleblower protection
On Board Online • November 16, 2015

After becoming aware of alleged bidding irregularities in the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), an employee notified his immediate supervisors and the Department’s Inspector General. Should the employee be protected under the state’s Civil Service whistleblower law from adverse job actions, even though he failed to first inform the official “appointing authority” as specified in the law?

Yes, according to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, in Tipaldo v. Lynn.

The reason? The appointing authorities and the alleged wrongdoers were one and the same, and the actions of the employee, John Tipaldo, demonstrated good faith compliance with the law.

Tipaldo worked as DOT’s Acting Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Engineering. He discovered an alleged scheme by his then-superiors (Transportation Commissioner Christopher Lynn and First Deputy Commissioner Richard Malchow) by which a signage contract was to be awarded to Lynn’s acquaintance in violation of the city’s public bidding rules.

After an order was placed for the signs from Lynn’s acquaintance, a meeting was held informing DOT employees, including Tipaldo, that the signs had been purchased. The legality of the process was questioned by Tipaldo and other employees, and the DOT employees who were required to authorize the purchase refused to sign the authorization for the purchase. According to the court, the next day, Lynn and Malchow solicited bids from the public and after the delivery and installment of the signs, the DOT received lower bids as compared to the amount paid to Lynn’s acquaintance. Then Lynn and Malchow allegedly created a backdated memorandum indicating that the need for the signs was “urgent” and that the order must be placed immediately, rather than proceed through bidding.

Tipaldo informed his immediate supervisors about the alleged misconduct and, one or two business days later, reported the alleged improper actions to the DOT Office of the Inspector General. Tipaldo claimed that shortly after that, various retaliatory actions were taken against him by Lynn and Malchow. He was eventually removed from his position and demoted.

Tipaldo commenced a whistleblower action pursuant to Civil Service Law Section 75-b. Pursuant to that law, adverse action must not be taken against a public employee because the employee discloses to a governmental body information which he or she “reasonably believes to be true and reasonably believes constitutes an improper governmental action.” However, prior to the reporting, the employee must make “a good faith effort to provide the appointing authority or his or her designee the information to be disclosed and shall provide the appointing authority or designee a reasonable time to take appropriate action unless there is imminent and serious danger to public health or safety.” This requirement gives the employer the opportunity to end the violations prior to disclosing misconduct to an outside agency.

The defendants sought to dismiss the case, arguing that Tipaldo failed to comply with the statute by not reporting the alleged wrongful actions to the appointing authority (Lynn and Malchow) before contacting the Office of the Inspector General.

A state Supreme Court judge granted defendants motion and dismissed the complaint, but the Appellate Division reversed on appeal. The Appellate Division found that “plaintiff’s good-faith efforts in the manner and timing of his reporting, first informally to his immediate supervisors, and then soon thereafter to the [DOI], satisfactorily met the requirements” of the Civil Service Law.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the Appellate Division. It determined that because the appointing authorities in the specific case were actually Lynn and Malchow, the plaintiff “understandably did not report their alleged misconduct to them.” The court noted, “Lynn and Malchow would not likely have been receptive to plaintiff’s complaints or reported themselves to the Department of Investigation.” The court found that Tipaldo’s actions demonstrated good faith compliance with the Civil Service Law.

Although this case does not involve school district employees, the court’s decision applies to all public employees and thus school districts will be affected by this ruling.

Editor’s Note: A legislative bill (A.7951/S.4628) which passed both houses during the last legislative session would eliminate the requirement for a whistleblower to first report to the appointing authority. NYSSBA opposed the bill because such notification provides school districts and other public employers with the opportunity to make corrections and avoid unnecessary litigation. The bill has not yet been delivered to the governor.

John TIPALDO, Respondent, v. Christopher LYNN, & c., et al., Appellants.

