Sunday, October 2, 2016

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Corruption Spotlight - Joseph Percoco

The Cuomo-Clinton corruption of New York State Government may finally be exposed. I hope so.

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

Joseph Percoco
See: New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo Cited in Criminal Charges Against His Trusted 
Aide Joseph Percoco

The feds’ Albany corruption probe inched closer to Gov. Cuomo Thursday with the unsealing of charges against two of his most trusted former aides — who imitated “Sopranos” mobsters by using “ziti” as a code word for alleged cash payoffs tied to the governor’s pet upstate projects. Longtime Cuomo family loyalist Joseph Percoco — whom the governor once called a “third son” to his late father, Mario — was accused of pocketing more than $315,000 in bribes by shaking down a Maryland-based energy company and a Syracuse development firm in pay-to-play schemes. "Is NY State corruption coming to a halt? I hope so." says Parentadvocates' Editor Betsy Combier


Joseph Percoco, Andrew Cuomo's Bodyguard 

Cuomo aide used personal email to hide shady deals: feds

Gov. Cuomo’s former aide Joseph Percoco — who is accused of pocketing more than $315,000 in bribes as part of pay-to-play schemes — used his personal e-mail account to surreptitiously discuss his shady dealings, court papers show.
“State employees are not to use personal email addresses to conduct State business unless explicitly authorized,” Deleassa Penland, a criminal investigator with the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, wrote in the criminal complaint.
Cuomo’s former director of operations, Howard Glaser, who has not been charged in the federal case, was also using his own e-mail account in dealing with official state business, the indictment says.
Glaser used his personal email when he agreed to help Percoco get state approval for energy company Competitive Power Ventures to buy “emission reduction credits” in New York for a plant it was building in New Jersey.
“[He] used his personal email in agreeing to take this action despite having a signature line that stated: ‘Important Note: Please direct any emails or questions regarding New York State official business to [the Former State Operations Director’s New York State email address]. I will not reply to any emails dealing with state business on this account,’” the indictment states.
John Kaehny of the government watchdog group Reinvent Albany said Percoco and Glaser didn’t want their “damning” messages to be subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

Todd Howe (left) and Joseph Percoco with Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo confidantes hit with corruption charges

The feds’ Albany corruption probe inched closer to Gov. Cuomo Thursday with the unsealing of charges against two of his most trusted former aides — who imitated “Sopranos” mobsters by using “ziti” as a code word for alleged cash payoffs tied to the governor’s pet upstate projects.
Longtime Cuomo family loyalist Joseph Percoco — whom the governor once called a “third son” to his late father, Mario — was accused of pocketing more than $315,000 in bribes by shaking down a Maryland-based energy company and a Syracuse development firm in pay-to-play schemes.
Disgraced lobbyist Todd Howe, who hired Percoco as an intern for then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, was also revealed to have secretly pleaded guilty Tuesday to a slew of graft and tax charges in a deal to cooperate with authorities.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo shakes hands with Steven Aiello of COR Development during an Oct. 2., 2012 visit to the CNY Biotech Accelerator in Syracuse. In the furthest background, to the right of Cuomo, is former lobbyist Todd Howe. Joseph Percoco, a Cuomo aide, appears in the background over Cuomo's left shoulder. COR Development this month sued Howe over a loan the company says Howe failed to repay. (Syracuse University/Stephen Sartori)

Howe’s admitted crimes involve pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars from developers to rig bids on multimillion-dollar state contracts linked to the upstate Buffalo Billion economic-revitalization plan — at the same time he was working as a consultant to the taxpayer-funded program.
The feds’ investigation of Cuomo’s prized project was first revealed by The Post in September.
Evidence in the case includes multiple e-mails in which Percoco and Howe referred to bribe money as “ziti,” according to a sprawling, 79-page criminal complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
“OK. will deal with it after I get my ziti!” Percoco allegedly wrote to Howe on July 23, 2014.
Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said the “colorful, coded term” was “apparently lifted from an episode of ‘The Sopranos’ ” in which a character lost 45 “boxes of ziti” — or $45,000 — during an all-night poker game with players including the real-life Frank Sinatra Jr.
But Percoco and Howe were allegedly much smaller-time crooks, with an e-mail mentioning “7500 boxes of zitti [sic],” referring to just $7,500, court papers say.
In addition to cash payoffs, Percoco is accused of accepting “personal benefits” that included fishing trips in August 2010 and February 2011 and lunch at a Manhattan steakhouse on Dec. 23, 2010, just days before Andrew Cuomo took office as governor.
Percoco also got the energy company — Competitive Power Ventures — “to donate a private jet to transport the governor and his staff to campaign events” during the week leading up to his 2010 election, court papers say.
When asked if he was willing to give Cuomo, who was not charged, a “clean bill of health,” Bharara did no such thing.
“There is no allegation of wrongdoing or misconduct by the governor anywhere in this complaint. That’s all I’m going to say,” Bharara said.
Dean Skelos, (center), son (at right)

