Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Equality Fails in the Town of Oyster Bay

Dan Pinello and Lee Nissensohn who have been together for 13 years went to the Town Clerk office in the Town of Oyster Bay to get a marriage license. Unfortunately, current New York State law makes it illegal for them to get married and have the same rights as same-sex couples. Town Clerk Steve Labriola and Supervisor John Venditto were there to greet the couple and the news cameras. Since it is out of his hands legally, Labriola had to deny them a marriage license.
According to Pinello and Nissensohn, this was not just about obtaining the a license. Newsday reports
"The goal of the couple's "act of civil disobedience" - as they called it - was to persuade Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) to pressure State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) to take a bill that would allow same-sex marriage to the Senate floor for a vote."

And that is the heart of it. The New York State Assembly has passed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage and give loving couples the same rights other married couples have.
Marcellino and the Senate republicans stance brings to mind the anti-miscegenation laws that kept bias alive in the law until 1967.
What is Bruno afraid of if the bill goes to the floor?
That it will pass?
Marcellino agrees with current state law that bars same-sex marriage.

This is a letter Newsday printed back in 2005. I was responding to columnist Ray Keating's ramblings about "Traditional Marriage."

"Raymond J. Keating is one of the many pseudo-intellectuals who use the buffet-style version of history and religion. He takes what he likes and ignores the rest.
He speaks of "traditional marriage" as if marriage today reflects any tradition older than 50 years ["We need amendment protecting marriage," Opinion, Feb. 14]. Replace the word "interracial" for "gay" and you have what bigots used to protect "traditional" marriage less than 50 years ago. Go back 100 years and marriages for money, business and convenience were the tradition. Go further back and families practically sold their young daughters.
Marriage strictly for love the way we have it today is a fairly new tradition. I'd like to know which "tradition" Keating wants.
If Keating wants to go biblical, we can talk about Deuteronomy and the stoning of non-virgin brides and a rapist's being able to pay the father of the victim and the victim is then the rapist's wife. Even polygamy was accepted in the Bible. It is clear that marriage has changed over the millennia and will continue to change.
I can't see what the harm is in allowing same-sex couples to marry. As a married heterosexual, I don't feel threatened and neither should Keating. The so-called activist judges are protecting society from uninformed moralists who don't believe in the equal protection under the law but seek a theocratic government based on their own misinterpretation of religion.”

Monday, April 28, 2008

Lee Zeldin Hysterics Get Noticed

Until someone else picks up on this stuff in Suffolk, I'll post more Zeldin news.

From the Washington Post Online...

"I think we are entering a very dangerous time WRT to American civil-military relations. Since the onset of OIF, I have observed a very seductive narrative unfolding (spurred by DoD) that our military should now be revered as "professional warriors" as opposed to servicemembers answerable to the American people. As I've said before, this message is toxic but there have been surprisingly few commentators willing to stand up and be counted questioning it. These "issues" range from the term "wounded warrior" to replace the now disfavored term "disabled veteran" to the use of "warrior dress" to set our military apart in airports, hotels and campuses nationwide. Funny thing: these ideas/terms were ginned up by the same Tori Clarke/Larry Di Rita/Allison Barber OSD Public Affairs team that gave us the recently exposed "military analyst" crisis. Why does no one examine this?

Where am I going with this? This "don't question the military" is now bleeding over into electoral politics. In Eastern Long Island (NY-01), an Iraq war veteran running for Congress named Lee Zeldin is trying to intimidate the incumbent Tim Bishop by asserting that as a "non veteran" he has forfeited his right to question either the "thoughts or actions" of a veteran. Don't believe me? Here's a link to a recent letter from Zeldin to this effect that appeared in a Long Island newspaper:


This guy is endorsed by the "Vets for Freedom" group. He really wants Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" to come to America. Scary. I'm most troubled by Zeldin's belief that the only service to protect/defend our Constitution comes from serving in the military. Last I checked, Attorneys, judges and yes, non-veteran Congressmen take a virtually identical oath.

Posted by: IRR Soldier ... | April 22, 2008 1:39 PM

For the sake of context, here's the letter written by Rep. Tim Bishop that prompted Zeldin's unhinged response where he asserted that Bishop "used his [Zeldin's] service against me."

The Times of Smithtown

To the Editor,

In response to the letter you received on March 27 ("Congress is taxing America to death"), I strongly disagree with my potential opponent that the congressional budget is an "irresponsible proposal" and "the largest tax increase in American history."

As a veteran, he should know that veterans and military retirees overwhelmingly support the budget resolution passed by the U.S. House. Does he really wish to oppose veterans' advocacy organizations such as AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars - which are just a sample of the veterans' groups that endorsed the budget?

The American Legion stated it is the "first budget in decades worthy of the sacrifice asked of America 's veterans and their families." And the VFW characterized the budget as "an unparalleled commitment to veterans' service."