New York court orders reinstatement of whistleblower

By on September 2, 2010Posted in Government Whistleblowers

A New York State appellate court has ordered the New York City Department of Transportation to reinstate whistleblower John Tipaldo. When Tipaldo reported that his superiors violated bidding rules, he was demoted from his position as Acting Assistant Commissioner for Planning. That was in 1996. In 2006, the trial court granted the City summary judgment on grounds that Tipaldo had not made a formal report of the bidding violations to the "appointing authority." The appellate court reversed in 2008 holding that Tipaldo’s report to the Department of Investigations was appropriate when the "appointing authority" was the person engaged in the violations. Tipaldo v. Lynn, 48 AD3d 361. The appellate court held that since there was no dispute about the retaliatory demotion, the case would be remanded only for a determination of damages and remedies. On the second appeal, the court held that Tipaldo was entitled to interest on his back pay, thereby increasing his award from $175,000 to $662,721. The appellate court awarded the interest even though the state’s statute did not make any explicit provision for interest. The state statute has "the goal of remediating adverse employment actions which, if allowed, would undermine an important public policy, that is, encouraging public employees to expose fraud, waste and other squandering of the public fisc." Tipaldo had hired an expert to compute the interest and the City did not. The court also held that Tipaldo was entitled to reinstatement even though he had declined promotions offered after his demotion. The court said that his corroborated fear of retaliation made his decisions reasonable so that he could still receive reinstatement as part of the court’s order. It took Tipaldo 14 years, and two trips to the court of appeals to get justice. This is an example of how public officials, when challenged by the integrity of a whistleblower, will waste unlimited public resources to delay justice. This might be a good time for New York’s legislature to consider improving its whistleblower law to provide for general and punitive damages, interest, expert fees, attorney fees and jury trials. The case is Tipaldo v. Lynn, Thank you to the New York Public Personnel Law blog for alerting me to this decision.

Whistleblower wins more than $1M in lawsuit over demotion

, NY POST, 6/17/17

A whistleblower triumphed in a 20-year battle with City Hall, winning more than $1 million to compensate for a pay cut and demotion he suffered after reporting corruption.
As a Department of Transportation official under Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 1996, John Tipaldo alerted authorities to a plan by his bosses — DOT Commissioner Christopher Lynn and first deputy Richard Malchow — to award a contract to make 100 “Don’t Honk” signs to Lynn’s buddy.
The two officials tried to cover their tracks after awarding the contract by publishing a notice seeking public bids. They also issued a memo claiming an urgent need for the signs required bypassing normal bidding rules, a probe confirmed.
After Tipaldo tipped off the city Department of Investigation, Lynn and Malchow set out to destroy his career, the DOI confirmed.
While Tipaldo was due a promotion to assistant commissioner, the duo bad-mouthed his job performance and demoted him, slashing his salary by $25,000 a year.
Tipaldo sued. While the DOI found him the victim of retaliation, city lawyers argued that the whistleblower law required him to report wrongdoing to his bosses — the same guys engaged in the scam.
“This is an example of how public officials, when challenged by the integrity of a whistleblower, will waste unlimited public resources to delay justice,” the National Whistleblower Center said in 2010, when an appellate court found in Tipaldo’s favor.
The appellate judges ruled Tipaldo deserved a raise, back pay for salary he would have received if he hadn’t fingered Lynn and Malchow — plus 9 percent a year in interest.
But it wasn’t over yet. The city Law Department appealed to the Court of Appeals, the last resort in New York. In 2015, the high court unanimously upheld Tipaldo’s win.
The city finally is paying off its debt to Tipaldo, now a DOT assistant commissioner, in installments.
Last fiscal year, he was NYC’s highest-paid employee, collecting $672,700, including his $176,700 salary, records show.
“It started out by screwing him out of a raise of $25,000 a year. It wound up costing them over $1 million, plus the time and effort of the Law Department for over 20 years,” a source remarked.
“This case has a complicated procedural history, including multiple appeals, that prolonged the litigation,” said Law Department spokesman Nick Paolucci.
Lynn, who insisted his pal “Vinnie” was the only person who could do the sign job, left the DOT in 1997 after the probe concluded he violated procurement rules.
Reached last week, he said he did “nothing illegal or immoral.” and questioned whether Tipaldo deserved the big award.
Tipaldo and his lawyer, Lewis Rosenberg, declined to comment.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