Bharara — who already has won corruption convictions against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos since Cuomo disbanded the Moreland Commission on corruption at the state Capitol — also declined to say if investigators had interviewed the governor as part of the continuing probe.
“I will tell you, I really do hope there’s a trial in this case so all New Yorkers can see in gory detail what their state government has been up to,” Bharara said.
Cuomo’s name does crop up repeatedly in the complaint.
It notes that campaign contributions to the governor poured in from executives, relatives and entities connected to the allegedly bribe-paying companies as soon as those businesses began pursuing state projects.
Cuomo got $375,000 in campaign cash from COR Development of Syracuse and $100,000 from LPCiminelli of Buffalo, the complaint notes.
And CEO Louis Ciminelli hosted a $250,000 fund-raising dinner for Cuomo in 2013.
Also charged was Alain Kaloyeros, a Ferrari-driving scientist who was paid nearly $900,000 this past fiscal year to run the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, which is administering the Buffalo Billion project.
Kaloyeros is accused of scheming with Howe to steer lucrative contracts to LPCiminelli and COR, which Howe allegedly squeezed for $35,000 in payoffs.
Ciminelli executives Louis Ciminelli, Michael Laipple and Kevin Schuler, and COR execs Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi were also charged by the feds, as was Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr. of Competitive Power Ventures.
During the time he was allegedly on the take, Percoco wore two hats for Cuomo — working on the state payroll as his executive deputy secretary and also taking leave between April and December 2014 to manage Cuomo’s re-election campaign.
But while he was supposed to be working outside the government, Percoco “continued to function in a senior advisory and supervisory role with regard to the governor’s office . . . and continued to be involved in the hiring of staff and the coordination of the governor’s official events and priorities” — including “travel with the governor on official business,” the feds say.
Court papers allege that Percoco’s motive for corruption was a cash crunch created when he and his wife, Lisa Toscano-Percoco, bought a house in Westchester for $800,000 in July 2012, after which she left her job as a New York City schoolteacher.
As a result, the couple’s monthly income dropped from around $12,700 to less than $8,600 — while their expenses were at least $20,000 “and their savings were close to being depleted,” the feds say.
Percoco allegedly leaned on Competitive Power Ventures to create a $90,000-a-year job for his wife that required as little as two hours of work a month in exchange for his pulling strings for the company in connection with its plans for electrical plants upstate and in New Jersey.
He is also accused of getting COR Development to funnel $35,000 in payoffs to him through a shell company set up by Howe, then performing official favors that included securing the release of $14 million in previously awarded state funds and scoring a “substantial raise” for Aiello’s son, who worked in the Executive Chamber.
In December, Percoco was hired by Madison Square Garden for a newly created position of senior vice president.
Cuomo publicly lamented Percoco’s arrest, saying, “If the allegations are true, I am saddened and profoundly disappointed . . . “Like my father before me, I believe public integrity is paramount.”
Percoco, Kaloyeros and Kelly appeared in Manhattan federal court, and were released on bonds ranging from $50,000 to $300,000. Ciminelli appeared in federal court in Buffalo with four co-defendants. He was released on $300,000 bond.
Daniel C. Oliverio, Ciminelli’s lawyer, denied the charges and said, “I wish everyone would withhold their judgment until we’re done in this case.”

Sunday, September 18, 2016

NYS Supreme Court Corruption: James A. Rosetti

Below is an interesting news item about how James Rosetti was forced out of the NYS Supreme Court, and his hoped-for position as the replacement for County Clerk Norman Goodman (who retired at the age of 90).

I had some personal interaction with Mr. Rosetti when the Pastor of my church, Fred Anderson, at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, stole my mom's estate from me and hired Guide One Insurance Company and Attorney Kenneth Wasserman to make up a horrific story that would forever deny me my mom's gift. The problem was, the NYS Supreme Court issued Wasserman an Index number that had no basis in law or fact. Wasserman somehow got the case into the Court in 1998, never served the papers, and I was not able to stop him (with prejudice) until my Motion to Dismiss was granted by Judge Moskowitz in 2007. Attorney Kenneth Wasserman supposedly filed (but my attorneys and I were never served papers) an action against me saying that I stole $25,001 from my grandfather's Trust fund set up at Banker's Trust for my twin sister and I in about 1953.
Eli Uncyk

My lawyers did nothing to help me (Eli Uncyk, Jeffrey Kofsky - do NOT hire these two). I sued the whole bunch of them in Federal Court and the Judge, a former attorney for White and Case and the lawyer who scammed NY State with a secret deal made with the Governor to get a reduction in the indictment of Banker's Trust from $60 million to $19 million (I have the paperwork), dismissed the case.

Attorney Kenneth Wasserman supposedly filed (but my attorneys and I were never served papers) an action against me saying that I stole $25,001 from my grandfather's Trust fund set up at Banker's Trust for my twin sister and I in about 1953.