Nonpartisan "watchdog" groups agree the budget does not raise taxes. The Brookings Institution recognized that AMT relief without increasing the deficit is our priority. The Committee for a Responsible Budget said that "the budget resolution does not raise taxes."

Not since before the Republican majority did so many endorsements and such a broad coalition demonstrate its support for the congressional budget. His letter also ignores that it balances the budget by 2012 and commits more to middle-class priorities, including more health care, education and infrastructure funds than requested by President Bush.

Long Island will also benefit from AMT relief and funding for innovation in the House-passed budget. Masking the truth under the cover of exaggerated rhetoric as my potential opponent would have you believe is simply irresponsible. Therefore, I hope he recognizes the value of honest, fact-based discussions of issues that affect all of us, rather than inaccurate assertions designed to mislead.

Tim Bishop

Member of Congress"

New Posts Later Tonight

Busy weekend.

Friday, April 25, 2008

New York Counties Dropping Their Gas Tax Caps

Legislature Minority Leader Schmitt will undoubtedly try to push his useless Gas tax Cap again now that gas prices are on the rise. I pointed out that his plan just won't work and other counties who adopted a Gas Tax Cap are dropping the cap or reviewing the cap.
According to the Poughkeepsie Journal "Onondaga County this month dropped its two-year cap on gas sales taxes after an analysis showed customers were seeing no significant savings at the pump compared to other upstate counties.

Other counties made similar choices after the state in 2006 let counties put a cap on taxes collected on gas sales. The cap exempted county sales tax on prices more than $2 per gallon, which was intended to lower costs by 4 cents on a $3 gallon of gas
"Yet Rockland County dropped its county cap late last year and other counties, including Schenectady, Orange and Albany, also abandoned a cap after some determined the savings was simply going back to oil companies.
"It is clear that the intended savings for Albany County drivers was a windfall for the oil industry," Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners said in a 2006 report.
"Initially, 15 counties capped gas sales taxes, but now it's down to only seven. Officials in one of those, Oswego County, say it is considering dropping the cap when the law expires May 30.
"What they found was that by and large they were not able to identify that there was the cost savings directly to the consumer," said Mark LaVigne, spokesman for the state Association of Counties.
Other counties, including Westchester and Monroe, never instituted the cap, in part because they said they didn't want to give up the sales-tax revenue.
"In Onondaga County, though, Executive Joanie Mahoney wants to use the revenue from lifting the cap - about $5 million a year - for property-tax relief."

DiNapoli Suspends Pension of Crooked School Attorney

From the Comptrollers press release:
"State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced his office suspended the pension of Albert D’Agostino. The action is part of DiNapoli’s on-going review of the records of every attorney in the Retirement System.

“As we find problems in the Retirement System, we’re fixing them,” DiNapoli said. “We’ll continue to dig until we’re confident that state pensions are only going to those people that rightly earned them.”

DiNapoli suspended D’Agostino’s $106,700 annual pension while his office examines the appropriateness of service credit D’Agostino received from Nassau County, Lawrence Union Free School District, Valley Stream Union Free School District, North Merrick Union Free School District, the Town of Hempstead and the Village of Valley Stream. D’Agostino retired in October 2000."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lee Zeldin: Dumb Ass

Yes, yes I know that Lee Zeldin is the Suffolk County republican candidate for congress against the great Congressman Tim Bishop and this is Nassau GOP Watch. It's just that when I read something that hurts my head so much, I need to get rid of it by telling someone else. If anyone was just not ready to run for Congress, it is Lee Zeldin. Here is a press release from Zeldin on April 14th that says
Candidate: Suffolk Breaks Ground Within 4 Years or I'll Resign...
"The endorsed Republican candidate for Long Island’s First Congressional District renewed his call on Congress to provide federal funding for a countywide sewer system necessary for Suffolk to adapt to the 21st Century...
"“My opponent is content with pointing fingers and only speaks in broad strokes about the general importance of infrastructure to our communities,” said Zeldin. “He’s had three terms to get us to where we need to be. We’re tired of waiting and if Suffolk doesn’t break ground on a countywide sewer system that addresses our needs within four years of taking office, I will not run for reelection.”

Now here is a blog post from his website on April 5th attacking congressional "pork" and his explaination to what "pork" is. "Earmarks are used to cater to donors, pander to voters, and buy votes on other Congressional proposals.We need more accountability and openness in our government. Simply, Congress must return to the system of authorization, appropriation and oversight. As Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona said, earmarks are nothing more than a “transparent gimmick to ensure [Congress members’] own reelection.”Because of this, you can be assured that I will be a Congressional champion of a systemic earmark moratorium until the system is refined and more open to public scrutiny."

So he wants an earmark for Suffolk but opposes earmarks. Okay.