How the Politically Connected Control the New York Court System

Judge Joan Kenney

How the politically connected control the New York court system

Geoffrey Wright
Manhattan lawyers knew Judge Joan Kenney was “confrontational,” “abusive” and “outright nasty” — and said so on a judge-ranking Web site, The Robing Room.
One fed-up attorney went further, complaining to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct that she was “rude” and failed to display “judicial temperament” during a settlement conference.
The city Bar Association publicly branded her with a damning “Not Approved” rating in 2010, saying she failed “to affirmatively demonstrate the requisite qualifications” to sit in judgment of others.
And last year, she was “universally not respected” by a Democratic screening committee that blocked her bid to run for a seat on the state Supreme Court, a panel member told The Post.
But none of the red flags affected her seat on the bench — or even her 2009 promotion to acting Supreme Court justice, for which she scored her first annual renewal just two months after being deemed unfit by the Bar Association.
That all ended on May 9, when Kenney showed up to court an hour late and disheveled, then erupted in fury at reporters taking notes in the public gallery.
“You can’t write everything I say. I think out loud,” she ordered. “In this courtroom, I’m the boss.”
She was demoted to handling lesser matters in Manhattan Civil Court — to which she was elected in 2000 and 2010 — and her conduct cost her the $13,600-a-year salary differential between the two jobs.
It also shone a light on the political machinations that turn lawyers into judges in the Big Apple, where the road to the bench has long been shadowed by suspicions that corrupt pols were putting unqualified hacks on the bench.
“There’s bad apples in any industry, and everybody knows who those judges are. There are several names you can say and the whole room will groan,” said high-profile Manhattan lawyer Elizabeth Eilender, who represented Atlanta Hawks hoopster Thabo Sefolosha in a false-arrest suit against the NYPD. “Even when outrageous behavior is brought to the state’s Commission on Judicial Conduct, nothing gets done. It’s not until the press shines a bright spotlight on this type of conduct that anything is done.”
New York City has more than 400 judges who are selected locally, according to the state Office of Court Administration.
Voters choose the judges for the Supreme, Surrogate’s and Civil courts, while the mayor appoints judges to the Family and Criminal courts and also fills interim vacancies in Civil Court.
For the elected judgeships, candidates must win nomination through a primary election, except for Supreme Court, where candidates are chosen through a judicial nominating convention.
But given the Democratic Party’s overwhelming dominance in every borough except Staten Island, “the ‘election’ of a judge is often determined de facto at the nomination stage,” according to a 2014 guide by the city Bar Association. “Political considerations, including a history of political party activity, contributions to political party organizations and acquaintance with political party officials, may influence the selection process to varying degrees,” the report notes.
That influence has been an issue since the at least the 1800s, when a crisis of confidence in the legal system led voters to amend the state Constitution in 1869 and ratify the election of judges, who at the time were all appointed to the bench.
The change helped sweep from power William “Boss” Tweed’s nakedly corrupt Tammany Hall political machine, with the bloody “Orange Riot” leading to its virtual destruction in the election of 1871.
But any hope that politics no longer corrupted the selection of city judges was irreparably dashed by the mid-2000s scandal that brought down Brooklyn Democratic boss and longtime Assemblyman Clarence Norman for extorting $10,000 from a judicial candidate.
During a 2007 trial — one of three at which Norman was convicted of crooked schemes — former Brooklyn Civil Court Judge Karen Yellen told jurors how the “King of Brooklyn” put the screws to her campaign manager, Scott Levenson, while negotiating his party’s endorsement of her re-election bid.
The deal included a $1,000 donation to the campaign of a Norman political ally, then-Assemblywoman Adele Cohen, and $9,000 to crony William Boone for a get-out-the-vote operation.
“Ultimately, the words he used were, ‘We will dump her,’ ” Yellen testified about the July 2002 shakedown inside Brooklyn’s Democratic Party headquarters on Court Street.
“He was very angry. It was very, very unpleasant. He rose up out of his seat, leaned across the desk and was in Scott’s face.
“I know I was shocked because the way it was done was not the way one expects it to happen — unprofessional and astonishing,” she added.
Yellen broke down in tears while describing the ultimate results of the 2002 Democratic primary. “I lost,” she said. “And I was out of a job.”
But she admitted forking over $9,000 a day after the defeat — in the vain hope it would help buy her another seat on the bench.