My twin, who hit our mom and abused her for many years, assisted Mr. Wasserman in promoting this lie. No paperwork ever existed concerning this lie, and yet Mr. Wasserman pursued the case, including getting Judge Karla Moskowitz and Eliot Spitzer in on it, until I won the dismissal with prejudice on my Motion To Dismiss at the Supreme Court and Appellate Division. I brought this to Mr. Rosetti's attention more than once, and he first told me he would look into it, and then said that the case had an Index number, so Wasserman must have a case. I finally gave a copy of the taped conversation with Detective Ahearn of the 19th precinct telling me that Judge Moskowitz was paying Wasserman to harass me to a person with authority over Mr. Rossetti.
Jeffrey Kofsky

I spent more than $300,000 on pursuing this matter, and had heart failure on July 22, 2006 when Judge Renee Roth in the Surrogate Court ordered Public Administrator Ethel Griffin to take control from me of the Estate. A few days after my Motion To Dismiss was granted by Judge Moskowitz she was moved to the Appellate Division.

I never saw any of my mom's property again.

Betsy Combier

Justice Milton A. Tingling
How Racist Image Led to Ouster of A Top Official in NY County Clerk’s Office
Last summer Justice Milton A. Tingling brought two photographs of shockingly racist and misogynistic images to the attention of the administrative judge in charge of the Supreme Court at 60 Centre St. in Manhattan.
In his cellphone, Tingling had a photograph of an illustration from a children’s book, which contained an illustration of an ape and a bird. Scrawled across the illustration were the phrases: “Nigger be like” and “I love me a bitch bird.” A second photograph captured an illustration of an ape-like figure using similarly vulgar language.
The images had been hanging on a wall of the New York County Clerk’s records room in the basement of the 60 Centre Street courthouse. The wall is about 30 feet directly behind the counter where the public goes to requisition case files. Three sources reported the images and inscription; one of them read to me what had been written on the two illustrations. Also, just this week, the union that represents the workers in the records room reported in its March newsletter that “a few workers” at 60 Centre Street took cellphone pictures of “racist posters involving monkeys and apes.”
The meeting held between Tingling and his administrative judge, Justice Sherry Klein Heitler, in late July or early August, set off a chain of events which led to the forced resignation of Chief Deputy County Clerk James A. Rossetti the following December. Rossetti had been the top aide and heir apparent to New York County Clerk Norman Goodman, who, now 90, has held the post for the past 45 years. Rossetti had been the number-two man in the office since 1985.
Norman Goodman
There has been a near news blackout on the events, which led to Rossetti’s dismissal and upended the expected line of succession in the County Clerk’s Office. The New York County Clerk serves one of the most important, and busiest, trial courts in New York State. His office is the custodian of court files for the Supreme Court in Manhattan and performs a vital function in processing court rulings into legally enforceable judgments and orders. The office is also responsible for assuring the smooth flow of jurors to trial courtrooms throughout the borough.
The only news story, prior to the one in the union newsletter, to appear on Rossetti’s departure ran in the New York Law Journal on Dec. 18, two days after Rossetti had submitted his resignation ahead of a deadline set by Deputy Chief Administrative Judge Fern A. Fisher, according to a source close to RossettiCiting unnamed sources, the seven-paragraph item reported that Rossetti had resigned rather than accept a suspension and demotion.  According to the article, a report compiled by the court system’s Inspector General’s Office found that he had been lax in responding to the offending images and had “mis [led]” investigators. The Inspector General’s (IG) report found that Rossetti was not responsible for posting the images. The union newsletter did not identify Rossetti by name, but referred to him by his title, “Deputy County Clerk.”
The Office of Court Administration refused the Law Journal access to the Inspector General’s report, which was based upon an investigation that spanned several months. David Bookstaver, OCA’s spokesman, has continued to maintain that stance, saying all information relating to the disciplining of court employees is confidential and not subject to release to the public.
There is much that was left unsaid in the anodyne information given to the Law Journal. There was no mention of Tingling’s involvement; nor that two other County Clerk employees were disciplined along with Rossetti; nor that District Council 37 either joined OCA or, on its own initiated, the IG investigation; nor of the harsh manner in which Rossetti was treated, including that he was reportedly disciplined without being given a copy of the IG report or a meaningful opportunity to defend himself.
The new information I have come across creates many unanswered questions. What did Rossetti do to warrant punishment? Was the punishment proportionate to what he had done? How and why did Tingling become involved? Did the question of Goodman’s successor have any bearing on the way events unfolded?
In the absence of official information, I have been limited to sources, who have asked not to be identified. I have spoken to sources both inside and outside the court system. Some of the outsiders are close to Rossetti and others to Tingling. The two principal players both come with political pedigree from Harlem. Tingling’s father, Milton Tingling Sr., was also a Supreme Court Justice elected in Manhattan, and Rossetti is related to Frank G. Rossetti, a Democratic politician from East Harlem, who was the Democratic Party leader of Tammany Hall from 1967-77.
My tentative read on the information that has become available is that it is more likely than not that Rossetti misled his superiors; that his treatment was overly harsh and his punishment possibly so; and that Tingling had no ulterior motive for bringing the photographs to Heitler’s attention. Likewise, my reporting found no basis for concluding that OCA’s actions were influenced by the looming question of who will be Goodman’s successor. That decision will ultimately be made by the Appellate Division in Manhattan.