There is nothing wrong with county-wide sewer system which is being proposed by Democratic County Executive Levy but before Bishop can get money for the county, there HAS to be a real number based on a study that has yet to be done. To call Bishop on not getting money for a proposal that is still in its infancy and without specifics just shows how Zeldin is incredibly clueless... or rather he is just blowing smoke hoping voters buy his lies.
Zeldin attacks Bishop for not being specific on a non-specific proposal. In fact, the comments that Zeldin attacks Bishop on were BEFORE the "Sewer Summit" held by Levy and Suffolk business leaders. Bishop is ready to support an expansion of the Suffolk sewer system once a plan is in place.
Zeldin has no shame.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hannon Gets Protestors on Paid Family Leave

From Newsday:

"As expected, the Working Families Party and the Paid Family Leave Coalition were joined by the "Paid Family Leave Stork" at a news conference -- in Sen. Kemp Hannon's district -- to bring a bill mandating paid family leave to a vote.

Hannon's is one of the seats targeted by the WFP, in tandem with Democrats, for takeover on Long Island.

A measure that would mandate 12 weeks of paid leave to care for care of a newborn or sick relative was approved in the Assembly last year, including up to $170 per week from a state fund, to be paid for by a 45-cents-per-week payroll deduction. It died in the GOP-run Senate.

Dan Janison"

At a time when a couple days less pay could mean foreclosure or getting evicted, a Paid Family Leave is a good idea.

A Petition in Support of Lighthouse Project at Nassau Coliseum

I agree that we need sustainable and smart growth. The Lighthouse Project needs to move forward to bring more jobs, housing and revenue to Nassau and the Town of Hempstead. The ball is in the hands of the Town and they need to know that the public will support them when they approve the modified plan for a new Coliseum and development of the surrounding area.
Here is a Petition to sign..
Some info from the Petition:
"- Greater Supply of Well-Paying Jobs: In these uncertain economic times, few entities are willing to invest in large-scale projects such as the Lighthouse. Approval of the Lighthouse will create thousands of well-paying construction jobs, in addition to the thousands more that will be created through the permanent structures.

- Increased Tax Base: Long Island steadily grew in the years following World War II. With the departure of corporate titans like Grumman, that growth flattened out and declined in the 1980's and 90's, and that trend has only recently begun to reverse. The new residents and commercial entities within the Lighthouse project, as well as the new Atlantic League baseball franchise, will increase the Town of Hempstead's tax base and provide a new home on Long Island for industries such as sports technology.
- Lower Tax Burden: Residents of the Town of Hempstead shoulder some of the heaviest tax burdens in the United States. The residential and commercial development in the Lighthouse Project will increase local tax revenue, thus allowing for a reduction of local property taxes. This shows the project is a good complement for the Town of Hempstead's commitment to steady the tax burden on residents. "

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Murray and ToH Board Ignores Community Complaints for Years

A letter in the Three Village Times

To Supervisor Murray

(The following is a letter written by West Hempstead Civic Association President Rosalie Norton to Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray in regard to the Courtesy Hotel. It is being printed at the author's request.)

It has been three months since the adoption of the Urban Renewal Plan for West Hempstead. The following information is important for you to know. It brings to your attention the number of police calls and arrests, which have been made at the Courtesy and at the Capri Motel. It clearly shows the real and present dangers the Courtesy, as well as the Capri Motel, are to the residents of West Hempstead and all of the communities surrounding the area. To better grasp the extent of the problems, I am providing a report for each month since the year 2008 began. Please share the following police activity information with the Hempstead Town Board members.

Police calls during the month of January 2008 at the Courtesy:
• 17 calls for service
• 8 arrests (drugs, prostitution, weapons, robbery)
•18 case reports
• 2 field interviews

Police calls during the month of February 2008 at the Courtesy Hotel:
• 21 calls for service
• 4 arrests
• 4 case reports
• 2 field investigations

Police calls during the month of March 2008 at the Courtesy Hotel:
• 8 calls for service
• 2 arrests
• 6 case reports

Police calls during the month of January 2008 at the Capri:
• 8 calls for service
• 1 arrest
• 3 case reports
• 1 field interview

Police calls during the month of February 2008 at the Capri:
• 4 calls for service
• 2 arrests
• 2 case reports
• 0 field investigations

Police calls during the month of March 2008 at the Capri:
• 4 arrests
• 3 case reports
• 0 field investigations

Since the beginning of 2008, in just three months, the total between the two hotels:
• 58 calls for service
• 21 arrests
• 36 case reports
• 5 field reports
How much longer do we have to wait to have the Courtesy sold and closed? The Capri is no better and can't be overlooked. Is this what West Hempstead deserves? Would you want this in your community? Unfortunately, it is my community and only we feel the pain.