“I thought that possibly I could go up to the Supreme Court,” she said. “That I could get the nomination from the party if I paid the monies that were demanded of me, that I could save my career.”
Norman wound up serving nearly four years in the slammer for shaking down Yellen, soliciting illegal contributions from a lobbyist and stealing $5,000 in campaign funds, before being paroled in 2011. He and Yellen both declined to comment.
Kenney’s since-rescinded promotion to acting Supreme Court justice illustrates another way politics can affect the makeup of the city’s judiciary, sources said. While the number of Supreme Court seats in each judicial district is fixed by the state Constitution, the demands of an ever-increasing caseload has led court administrators to elevate certain lower-court judges to fill the gap.
Currently, 143 — or nearly half — of the city’s 294 Supreme Court justices are there by virtue of appointment by the chief administrative judge, in consultation with other court officials.
“The most important factor in making these appointments is ability to handle Supreme Court cases, but seniority is also a factor,” Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks said.
Getting appointed an acting Supreme Court justice is considered “a plum,” said one court insider, who added, “It’s a much more prestigious position and a lot less work.”
“Some people get acting Supreme because they’re producers. Others get it because of support from the county [political] leaders,” the source said. “There’s political grease with 50 to 60 percent of them . . . Unless you do something bad, they don’t take it away from you.”
And while demotions are rare, Kenney’s was actually preceded earlier this year by the even-harsher punishment imposed on Manhattan Civil Court Judge Geoffrey Wright, who was bounced from Manhattan Supreme Court to Queens Family Court. Sources said it was for repeatedly clashing with Manhattan prosecutors, including cursing one out in open court.
The humiliating move followed an official complaint from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., sources said at the time.
Neither Kenney nor Wright responded to a request for comment.
Wright — son of the late judge known as “Cut ‘Em Loose Bruce” Wright — is the brother of former Harlem Assemblyman Keith Wright, chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Party.
Last year, The Post revealed that Keith Wright had alienated some party members by pushing for an endorsement of his brother’s law clerk, Phaedra Perry, to run for a Civil Court judgeship.
Perry won the backing of the party’s Executive Committee at a closed-door meeting last month, a source said. Geoffrey Wright is also up for re-election this year, and — despite his recent humbling — is all but guaranteed re-election due to his brother’s influence, said longtime judicial-convention delegate Alan Flacks.
“No one’s allowed to run against him. Keith Wright wants his brother re-elected. There is a panel of one up there, and it’s called the Keith Wright selection panel,” Flacks said.
“What black lawyer in Harlem will run against the county leader’s brother? No one.”
For decades, reformers have been calling for the elimination of judicial elections and creation of an independent “merit-based” selection system involving screening panels composed of lawyers and nonlawyers who don’t hold any other public offices.
“A process which relies on political connections may not sufficiently emphasize the importance of character and integrity, and the extensive political ties of those judges chosen by such a process may additionally make them more susceptible to requests for favors from the political leaders who helped elect them,” according to a 2003 report by a task force of the city Bar Association.
The report cited a 1992 study by the Fund for Modern Courts that examined judicial-misconduct cases dating back 15 years and found that seven of 181 elected city judges were convicted of a crime, removed from office or otherwise publicly sanctioned, compared with just one of 188 appointed judges.
The Bar Association also slammed the naming of acting Supreme Court justices, saying they’re “effectively chosen by an official with limited political visibility, through a process which makes no use of an insulating, independent selection committee.”
It called for ending those appointments in favor of establishing “an adequate number of regular Supreme Court judges,” with court officials agreeing until then not to elevate any judge who “has been found not qualified by this association or any comparable group.”
Retired Appellate Division Justice David Saxe, now a partner at the Morrison Cohen law firm, offered a bleak assessment.
“Our state court system in New York is absolutely insane,” he told The Post. “It has enabled political people to control the courts, and they don’t want to give it up — so it’s very hard to get legitimate change that would be beneficial to the public.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Anthony Weiner Pleads Guilty To Sexting a 15-Year Old Girl