What Did Rossetti Do?
On the morning that Tingling called Heitler to report the offensive images in the records room, Heitler convened a meeting in her chambers, which included Rossetti, Tingling and John Werner, the chief clerk at 60 Centre Street, according to sources. She dispatched Rossetti to the records room to see what was there. He reported back that he did not see anything offensive, several sources reported.
Court employees had first started posting photographs and articles on the wall after the Sept. 11 attack, focusing on court workers who had been involved in the rescue effort. Over the years the postings had grown to include many others, including a photograph of President Obama and the First Lady on election night. The number of postings had grown into the hundreds, one source said. Two sources said that Rossetti had ordered all the postings taken down when he inspected the wall for Heitler.
Given the inflammatory nature of the images, it is possible that someone may have discovered them that morning and ripped them down. Many of the workers in the records room are black and may well have been outraged upon discovering the posts. But that scenario does not seem plausible for two reasons. First a source, who had no connection to either side, but had access to the area behind the counter, told me that the offensive post, bearing the N-word, had been on the wall for “quite some time.” Secondly, someone from behind the counter apparently had taken the photographs and forwarded them to Tingling, which suggests that was the route of redress the workers had taken. That notion is reinforced in the union newsletter’s report that “several workers at 60 Centre Street” took cellphone photographs of “racist” images involving “monkeys and apes.” The newsletter article did not state, however, that those cellphone photographs had been forwarded to Tingling’s cellphone.
Also, several sources told me that two workers, in addition to Rossetti, were caught up in the IG investigation. One of them, Joseph Antonelli, a 44-year veteran, who had been chief clerk of the office’s Court and Records Division, reportedly was pressured to resign in January 2014, earlier than he had planned. The other, Midgalia Ruiz, was the supervisor of the workers responsible for retrieving court files for the public. Near the outset of the IG investigation, Ruiz was re-assigned from the records room to a County Clerk’s office in the nearby Surrogate’s Court. Ruiz agreed, according to sources, to accept a suspension and a demotion. The union that represents her, the Civil Service Employees Association, did not return a phone call asking for a comment on her behalf.
Several sources describe a tense relationship between Ruiz and the workers under her. That suggests a management problem that may have gone unaddressed in the office.
It is unclear precisely when the union became involved. Cliff Koppelman, the president of the DC 37 local that represents the records room workers, confirmed that it had filed a complaint, but refused to comment further.
The article in the union newsletter, however, states that the IG investigation began after several union members went “to the union and state Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling” to complain about “racist pictures and posters on the walls of the New York County Clerk’s record room.”  Koppelman was quoted in the article as saying that several union members from the record room “came forward to testify before the IG about the situation.”
My impressions related above come with a caveat. Without access to the IG report there may well be significant information that I am unaware of. Also, the information I have obtained raises other questions that I can not answer. For instance, other than rank speculation, there is no explanation as to why Rossetti would have withheld information from Heitler.
Further, the Law Journal’s unofficial report leaves unanswered the question of whether the IG report reached a conclusion as to who posted the offensive images. The article does state, however, that investigators concluded that Rossetti was not responsible. The message of the phrases written on the two illustrations was clearly out of bounds. But the use of puerile, street talk is just plain weird.
Rossetti’s Treatment and Punishment
When the IG report was complete, Fisher, the administrative judge in charge of courts within New York City, summoned Rossetti to an 11 a.m. meeting in her chambers at the New York County Civil Court on Friday, Dec. 13. At the meeting, she informed Rossetti that OCA had decided that he should receive a 90-day suspension without pay, a demotion that would slice $16,000 off his $144,000 annual salary and a new assignment in a borough outside Manhattan. Rossetti had no civil service or union protection. According to sources, Rossetti was not given a copy of the IG report and merely told that court officials had “lost confidence” in his ability to manage the office.
Fisher gave Rossetti until 5 p.m. the following Monday to advise her whether he was willing to continue to work at the office under those conditions. At the conclusion of the meeting Rossetti was instructed to return to his office and collect his personal belongings.  A court officer, in civilian clothes, then escorted Rossetti back to his office in the Supreme Court two blocks to the south on Centre Street and accompanied him as he collected his belongings and exited the building. Rossetti’s pay was suspended immediately.
On Monday, Dec. 16, Rossetti tendered his resignation. Rossetti was 58 at the time, which meant that his forced resignation was costly even though he had worked for the County Clerk’s Office for 28 years. The state pension system imposes a significant penalty on employees who are less than 62 when they retire with less than 30 years of service.
This narrative is mainly provided by a source close to Rossetti, but many workers in the County Clerk’s Office saw Rossetti being escorted out of the office.

