Welcome to my website that provides a response to information that was circulated in the media and the grand jury report on the Suffolk Ethics Commission. Much of the information you can view here was not made part of the media or the Grand Jury analyses. It will likely place a very different picture on the narrative that has been written thus far.
It is no coincidence that the saga related to financial disclosure and all that followed began very soon after I switched my political party registration. Suddenly, I was questioned by the media about why I had been filing a New York State financial disclosure form. This led to a politically motivated investigation initiated by the County Legislature. That investigation was absorbed by a Suffolk Grand Jury.
Grand Juries were deliberately designed by state law to be one-sided. The witnesses and the information supplied are at the discretion of the accusers. There is no cross-examination or ability to call one’s own witnesses. As was stated in People v. McCabe, “A presentation is a foul blow. It wins the importance of a judicial document, yet it lacks its principal attributes… It accuses but furnishes no forum for a denial … It is like the ‘hit and run’ motorist. Before application can be made to suppress it, it is the subject of public gossip. The damage is done. The injury it may unjustly inflict may never be healed.” Since issues are not meant to be fully hashed out, there is the potential for inaccurate conclusions to be drawn.
Sadly, since this saga began, a great number of inaccuracies have come to be accepted as the truth.
The following is a sampling of the many inaccuracies that were included in the Grand Jury report:
1) Inaccuracy: The County Executive inappropriately failed to file a county financial disclosure form and was given a special favor by the Suffolk County Ethics Commission “allowing” him to file the state financial disclosure form instead.
The County Executive was required to file a state form, and the Suffolk County Ethics Commission was mandated by New York State law to accept it.
The Grand Jury was mistaken because it relied on testimony from an attorney with a conflict of interest rather than the state’s leading ethics experts who agreed the Executive filed properly.
2) Inaccuracy: The state form is less extensive and seeks less information than the county form (media outlets suggested that there was an attempt to conceal information).
Reality: The state form seeks the same basic information as that on the county form but asks far more questions.
Ethics experts have noted that the county form asks so many fewer questions that it was, at all relevant times, not in conformance with state law. (For example, the county form did not ask about travel reimbursement, future contracts, information regarding emancipated children, positions in political parties, gifts, or transfers under market value.) The legislature had to change the county law to add these questions last year.
3) Inaccuracy: The County Executive sought ethics opinions about Legislator Ed Romaine and Chief Deputy Paul Sabatino for political reasons.
The administration believed both employees engaged in multiple conflicts of interest. One was actively opposing the selling of the nursing home through his legislation and votes when his wife and sister-in-law worked there, and another had gone to work for the union after leaving county employment and had the ability to provide inside information to the detriment of county management and the taxpayers. He went so far as to represent employees of the nursing home in suing the county to prevent its closure.
4) Inaccuracy: The ethics commissioners were unduly influenced by the County Executive.
Reality: Both past and present ethics officials signed statements claiming there was never any pressure placed upon them by the Executive Branch as to how to vote on any matter.
Additionally, there was not a single, specific case cited in the report where a commissioner claimed the County Executive interfered with the process.
5) Inaccuracy: The Executive threatened legislators by obtaining their financial disclosure forms.
Reality: The Legislature created an investigative panel as a political witch hunt against the County Executive after he changed political parties.
The County Executive insisted that if there was going to be a review of the financial disclosure process, it must be looked at evenhandedly by reviewing both branches of government, not just the Executive’s in a political fashion. This was not a threat; this was about fairness and highlighting the double-standard that was taking place.
6) Inaccuracy: The County Executive Branch gave Judge Alfred Lama, the ethics director, special treatment to receive benefits to which he was not entitled.
An employee who works more than 50% of a full time position must receive benefits if requested. In calculating hours for these purposes, one must include accrued hours for vacation and sick time. The Grand Jury and Comptroller failed to do so and claimed further that Lama should not get benefits because he should have been classified as a union employee. Obviously, since Lama could be hired or fired at will by the ethics commission, he did not have civil service protection and was therefore a management employee.
7) Inaccuracy: Some media reports have created the false impression that my wife’s company received business inappropriately.
Reality: My wife’s company NEVER received a single contract from the County.
When an opportunity to bid on hospital work came about, there would be no reason she should not be able to since she was not contracting with the County. Nevertheless, she proactively sought an opinion from the Ethics Commission. The Commission, a majority of which was appointed in the previous administration, ruled unanimously that no conflict existed so long as she did not use my name – which she never did.