Anthony Weiner leaves Federal Court
Yes, Anthony Weiner. Husband of Huma Abedin, and formerly on his way to being this close to the President of the United States.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner Pleads Guilty to Federal Obscenity Charge

Anthony D. Weiner, the former Democratic congressman whose sexting scandals ended his political career and embroiled him in a tumultuous F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton before the election, pleaded guilty to a felony on Friday, crying openly as he admitted to conduct that he knew was “as morally wrong as it was unlawful.”

The plea agreement ended a federal investigation into a series of sexually explicit pictures and messages that Mr. Weiner sent last year to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.

It capped the long, tortured downfall of Mr. Weiner, who ruined a once-promising career in Congress and then spoiled various attempts at resurrecting his reputation, all through his uncontrolled habit of using social media and texts to send explicit images to women.

It also cost him his marriage: His estranged wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton, filed for divorce from Mr. Weiner on Friday in New York, according to two people with knowledge of the action.

“I engaged in obscene communications with this teenager,” Mr. Weiner said, his voice high and shaky, and his body trembling. Those communications “included sharing explicit images and encouraging her to engage in sexually explicit conduct,” just as he had done with adult women, he said.

Mr. Weiner, 52, will have to register as a sex offender where he works and lives, and he may face a prison term. He pleaded guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors said in the plea agreement that a sentence in the range of 21 to 27 months would be “fair and appropriate.” Mr. Weiner is to be sentenced on Sept. 8 in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Mr. Weiner was led into the courtroom for the brief hearing wearing a slim navy suit with a white shirt and maroon tie; a wedding band could be seen on his left hand. He sat quietly between his lawyers, exchanging whispers with one, Arlo Devlin-Brown, and an occasional smile.

But Mr. Weiner quickly dissolved into tears as he read from a written statement when the judge, Loretta A. Preska, asked that he describe what he had done.

“I’ve given this some thought,” he told her.

As he paused to brace himself, Mr. Devlin-Brown placed a hand on his lower back to comfort him and a courtroom worker brought over a box of tissues.

Mr. Weiner told Judge Preska that from the time he was in Congress through the first half of last year, “I’ve compulsively sought attention from women who contacted me on social media, and I engaged with many of them in both sexual and nonsexual conversation.”

“These destructive impulses brought great devastation to my family and friends, and destroyed my life’s dream in public service,” he said. “Yet I remained in denial even as the world around me fell apart.”

Reports of the federal investigation surfaced in September after reported that Mr. Weiner had engaged in an online relationship with the girl, which included explicit messages sent over social media and suggestive texts.

It was during the investigation that the F.B.I. seized Mr. Weiner’s electronic devices, including a laptop on which agents found a trove of emails to Ms. Abedin. That discovery led to the surprise announcement in late October by James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, that the bureau was conducting a new investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of official email, an inquiry that ended two days before the election, with no charges brought. Mrs. Clinton recently attributed her election loss in part to Mr. Comey’s announcement.

After the guilty plea, Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan, said, “Weiner’s conduct was not only reprehensible but a federal crime, one for which he is now convicted and will be sentenced.”

Mr. Devlin-Brown said that his client had “accepted full responsibility” for his conduct, and that the resolution was “on terms far less severe than could have been sought.” He said Mr. Weiner would have no further comment and “remains focused on his recovery.”