Tingling’s Involvement
 Despite suggestions from the Rossetti camp that the proceeding against him had been “a very strange hanging,” no one pointed to anything the least bit untoward in Tingling’s actions. As best I can tell, he did what any person would do when receiving the information that he did—he reported it to his administrative judge. Indeed, he probably would have been derelict if he had not reported it.
A source close to Tingling said that last fall, when the IG investigation was in full swing, Tingling had told persons in the courthouse that he was interested in the job. A second source inside the courthouse also told me that a rumor was widespread that Tingling was interested in succeeding Goodman. But, subsequently the source close to Tingling said that he was no longer interested in becoming County Clerk.
Moreover, since the rumors surfaced at least two months after Tingling’s meeting with Heitler, there is nothing to suggest that Tingling had a motive to do anything other that report the photographs in an effort to get them taken down as quickly as possible.
When I questioned Tingling about the rumors, he stopped short of giving me a straight out denial. He acknowledged hearing the rumors, and said, “I am running for re-election. My sole objective is to be reelected to the Supreme Court.” Tingling’s 14-year term expires this year and he is running for a second term.
A Sense of Mistreatment
During his many years as the go-to person at the County Clerk’s Office, Rossetti was highly regarded by lawyers and judge alike as helpful, competent and professional. Several sources said that his punishment was too harsh even assuming the accuracy of the Law Journal report that the IG office concluded that Rossetti had misled investigators.
A retired judge, who said that over the years Rossetti had smoothed out problems for many judges, suggested the punishment was disproportionate. “Why couldn’t [OCA] have gone to him and said, ‘Hey, schmuck, don’t do this again?’ ”
A court insider said that the “administrators downtown should have found a better way of working this out without trashing the careers of two valued and veteran employees.”
Two court insiders expressed dismay over the way the matter had been handled by OCA. One insider likened Rossetti’s treatment to the “star chamber” in that he “was let go after so many years without ever being told what the issue was.”  The other said it was “shocking” that a court official at Rossetti’s level could be forced out of office without having any due process rights to defend himself.
A managing attorney at one of the city’s most prestigious firms saw irony in no due process being given to a top official in a courthouse, which is revered as a ‘Hall of Justice.’ ”
Edited by Cerisse Anderson

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jockeying For Judgeships

Jennifer Thompson, a Conservative Republican who lost her
bid for Huntington Town  Board in 2015

How Long Island judges win races before they start

When longtime Conservative Marian Tinari ran for Huntington District Court last fall, she didn’t just have the backing of her party. She was also endorsed by the Republicans. And the Democrats. And the Independence and Reform parties.
All that harmony was orchestrated by the man who is no doubt her biggest supporter — her husband, Frank Tinari, the new leader of the Suffolk Conservative Party.

The multiparty support for Marian Tinari was so formidable that no one bothered to oppose her. In getting the cross-endorsements, she was not unusual in Suffolk County, where one in four judicial candidates has been backed by both Republicans and Democrats in the past 10 years, all victors in races that were won before they started.
But the sheer number of parties supporting her, despite their stark conflicts in judicial philosophy, as well as her husband’s involvement, make her election a vivid example not only of how completely party leaders dominate Long Island elections, but how that dominance reaches into the courts.
That troubles legal scholars who have long criticized the state’s judicial selection process. “It’s unseemly, it’s unbecoming; but it’s legal and business as usual for New York judgeships,” said James Sample, a Hofstra University law professor who has studied judicial selection.
In Nassau, where judicial races are more competitive, about 10 percent of the judicial candidates in the past 10 years were cross-endorsed by the major parties. But election records show that cross- endorsements have increased in both counties in recent years: From 1996 through 2005, just one judicial candidate in Nassau and 31 in Suffolk were cross-endorsed by the major parties. In the past 10 years, 25 candidates in Nassau and 63 in Suffolk were cross-endorsed by the major parties.
The reason for that is clear, leaders say. With cross-endorsements almost always guaranteeing election, candidates don’t have to spend money on political advertising and leaders don’t have to enlist party volunteers to get out the vote.
“It’s much easier,” said Toni Tepe, Huntington Republican leader.
State law makes it illegal to give a party line in exchange for something of value, but trading party lines without an explicit quid pro quo is not, legal experts said.
Even within these bounds, though, the practice is one of the most questionable examples of the political horse trading that has become routine on Long Island. It can become as involved as draft-day maneuvering in the NFL, with deals extending over years and involving parties as disparate as the Conservatives and the organized-labor-oriented Working Families. In Suffolk, cross-endorsements have included top office holders, such as District Attorney Thomas Spota and Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, but their effect on the judicial elections is particularly pronounced.
This year, the political parties have already agreed on cross-endorsements of all four of Suffolk’s higher court judgeships — one County and three Family — up in November.
“It flies in the face of everything we believe when we walk into the voting booth.”– Jennifer Thompson
While leaders of minor parties have defended cross-endorsements as just about their only way of electing qualified loyalists to the bench, some law professors and critics of New York’s unusual system of judicial selection say that comes at too high a price: It leaves the public with little real choice in selecting judges who make critical decisions affecting businesses, families and the potential for serious charges of criminal wrongdoing. Because judicial candidates are barred from expressing their political views or campaigning, endorsement by a single party can provide a strong indication to voters about where a candidate stands, while cross-endorsements offer a confusing picture.
“It flies in the face of everything we believe when we walk into the voting booth,” said Jennifer Thompson, a conservative Republican who lost her first bid for Huntington Town Board last year after cross-party negotiations involving Tinari’s judgeship and the town board seats.
“When they see somebody’s name on a party line, that represents something to them on a philosophical basis,” she said. “The average voter just doesn’t know.”
Just how judges get on the bench on Long Island is a question federal investigators have posed to Frank Tinari’s predecessor, Edward Walsh, who was convicted March 31 on federal charges of wage theft and wire fraud. Although Walsh was prosecuted for doing political work — and gambling and golfing — while he was supposed to be doing his job as a deputy county sheriff, his lawyers maintain that the real reason federal attorneys pursued a case against him was in part his influence over the selection of judges.
As leader of the largest county Conservative Party in the state, Walsh’s backing could make the critical difference in a judicial election, bringing in up to 30 percent of the vote. Walsh’s lawyer, William Wexler, said in an interview that he had no information to give prosecutors.
Frank Tinari succeeded Walsh as leader of the Suffolk Conservative Party, which bars felons from the office. An attorney who has been involved with the party for 30 years, Tinari makes no apologies for using his political influence to help his wife get a judgeship.