Rosalie Norton

President, West Hempstead Civic Association

Who Would be Against Equal Pay for Women?

The 'Skelos 8' that's who.
We posted the video from the Albany Times-Union yesterday of the empty seats of Skelos and the gang while Sen. Craig Johnson brought the bill to the floor. The only reason Fuschillo, Marcellino and the others were missing was because they didn't want to be caught voting 'NO' on equal pay. And why would they not want to vote 'YES'? Call the numbers below and ask the senators why they will not support S03936: NEW YORK STATE FAIR PAY ACT.

(516) 766-8383
Hannon: 516 739 1700
Marcellino: (516) 922-1811
Fuschillo: 516-882-0630

And call Sen. Craig Johnson to voice your support for his legislation:
(516) 746-5923

Here is the Summary of the Bill:
provides that it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate between employees on the basis of sex, race and/or national origin by paying different wages."

Can't see anything wrong in this unless Skelos, Fuschillo, Hannon and Marcellino support discrimination in the workplace.
The Senate passed a bill to "commission a study" on equal pay issues which is less comprehensive than the one they ignored.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Skelos 8 Runs and Hides on Equal Pay for Women

When Senator Craig Johnson brought his gender pay equity bill to the floor for a Motion to Petition, Skelos, Fuschillo, Marcellino and Hannon got the heck out of there. A Motion to Petition is a means to get a bill out of committee and all it needs is a simple vote.
Why doesn't Fuschillo want to vote on and discuss equal pay for women?
Does Skelos have a problem with women making as much as men for the same job?
Does Marcellino want women to be paid less than men in New York State?
Why won't Hannon stand up for women workers??

The Albany Times-Union was there....
" Here’s the final chapter in Irene’s video odyssey that started Monday when she was attempting to video the Senate but was asked to leave when she shouldn’t have been.

We straightened that out and I came and taped what is a time-honored tactic used by Senators who don’t want to go on record as voting against something: leaving the chamber when another lawmaker calls for a motion to petition, which if approved, would move a bill out of committee to the floor for a vote.

The catch is, it takes a simple majority of the 62 senators in what is essentially a non-role call vote to move to petition. So if lawmakers don’t like the measure being petitioned, but fear it may look bad to oppose it, they can simply leave the chamber when the motion comes for a vote.
Thus Tuesday’s near-empty chamber.
The voice you hear is Long Island Democrat Craig Johnson calling for a motion to petition on a gender pay equity bill. Joe Robach, a Republican from the Rochester area, was on the spot yesterday, as he had earlier said he’d support such a bill but instead voted with the rest of the senate to study the measure (which is controversial among business supporters) for a year."

Blast from the Past - Blakeman Looks to Do to NYC What He Did to Nassau

Former Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Bruce Blakeman is mulling a run for New York City Mayor. He did such a good job in Nassau that he was sent packing during the 1999 elections, moved to Manhattan and wants to re-enter politics a decade later. Before losing his seat in 1999, Blakeman got his ass handed to him when he ran for NYS Comptroller in 1998.
From the City Hall blog....
"He discussed the possibilities sitting in his law office on 41st St. and Third Ave., directly across the street from the building where Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation. (“I thought I could keep an eye on him,” Blakeman said sadly of Spitzer, whom he calls a personal friend.)

“I have left the door open to the possibility of going back into a public life and [mayor] is a very interesting position where you could do a lot of good for people,” he said.
"Blakeman, though, would not set a deadline for making a decision before he has had time to adequately gauge his level of support.
“You have to take into consideration who the potential candidates are, and you have to take into consideration whether you are prepared to make that sacrifice,” he said.
"His fundraising efforts for local officials have also earned him many powerful friends on the local level, said former Staten Island Borough President and GOP kingmaker Guy Molinari (R). Last year, Blakeman hosted a fundraiser for Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan (R), who was re-elected.
“Bruce has been around and he has picked up some chits by helping people like that from time to time,” Molinari said.
"With term limits soon forcing most elected officials out of office, Blakeman said that 2009 is shaping up to be an interesting year.
“And the good news is there won’t be a popular well-funded incumbent running,” he said laughing. “Whether it’s me or anybody else.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Skelos Wants "FAIR SHARE" of School Aid Unless of Course You are a Democratic District

I knew that the whole "fair share" rally held by Skelos and the Dysfunctional Long Island 8 was a crock and now it's been proven. First of all, Skelos, Marcellino, Hannon and Fuschillo have been celebrating mediocrity for years as the accept a lower average for school aid as a victory. It wasn't until school budgets started failing and parents and educators applied pressure that the Skelos 8 started to make education funding a priority.

Now we are seeing that the process for getting more funding for Long Island schools largely depends on what party your state senator belongs to. Skelos is playing politics with our childrens education and that simply cannot stand.