As Judge Preska informed Mr. Weiner of his rights during the hearing, he stood with his hands together before him, listening intently. When the judge asked if he was pleading guilty because he was guilty, he responded directly, “I am guilty, your honor.”

Mr. Weiner told the court that in January 2016, he was contacted by — and began exchanging online messages with — “a stranger who said that she was a high school student, and who I understood to be 15 years old.”

“I knew this was as morally wrong as it was unlawful,” he added.

Mr. Weiner, choking up and rubbing his forehead, said that last fall he “came to grips for the first time with the depths of my sickness.”

“I — I had hit bottom,” he said. “Through treatment I found the courage to take a moral inventory of my defects.” He said he began a program of recovery and mental health treatment that he was continuing.

“I accept full responsibility for my conduct,” he told Judge Preska. “I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse.”

Mr. Weiner said he had apologized to those he had hurt, including the teenage girl “whom I mistreated so badly, and I am committed to making amends to all those I have harmed.”

Mr. Weiner was forced to resign from Congress, where he represented parts of Queens and Brooklyn, in June 2011, not long after an explicit picture, sent from his Twitter account, became public. Mr. Weiner initially claimed that his account had been hacked but eventually admitted that he had lied and that he had sent the image and had inappropriate online exchanges with at least six other women.

An effort to resurrect his career progressed in 2013 as he began his candidacy for mayor of New York. But that, too, collapsed after the emergence of additional explicit online messages.

Mr. Weiner’s marriage to Ms. Abedin fell apart after new suggestive text messages surfaced in August, including one with an image of Mr. Weiner’s crotch as he lay next to the couple’s son, who was 4.

After the hearing, Mr. Weiner silently left the courthouse with his lawyers, ignoring a crowd of reporters and photographers as he stepped into a black Nissan and was driven away.Anthony Weiner to Plead Guilty to Resolve ‘Sexting’ Inquiry


Anthony D. Weiner, the former Democratic congressman whose “sexting” scandals ended his political career and embroiled him in a tumultuous F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton before the election, is to appear in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on Friday to enter a guilty plea.

The information has not been made public but was related by two people who have been briefed on the matter and asked not to be identified.

Mr. Weiner will plead guilty to a single charge of transferring obscene material to a minor, pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, one of the people said. Mr. Weiner surrendered to the F.B.I. early Friday morning.

The federal authorities have been investigating reports that, beginning in January 2016, Mr. Weiner, then 51, exchanged sexually explicit messages with a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.

The plea covers conduct by Mr. Weiner from January through March of last year, the person said. A likely result of the plea is that Mr. Weiner would end up as a registered sex offender, although a final determination has yet to be made, the person added.

The charge carries a potential sentence of between zero and 10 years in prison, meaning Mr. Weiner could avoid prison. The ultimate sentence would be determined by a judge.

Reports of the federal investigation surfaced in September after a British newspaper, The Daily Mail, reported that Mr. Weiner had engaged in an online relationship with the girl, which included explicit messages sent over social media and suggestive texts.

It was during the investigation that the F.B.I. seized Mr. Weiner’s electronic devices, including a laptop computer on which agents found a trove of emails to his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Mrs. Clinton. That discovery led to the surprise announcement in late October by James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, that the bureau was conducting a new investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of official email, an inquiry that ended two days before the election, with no charges brought.

Mrs. Clinton recently attributed her election loss in part to Mr. Comey’s announcement.

A defendant’s decision to plead guilty, of course, is subject to change at the last minute. A representative of the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan had no comment on the case.

The Daily Mail article said that Mr. Weiner began exchanging messages with the girl when she was a high school sophomore and that the messages indicated that Mr. Weiner knew that she was underage.

The newspaper, which did not identify the girl, said she did not want to press charges “because she believes her relationship with Weiner was consensual.” The paper said that she and her father agreed to be interviewed “out of concern that Weiner may be sexting with other underage girls.”