“Marian has been an active Conservative since 1988 and has worked for the party,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think she should be penalized if she’s qualified to be a judge by the mere fact that she’s married to me.”
Before becoming a judge, Marian Tinari worked as a court attorney referee, law clerk and an assistant district attorney. The Suffolk Bar Association found her qualified.
Asked about her cross-endorsements, Marian Tinari released a statement through a court spokeswoman: “I was very humbled and appreciative when all political parties supported my candidacy for Suffolk County District Court Judge.”

The Toll
New York is one of just seven states that allow fusion voting, which permits candidates to run on multiple party lines. The practice is a reform that was introduced decades ago to give minor parties more of a voice and to break the stranglehold of Manhattan’s Tammany Hall machine. But over time, leaders of both minor and major parties have traded party lines with little regard for political philosophy, and the major parties have occasionally come together to block the influence of smaller parties.
“It would be like a card game.”– John Cochrane
“It would be like a card game,” said former Suffolk Republican leader John Cochrane.
When Nassau District Court Judge Anna Anzalone ran for state Supreme Court in 2014, the Nassau County Bar Association failed to find her qualified — a rare determination for a sitting judge. Nonetheless, both the Nassau Republicans and Democrats endorsed her.
Although she is a Republican, in endorsing her GOP leader Joseph Mondello violated his long-standing agreement not to back candidates the bar association failed to approve. At the time, Republican officials called the association’s decision partisan. Mondello said that while he would have liked bar association approval, “if . . . games are going to be played, you have to adjust your sails.”

John McEntee, who was then bar association president, defended the screening committee’s rating. In a letter to Newsday at the time, he pointed out that the committee was bipartisan and wrote that it found “by an overwhelming margin” that Anzalone “lacked the qualifications and experience necessary” for Supreme Court. Under association rules, the committee’s specific findings are kept confidential.
After her election, she asked that the Suffolk Bar Association review her qualifications because she was seeking to extend her term beyond the mandatory retirement age of 70. In May 2015, that association found her qualified.
Anzalone did not respond to calls for comment.
Despite the debate over her qualifications, Anzalone had something that would appeal to any party leader: the support of the New York State Laborers Political Action Committee, which was controlled by her husband, George Truicko. The PAC, which has contributed to the Nassau GOP consistently over the years, gave handsomely to the party in 2014, with $24,050 coming before her nomination and $12,500 right after her election.
“… if you come to me and say you want to run for an office, I would say to you, can you raise a certain amount of money?”– Jay Jacobs
The effect of the cross-endorsement was powerful. Anzalone was one of six Supreme Court candidates cross-endorsed by the major parties. All six were elected to the bench. Three others, including two who ran on a single party line, were shut out.
The ability to raise money for a party, as Anzalone’s husband had done, is an important consideration when selecting judicial candidates, party leaders say.