According to the New York Times, "If you look at the amount of property taxes that Long Island homeowners pay, or their wealth as compared to their property tax burden, the aid is relatively low,” said Tom Dunham, a spokesman for Senator Dean G. Skelos, a Nassau County Republican. Mr. Dunham pointed out that while overall aid for Long Island increased, some wealthy districts, like Great Neck, faced decreases in state operating aid.
(Great Neck, as it happens, lies in the district of Long Island’s only Democratic state senator, Craig M. Johnson. Thanks to a separate pot of money controlled and disbursed by Assembly Democrats, even Great Neck and other districts like it had a net increase in state funds.)"

Interesting isn't it.
I have always advocated fully funding schools and codifying an aid formula that works. The system is broken and needs to be fixed before next years budget deadline. That takes political courage which is sorely lacking from the Skelos 8. All districts deserve to be funded, not just some. That is what "fair share" means.
Let's look at the numbers Dunham talks about when it comes to "wealthy districts."
According to Money magazine, the Median Family Income in Great Neck is $108,934 and the average property tax bill is $12,153. Great Neck took a cut of -2.08% from last year.

In Skelos' hometown of Rockville Centre has a Median Family Income of $118,796 and a property tax bill of $7,093. State Aid increased 11.31%

In Hannons hometown of Garden City the median family income is $140,584 and a average property tax bill of $6,938. State Aid increased 1.73%

In Marcellino's hometown of Syosset the median family income is $115,034 and average property tax of $9,618. State Aid increased 8.26%

In Fuschillo's town of Merrick the median family income is $114,484 and average property tax of $7,613. State Aid increased 6.55%

In Democratic Senator Craig Johnson's hometown of Port Washington, average family income is $122,136 and average property tax is $13,515. State Aid was CUT by .72%

See any funny numbers there?

So what does Senator Johnson need to do to stop the cuts since Skelos is playing politics with school funding? He turns to his colleages Assemblyman Chuck Lavine and Assemblywoman Schimel to fill the gap. The Democrats in the Assembly came up with more money so that Great Neck actually received a 0.42 percent increase in overall state funding thanks to $200,000 in Assembly bullet aid and the restoration of $452,843 in high tax aid (Sen. Johnson fought very hard for that, because, as you know there was no way that the republicans were looking out for the 7th)
Port Washington was restored too . With an overall .6 percent thanks to a $50,000 infusion. proposed budget.

From a Johnson press release "This education budget repaired what would have been a disastrous plan for our schools, our children and ultimately all taxpayers," Senator Johnson said. "With this current economic climate, there was a fight for every last dollar. Despite these hardships, we were able to come up with a budget that places an emphasis on education and spares our children from bearing the brunt of this looming financial crisis. I thank Assemblywoman Schimel and Assemblyman Levine for being my partners in this process."

The republicans did the same thing last year after Westchester republican Senator Nick Spano was defeated by Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Skelos and the republicans went out of their way to screw Westchester on school aid.
"This would never have happened if Senator Nick Spano was still there,” said Senator Dean G. Skelos, the deputy majority leader from Long Island, during a radio interview in New York City last week.

In a later interview, he insisted that Republicans had not sought retribution but that Westchester’s new senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and her Democratic colleagues “fell asleep at the switch.”

Ms. Stewart-Cousins replied that the deal was made behind closed doors. “When you have Dean Skelos even pretending that somehow I sat in the chamber and said nothing — as if this were some discussion that was open and aboveboard — it is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.

Simply put, Dean Skelos does NOT CARE about your children.

Skelos Doesn't Want You to See What He Does in the Senate

The Albany-Times Union reporter Irene jay Liu was video taping procedings of the Senate and was told to turn off her camera. Even though it is perfectly legal for her to be taping.

The debate got heated and increasingly tense. I was recording the goings-on throughout the debate. In the beginning (before things got heated), I was told by one security fellow that I needed to turn off the camera. Then he came back and told me that he forgot that I was press, and said that I could turn it back on.I switched to the balcony on the other side of the chamber for a better angle to video the Republicans (shooting the back of someone’s head is not interesting). Sen. Craig Johnson is in the middle of the chamber, so I could shoot him easily from both sides.I showed my press ID, went in, and shot video. The debate grew increasingly tense, and some Republican Senators became visibly upset at the proceedings.

Sen. Dean Skelos accused a Senate Democrat staffer of shooting video from the floor of the chamber - which a Democratic staffer denied.
Sen. George Maziarz even took a shot at Johnson, saying “We crossed a line when we make cheap political shots…it is very hard to go back…don’t make this into a county legislature…” Johnson served as a Nassau County legislator before winning a seat in the Senate."

"Now, in case this is the first time you are hearing my voice, I am usually a pretty nice person and don’t sound nearly so tense or rude. But censorship gets my goat and I was pretty sure that I was allowed to tape up on the balcony, mostly because I had done so many other times before.