Mr. Weiner was forced to resign from Congress, where he represented parts of Queens and Brooklyn, in June 2011, not long after an explicit picture, sent from his Twitter account, became public. Mr. Weiner initially claimed that his account had been hacked but eventually admitted that he had lied and that he had sent the image and had inappropriate online exchanges with at least six other women.

An effort to resurrect his career progressed in 2013 as he began his candidacy for mayor of New York. But that, too, collapsed after the emergence of additional explicit online messages.

Mr. Weiner’s marriage to Ms. Abedin fell apart after new suggestive text messages surfaced in August, including one with an image of Mr. Weiner’s crotch as he lay next to the couple’s son, who was 4.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arbitrator From A Rabbinical Panel Was Convicted of A Crime, But Prior Decisions Stand

Arbitration Award Stands Even Though One Of The Arbitrators Was Later Convicted Of Crime
Arbitration awards are, by design, difficult to vacate. But what happens when one of the arbitrators who entered the award is later convicted of a crime related, at least to some extent, to an issue in the arbitration. In Litton v. Litton, the Appellate Division addressed this interesting but (hopefully) uncommon occurrence.
In Litton, plaintiff and defendant were married in 1982 and had one child. In 2008, the Family Part entered a judgment of divorce and ordered them to share joint custody of their son. They were also directed to proceed to arbitration before a rabbinical panel, or Beth Din, which they did. The panel, which was comprised of three rabbis, entered an award requiring the husband to pay the wife $5,000 per month until he gave her a Get. (As the Appellate Division explained, a Get is a "written document a husband must obtain and deliver to his wife when entering into a divorce. Without a Get, a wife cannot remarry under Jewish law.") Once the wife received the Get, the husband's monthly support obligation would be reduced to $3,500. The husband was also ordered to pay $20,0250 in arrears, $100,000 in the wife's legal fees, and a fine of $250,000 for "his refusal to disclose information about the couple's joint funds."
Several months later, the wife moved to enforce the award and, apparently, have the husband jailed for not complying with it. The Family Part denied the request and found that the husband was not capable of complying with the support order.
Four years later, the Family Part reduced the husband's support obligation from $5,000 per month to $23 per week. Around the same time, in a "wholly unrelated matter," one of the arbitrators on the panel was charged with, and apparently later convicted of, "criminal conspiracy to threaten and coerce Jewish husbands to give Gets to their wives." The husband moved to vacate the arbitration award, arguing that, in light of these charges against one of the rabbis on the panel, "the award was the product of corruption." The trial court denied the motion, holding that there was no causal connection between the arbitration in 2008 and the charges against the rabbi five years later, and that there were two other rabbis on the panel who were not charged as part of the conspiracy. The husband appealed.
The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision. It observed that New Jersey favors arbitration and therefore a court will only vacate an arbitration award if (1) it is "procured by corruption, fraud, or other undue means," or (2) the court finds partiality, corruption, or misconduct by the arbitrator that prejudices a party's rights. The husband argued that, based on the Family Part's decision that he could not afford to pay $5,000 per month, its subsequent reduction of the support obligation to $23 per week, and the rabbi's conviction, the court could "'connect the dots' and infer the arbitration award in the parties' case was fraudulently procured or corrupt." The Appellate Division disagreed, citing favorably the trial court's conclusion that "the dots [were] too far away and unrelated." Accordingly, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision that the husband could not satisfy his burden of showing that the arbitration award was the product of fraud or corruption.
The Appellate Division also rejected the husband's argument that the rabbi had a duty to disclose "the lengths he would go to to 'assure wayward husbands granted GETS to their wives.'" The court noted that an arbitrator is required to "disclose to all parties any financial or personal interest, and any existing or past relationship with any of the parties." If the arbitrator fails to do so, then a court may vacate a subsequent award. But, in Litton, the Appellate Division held that the husband could not establish that the rabbi had any personal or financial interest in the award or that he was even "unlawfully coercing husbands to give their wives Gets at the time plaintiff and defendant engaged the rabbinical panel." Accordingly, the arbitrator did not breach any disclosure obligation and the arbitration award could stand.
Betsy Combier