“There is an expectation in every single office if you come to me and say you want to run for an office, I would say to you, can you raise a certain amount of money?” said Nassau Democratic leader Jay Jacobs.
In 2014, every single Nassau Democratic candidate for higher court — Supreme, County and Family — generated at least $50,000 in donations for the party’s county committee. And four District Court candidates each raised at least $17,500 for the county party, according to a Newsday review of hundreds of campaign filings.
Under state judicial ethics rules, contributions made by judicial candidates must be used for specific campaign expenses. Contributions made in a lump sum, unconnected to expenses, particularly before a candidate is nominated, are prohibited to prevent the appearance of buying a nomination. A judge violating the rules could be subject to discipline.
“In New York, many lawyers are desperate to become judges and will do almost anything for the party leaders, who can, in turn, make that dream their judicial reality.”– James Sample
Jacobs said that the contributions went primarily to a coordinated judicial campaign, which he said was legal. “We’re straight up about it,” he said. “Once those judges reach the bench, it’s hands-off from the Democratic Party.
Although records don’t show the same level of contributions in 2015, Jacobs said he might solicit them this year if there are contested judicial races.
“In New York, many lawyers are desperate to become judges and will do almost anything for the party leaders, who can, in turn, make that dream their judicial reality,” Hofstra’s Sample said.
“And the problem with that is that legal acumen has almost nothing to do with who becomes a judge.”
Former Republican leader Cochrane agreed. “It is not because they are particularly brilliant or have credentials,” he said, making the point that success in law school or the courts is far from a primary consideration. “You don’t go to school, you don’t earn marks; you earn it through the political process.”

The Tinari Deal
The political discussions that laid the groundwork for Marian Tinari’s seat on the 3rd District Court, which covers cases in the Town of Huntington, provide a window into the making of a judge. It all began in January 2014, with various accounts portraying negotiations involving five party leaders, four judgeships, two town board seats, a county executive and a vote by the county legislature.
Making the extent of the maneuverings all the more improbable was that, as much as the judgeship may have meant to Tinari, it meant relatively little to the political leaders, other than her husband. A District Court judgeship comes with a $156,200 salary and a six-year term and can be a steppingstone to higher courts. But it has no patronage jobs and little court work to hand out. It is a lower court that primarily handles misdemeanors and lesser offenses, as well as landlord-tenant disputes.
“You don’t want to put an idiot in just because they’re a lawyer,” said Huntington Democratic leader Mary Collins, who rued the fact that when someone becomes a judge, the party loses a valuable worker. “Once a person’s on the bench, they’re lost because they’re precluded from doing anything for the party.”
Nonetheless, a judgeship can be a way to reward a loyal party volunteer or can be a useful chit in cross-party deal making.
Against this background, in early 2014, Frank Tinari, who is also the Huntington Conservative leader, approached Tepe, the town Republican leader. She said he proposed a full slate of District Court cross-endorsements that included the incumbents, Republican Steve Hackeling and Conservative Paul Hensley, as well as Democrat James Matthews for the seat that the Conservative John Andrew Kay was retiring from. Matthews is Tinari’s former law partner.
Journey to becoming a judge

Marian Tinari was not part of that package, but rumors had begun to circulate that another District Court judgeship would open up, something that would emerge in a telling way months down the line.
Frank Tinari’s proposition ran into problems because Tepe assumed a negotiating position that other political leaders take: Once a judgeship is held by a person from a particular party, it stays with that party.
Tepe said she reminded Tinari of an earlier deal they made: She had agreed to back Kay in 2010, as long as the seat returned to the Republicans once he retired. Tepe said she wanted that judgeship back.

Tinari denied that he had agreed to that, she said. Their talks broke down.
Tinari, whose party seldom wins a political race on its own but can draw thousands of votes to a judicial candidate, turned to Collins, the town Democratic leader, despite their parties’ differences in philosophy. They quickly cut an unusual deal: Conservatives would back two Democrats for District Court in exchange for Democrats backing one Conservative in 2014 and another Conservative in 2015, Collins said.
It was agile maneuvering — in fact, too agile for some Conservatives. The two Democrats the Conservatives agreed to back, Matthews and Patricia Grant Flynn, also accepted the line of the left-leaning Working Families Party, something staunchly opposed by the state Conservative Party leadership.
“I do have a problem with the Conservative Party participating in cross-endorsements with the Working Families Party,” state Conservative chairman Michael Long said in an interview. “They represent a philosophy that is alien to everything the Conservative Party believes.”
Tinari said the Democrats got the Working Families line after the Conservative endorsement.
For Matthews and Flynn, the Conservative line proved to be a key cross-endorsement in the November election. It provided the margin of victory for Matthews and significantly boosted Flynn.
Until now, Marian Tinari’s name had not surfaced officially in connection with a judgeship, but shortly after the election the long-rumored judicial retirement finally emerged. District Court Judge G. Ann Spelman announced she was leaving the bench.