For example, when the Senate Democrats decided not to go into the chamber to vote on budget bills a week ago, in protest of what they called a non-transparent process, no one had a problem with my taking photos of the half-empty chamber or shooting the Republican senators’ speeches criticizing their Democratic colleagues.

We checked in with the Senate Republicans about whether we can shoot video from the balconies and they confirmed that in fact, it was allowed. Spokesman Mark Hansen explained, “It was a miscommunication.”

I’ve asked for a tape of the proceedings, and Hansen said he’d get back to me. Haven’t heard anything yet"

Here's the video:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

New Hype Park School District Statement on Nicolello

It's interesting to note that the praise heaped on Nicolello also damns him. The board says that Nicolello "provides legal advice to the board and administration on a broad range of laws, regulations and court and administrative decisions relating to the operation of a school district. He also reviews each and every contact submitted to the board and works with the administration in developing policies."

So Nicolello was fully aware of his position and the pension credits he was receiving.
Would he have changed his employment status if he wasn't caught by Newsday????

Nicolello has alot of questions to answer and he will be answering them under oath as the Attorney Generals investigation builds up.

From The Illustrated News...

"We have all read the articles in Newsday over the last several weeks. The articles have focused attention on the relationships school districts have with attorneys and other professionals. In this regard, at the present time our district is carefully examining its own relationship with school attorneys and other professionals in order to ensure that these relationships are appropriate and in the best interests of the taxpayer.

"Since 1987 Richard Nicolello has provided general counsel services to the board of education. Nicolello has been board counsel for only this district for that entire time period. As general counsel, he provides legal advice to the board and administration on a broad range of laws, regulations and court and administrative decisions relating to the operation of a school district. He also reviews each and every contact submitted to the board and works with the administration in developing policies. Plus, he attends most regular meetings of the board. Nicolello is in constant communication with the board president, superintendent, assistant superintendent and support staff. He has been available to the district on days, nights and weekends.

"Mr. Nicolello has served as a part-time employee of the district since 1987. Mr. Nicolello has requested, and we have agreed, to change his status from part-time employee to independent contractor. He will continue to provide the same services to the New Hyde Park/Garden City Park Board of Education.

"Our district, like school districts all over New York State, is awaiting more specific guidance from the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and other regulatory agencies as to the most appropriate means by which professional services are rendered to schools. In the meantime, we will continue to review all of our professional service relationships to make sure that services are provided in an appropriate manner.

"As you know the attorney general has asked every school district for information regarding their attorney and has asked this school district for information regarding its attorney and we continue to comply."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Legislator Nicolello is Indeed Under Investigation

Newsday confirms...

"The other 10 attorneys under investigation who have been previously identified by Newsday are: William Cullen, Albert D'Agostino, Jerome Ehrlich, William Englander, Gilbert Henoch, Carol Hoffman, Dominick Minerva, Richard Nicolello, Lawrence Reich, and Leroy Van Nostrand.

None returned calls seeking comment on Cuomo's ongoing criminal investigation. Some of their attorneys said they had done nothing wrong."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

AG Cuomo Out to Get School Board Attorney Scammers

Should Nicolello be worried?

From the AG website...
ALBANY, NY (April 10, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that his Office has issued multiple subpoenas to lawyers and law firms in upstate counties as part of his rapidly expanding probe into potentially fraudulent employment arrangements between public school systems and lawyers.

Investigators from the Attorney General’s Office have thus far identified more than 90 attorneys (more than 70 upstate and 20 in Long Island) who may have been improperly placed on public school system payrolls in connection with more than 180 school districts statewide (more than 150 upstate and 30 in Long Island). Calling these lawyers “employees” enabled them to collect taxpayer-funded health, pension, and other benefits not otherwise available for professional consultants.

“Ensuring the highest standards of public integrity is of paramount concern to my office and to this State,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “State resources should never be expended on those who are not legally entitled to receive them. We are talking about lawyers well versed in employment statutes who know that ‘business as usual’ is no excuse for breaking the law. In many instances, these were not simple misunderstandings but repeated acts of fraud. My office is committed to rooting out this problem and protecting the public from abuses like these in the future.”

The investigation so far is focusing on lawyers and law firms working in Long Island and in more than 20 upstate counties including Albany, Broome, Delaware, Erie, Madison and Monroe."

Not So Fast With that Victory Lap

Undoubtedly Skelos and the 'Long Island 8' will be shouting from the rooftops that Long Island is getting alot more money for the schools.
And that is true.
BUT once again there is no formula for school aid that will codify the amount Long Island will get. Year after year it will be a "fight" to make sure that schools are funded properly. And truth be told, the schools are still not being funded "fairly" or "fully." It's time to stop celebrating mediocrity and actually get real education funding reform done.
The problem we are facing with the George "Herbert Hoover" Bush economy is that the revenue the state is counting on to fund the spending bills might not be there. And next year could even be worse. Comptroller DiNapoli warns "The economy is in rough shape, and the worst may still be around the corner... The Division of the Budget is going to have to track spending and revenues very carefully. And Albany should keep an eraser handy.”