That’s when the commitment by the Democrats to endorse an unnamed candidate of the Conservative Party’s choosing crystallized into their endorsement of Marian Tinari.
Collins said that under the deal she struck with Tinari that won Conservative endorsement for Democrats Matthews and Flynn, the Democrats were committed to endorsing a Conservative for the next District Court opening. The deal was made easier, she said, because no Democratic lawyers were interested in the judgeship. Marian Tinari was, and she became the candidate.
Frank Tinari said Spelman’s retirement came without warning but that he was happy to propose his wife as her replacement. “Did I help to try and put the nomination together? Yes, as soon as we found out that it became available by Gigi Spelman stepping down,” he said.
Both Tepe and Collins, however, said there had been rumors of Spelman’s retirement for months. Spelman and her husband, Randolph, who served on the town Conservative executive committee with Tinari, did not return calls for comment.
Because Spelman retired before her term was completed, officials had to appoint someone to take her seat on the bench until an election for a full term took place the following November. Collins gave Suffolk Democratic leader Richard Schaffer just one name for that seat: not that of a Democrat, but Marian Tinari.
Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone forwarded her name to the county legislature, which in March 2015 unanimously approved her.
She would still have to stand for election, but the appointment gave her the advantage of incumbency.
In politics, though, a simple advantage is not always enough. There was one more deal waiting to be made.

Final Stage
In 2015, judgeships were far removed from the concern of Huntington Democrats, who were focused on retaining control of the five-person town board. They held a 4-1 edge. Two seats were up, and four candidates were running for them.
While every party has an executive committee, longtime observers of Long Island politics have noted how for decades strong leaders have influenced party positions and endorsements.
Frank Petrone, the Democratic Huntington supervisor, asked Frank Tinari to back both Democratic candidates. Tepe, who hoped to make Republican inroads, wanted him to endorse a Republican and a friendly incumbent, who is a member of the Independence Party.

Tinari, in effect split the difference.
The reason for that, according to Petrone, was obvious: “I think he needed to keep everyone happy.”
Tinari wanted both the Republicans and Democrats to back his wife in her run for District Court, Petrone said, and while the Democrats had supported her appointment there was no guarantee they would endorse her electoral bid.
“An appointment is one thing; to run for a seat is another,” Petrone explained.
Tepe recalled, “Tinari said to me, ‘The Conservatives are willing to endorse one person. Choose who you want.’”
Tinari said he did not recall telling her she could pick whom she wanted, something that would have put a political card on the table without allowing the Conservative executive committee to evaluate candidates on their merits.
Whatever the circumstances, Tepe faced a tough decision. Incumbent Gene Cook had been a friend to Republicans on the board and was popular with voters, even though he was a member of the Independence Party. Jennifer Thompson, who serves on the Northport School Board, was a newcomer to Huntington town politics, but Tepe liked her a lot.
But when Thompson appeared before a Conservative screening committee, she said she got a cool reception. Tinari asked most of the questions and took an adversarial approach, she remembered, recalling that she “got the distinct impression that I was not welcome.”
Tinari said the Conservative executive committee did not find her qualified. “We didn’t think that she was a good candidate,” he said.
In the end, Tepe went with Cook, the incumbent. The Republicans also endorsed Marian Tinari for the judgeship. Tepe had known and liked Marian Tinari for years and came from the same side of the political spectrum. “There basically was no reason for us not to be supportive at this point,” Tepe said.
In what was barely a cherry on the cake, Tinari also received the endorsements of two much smaller parties, the Reform and Independence.

Huntington Independence Party leader Kenneth Bayne said there was nothing complicated about why his party endorsed Marian Tinari. He, like a spokesman for the Reform Party, said she was the only one who asked for the endorsement and that she was qualified.
Spokesmen for the Independence and Reform Parties said that Tinari was the only candidate who sought their backing for District Court and they found her qualified.
That would seem to be the end of a long political story, but it wasn’t. One of the charms of cross-endorsements is that withholding one can have as much impact as bestowing one, something Thompson — who didn’t get the Conservative Party nod — found out the hard way.
Sometime around July, Tepe learned that the Conservatives were running their own candidate for the other Town Board seat, a move that could only hurt Thompson by siphoning votes from her. And that’s exactly what happened.
The Conservatives’ Town Board candidate, Michael Helfer, an attorney who had no listed campaign committee, got 2,827 votes — the critical margin of difference. Her opponent, Democratic incumbent Susan Berland, beat Thompson by just 1,212 votes.
“Had I had the Conservative line,” Thompson said, “I would have won my race.”
Tinari, running on five party lines with no opposition, swept to easy victory and a full six-year term with 24,468 votes. Thanks to cross-endorsements, the longtime Conservative drew the plurality of them — 11,090 — on the line of her party’s longtime antagonist: the Democratic Party.
Mitchell Wilensky
This is just an outrageous hit piece by Newsday. Judge Marian Tinari is an outstanding and super-qualified jurist. She has been a devoted and tireless public servant for decades who as a former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney was the head of the Bias Crimes Unit. When she was the Principal Law Clerk in the Suffolk County Surrogate's Court, she was a passionate advocate for the rights of widows and orphans. This is the type of person the public deserves as a judge. Did Newsday have a lengthy investigation into how President Bill Clinton got Hillary her Democratic nomination for the US Senate in 2000 to run against Long Island's own Rick Lazio? Absolutely NOT!!! Once again the liberal/progressive bias of Newsday rears its ugly head in an attempt to destroy an individual such as Judge Tinari who just happens to be a conservative. M.E. Wilensky