This is an eyes wide open comment that needs to be heard. There is no guarantee the money allocated will be available. And school districts and taxpayers should be prepared for that.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Hits Keep Coming - A Letter in the South Bay Neighbor Newspaper

Some background: Skelos is pushing a bill that would place the hiring of new teachers in the hands of the State. It's a bad idea on so many levels that Fuschillo just has to back it.

"To the Editor:
Senator Charles J. Fuschillo Jr. (8th District) is co-sponsoring legislation that Senator Dean Skelos (9th District) has produced.
School districts state-wide are autonomous, self-governing community entities, the same as a State, City, Township, Incorporated Village or a fully functioning County.
The Legislation that the Senators have produced would infringe on that which has been the guarantee to all communities - "autonomy."
To extract that guarantee would open the flood-gates to ALL communities state-wide. To establish a precedent of this magnitude would be the same as declaring war on all the municipal entities throughout our State. This legislation is ill-advised and should be scrapped.

Albert Luppo
Brentwood, NY

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Delligatti Double Dips on Taxpayer Dime

One of the JV Squad is getting two paychecks from taxpayers from the Town and County. Oyster Bay Town Councilman Angelo Delligatti gets his $50,000/year from TOBAY and is the Republican Counsel at the Nassau County Board of Elections making $65,761.
Nice work if you can get it.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Attorney General Cuomo Calls School Attorney Pensions "FRAUD"

So what of Nassau County Legislator Nicolello. He didn't start collecting but he was earning credits for a state pension and was listed as a full-time employee of the school district.

Sandra Peddie and Eden Lakin are on the public corruption front lines with their great reporting "New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Thursday night said his office believes that "multiple acts of fraud" were committed when Long Island school districts put private attorneys on their payrolls so that the attorneys could receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in state pensions.

In a statement, Cuomo spokesman John Milgrim said, "We do not believe this is merely a case of innocent mistakes or misunderstandings of the relevant regulations. We have reason to believe there have been long-term and multiple acts of frauds committed upon the state pension system and related to intentional misclassification of contractors as employees so they receive taxpayer funded benefits."
Milgrim also said that the attorney general's office is now expanding its investigation of these practices from school districts and special districts to include towns and villages statewide.
In a separate action Thursday, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli moved to recoup all pension money awarded to private attorneys who were improperly reported as public employees, his office announced Thursday.
The comptroller also will require local governments and school districts throughout the state to re-certify any professional person on a payroll who does not appear to be an employee.
"Pensions are for employees," DiNapoli said. "They earn their pensions and they deserve them. Unfortunately, some individuals have taken advantage of the retirement system and received benefits they were not entitled to."
"Also Thursday, Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman urged both state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice to investigate the case of Valley Stream real estate lawyer Albert D'Agostino. Milgrim told Newsday Thursday night that his office is investigating D'Agostino. Newsday reported Thursday that D'Agostino got retroactive credit for 21 years in the state pension system, even though he was paid as an independent contractor all those years. Those credits helped him secure an annual pension of $106,702 for life."

Town of Oyster Bay Council Members have Better Things to Do

A letter to The Leader...

Cesspool Creek

To the Editor:
At a Town of Oyster Bay board meeting on March 25, 2008 the latest proposal for The Continental Villas continuous waste water problems was unveiled. As usual the current “solution” will cause a delay of at least a year. As proposed, the homes in the subdivision will be connected to Glen Cove Sewer District via a pipe that will come from Glen Cove to Locust Valley. The unknowns being the actual cost of the project and who will foot the bill, where the pumping stations will be and if the county will even get permission from other municipalities like Lattingtown and Mill Neck to install them. Of course, the residents of the Continental Villas have been promised to be the first to connect to the pipe. However, that will depend on everyone else between Glen Cove and Bayville not yet aware of the project.
Mr. Venditto was extremely cooperative in promising the families with the most severe problems to do all in his power to provide them with an interim solution until they can connect to the new pipe. This is the most concern anyone has shown from either the Town or Nassau County for the families in need.
The last proposal unveiled just last August, in the form of an MBR plant appeared to be considerably favorable to the contact chamber that has been polluting Mill Neck Creek for over 20 years. So far, this new plan is just that, a plan. One of many ideas and discussions with nothing concrete, nothing in writing.
Councilwoman Faughnan, who also sits on the board of Friends of the Bay seemed uninterested. She sat reading through correspondence while the speakers were at the podium. Another board member actually fell asleep in his chair. While their behavior is rude and unprofessional it is hardly unexpected, this is the exact response the problem has been getting for 40 years.
Thought the public might like an update.
Concerned Citizens
of the Continental Villa

Politically Connected Get Away with Murder - or at least Lots of Money

The School Attorney Scandal just keeps revealing more thieves in our midst. Just because compensation was "approved" doesn't mean it is ethical to take the compensation. Sandra Peddie and Eden Lakin in Newsday exposes what might be one of the most egregious acts in the whole scandal "The New York State comptroller's office retroactively gave a politically influential Nassau County lawyer 21 years' credit in the state pension system -- even though he had been paid as a private contractor all those years -- helping him get a six-figure pension for the rest of his life, records show.

In making the decision in 2000 to give Valley Stream real estate lawyer Albert D'Agostino the retroactive credits that resulted in an annual pension of $106,702, the state relied on letters from two prominent people connected to the Nassau County Planning Commission, as well as D'Agostino's 1099 forms, said the comptroller's spokeswoman, Emily DeSantis.

"In addition, records show, he was not required to make any pension contributions for the retroactive credits. Nassau County paid $102,259 into the pension system on his behalf, according to the state and county comptrollers' offices. Hempstead paid $8,133.

D'Agostino declined to answer questions, but said in a statement: "Both positions were approved, and my employment status was approved and appropriate, and that approval occurred at all levels."
Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman, who was not in office at the time, said the retroactive pension was not appropriate.
"Who was watching the store in 2000 when a private lawyer who had county contracts for over two decades is retroactively given 21 years of employment status without the county ever hiring him?" he said. "How many other instances might exist of county contractors converted retroactively to employee status prior to retirement?"
"D'Agostino, 64, has represented a number of high-profile clients, including former Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, in his private law practice. A longtime Republican committeeman, he ran unsuccessfully for State Supreme Court in 2000. He also currently serves on the Nassau County Empire Zone Board, established in 2006 to manage economic development.

He applied for the state pension credits under laws passed in 1993 and 2000 that allow public employees who meet certain criteria to get additional pension credits, DeSantis said.
Such laws originally were intended to help veterans who had to leave public jobs temporarily because of time spent in the service, said William Friedman, a Hempstead lawyer who has litigated pension cases.
Records show he retired in October 2000, after amassing roughly 28 years in the system from six municipal entities. They included the county, Hempstead, the Village of Valley Stream, and the
Lawrence, North Merrick and Valley Stream No. 30 school districts. He also received an early retirement incentive, according to county Civil Service records.
Newsday reported last week that D'Agostino was one of 10 lawyers who have received state pension credits because school districts reported him as an employee.
Records indicate he was reported as an employee of as many as four municipal entities at a time, while he and his firm were paid at least $5 million.
After he began collecting his pension, he continued working for the county commission for about two years. And he has continued to work for the three school districts."

This is where our tax money is going. There are so many honest public employees who work hard to make our County, Towns and Villages run well but this kind of thing casts a dark cloud over public employment. We need tighter regulations and better administration of pay and benefits to correct this problem. I have a feeling that there are alot more
D'Agostino's out there.

Long Island Eight Under Attack from Own Party Member

Skelos, Hannon et. al. did a victory lap last year when they got more money for Long Island schools. The problem is that there are some hard feelings from Upstate republicans. LOTS of hard feelings. Skelos and the gang like to play the "NYC is taking our money" card and now upstate legislators are playing the "Long Island is taking our money" card.
Capital Confidential has a mailing from Senator John Bonacic (R-Mt Hope.) which states "
For too long, a disproportionate share of education aid was being driven to Long Island and the City of New York at our expense.”

Bonacic is a buddy of Skelos. He has been trying to push Joe Bruno out as Majority Leader which you would think would benefit Skelos but Bonacic has his eye on the prize too. Bonacic is setting up Upstate support to throw Skelos under the bus. If Skelos is scene as "taking money from upstate" this budget go-round, his future in the leadership will be in question. Skelos is relying his fellow LI republicans to back him but with imminent losses of at least one more seat, the long knives will be out.

Skelos to Hold 'Virtual Town Hall Meeting'; Tightly Controlled of Course

This Friday the 4th, Skelos is holding a one hour 'Virtual Town Hall Meeting' through his website in a "chat-room style format" which means no video. The time chosen is soooooooo convenient for constituenets - 3pm-4pm. Because, you know, everyone is just kicking around the computer screen with time on their hands on a weekday from 3-4pm.
Is this your chance to ask Skelos important and tough questions? Nope.
There is ONE RULE and that says all questions will be screened.

Rules: This session will be moderated. All questions will be reviewed for content before being posted to the public. Every effort will be made to respond to as many questions as possible during the session. A transcript of the session will be available after the session ends.

No one is going slip in a question Dean-o isn't ready to respond to.