Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Flacks Report [25 December 2009]

A Digression---Election Workers Pay in Question---Contretemps in the Courts: App. Div. advs. Cardozo---Lebedeff Leaving?---New "Actings"---Betsey Ball Plans Nuptials---Tidbits: Senates & Santa
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A Digression

Here is a digression from historian, mentor, and gadfly extraordinaire Henry Jordan Stern:

" . . . The salaries of all the judges in New York State have been frozen through eleven years of mild inflation due to legislative caprice: the legislators won't give the judges a raise without getting one for themselves. When the backbenchers see their leaders game the system by making substantial sums outside their salaries, they are further motivated to clamber aboard the gravy train. Of course, good behavior and subservience to one’s seniors is the price of a ticket, but a ticket does not guarantee admission if the train is already sold out.

"This does NOT apply to all legislators. There are the good schnooks that live on their salaries, or receive unearned income (dividends and interest are both permitted). Many are truly honest, but they are not usually found in positions of power in the legislature. Some have never had the opportunity to enrich themselves . . . Others are money honest, but politically they are in the pockets of their contributors and their lobbyists. They are somewhat, but not substantially, better than thieves, because they too have sold their offices and abandoned the interests of their constituents for their own political advantage. . . . "

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Election Workers Pay in Question
Poll workers who worked Election Day in November want payday By Celeste Katz, Daily News City Hall Bureau
Monday, December 14th, 2009

What are they waiting for - Christmas?

The elections are long over, but the people who worked the polls in November have yet to be paid - and a dispute over whose fault it is goes on. Mayor Bloomberg's office says the city Board of Elections should go ahead and pay the workers, and the agency will be reimbursed next month. The board counters it doesn't have the millions needed to pay up.

"It's our hope and expectation that we will be able to make those payments" before Christmas, said Board President Frederic Umane. "[But] all we do is file those [requests]. The checks are not cut by the Board of Elections - they're cut by the controller's office." The more than 30,000 poll workers at the city's 1,350 poll sites are paid $200 for the day. Site coordinators get $300.

While the board said this year's runoff election added an extra financial burden, Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna says that's nothing unusual. Special elections and runoffs are not built into the board's budget, he said. If they're needed, the city simply pays for the cost of the workers after the fact.

In the meantime, LaVorgna said, the board has "more than $30 million in unobligated funds that they can use to cover costs. They said the runoff was an unexpected hit of $13.5 million. Thirty is more than 13.5." The city will fill the gap when the budget is modified in January, he said: "There's no reason to be scaring people into thinking they're not going to get paid for the good work they did."

Umane says if the board has $30 million at its disposal, that's news to him. There is some money available, he said, but it's earmarked for other purposes. The city hasn't "sent us a letter or any kind of confirmation that, 'Yes, it's not a problem,'" Umane said. "[We've] provided the paperwork to the city to fund the checks. Now, it's in their court." So ... the workers wait.

"I'm just hoping I get it before the end of my natural life span," said poll worker Richard Iritano of Queens. "The onus is not on us. We kept our end of the bargain and we shouldn't be kept waiting for anything," he said. "Many people are relying on that money because they are strapped. ... Now [the board is] crying poverty? That doesn't work."
-- 30 --

On Thursday, 17th inst., the Mayor's O.M.B. authorized the Board of Elections to take the money from the Board's rent account (which is to pay rent for their borough offices and warehouses) to pay the poll workers, and the Comptroller's office to cut the checks. [Of course it's D.C.A.S. which has to see that the agency's rents are paid.] --A.F.

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Contretemps in the Courts: the Appellate Division advs. Cardozo

There has been a contentious exchange of letters and viewpoints in the N.Y.L.J. this month between the City's Corporation Counsel, Michael--so not Benjamin--Cardozo, and most of the Justices of the Appellate Division's First Department (N.Y.C.L.A. also chimed in, but judges' assns. have remained silent).

Cardozo puts forth ten suggestions for court reform. Some of his suggestions are being or already have been implemented. With the increased work load on the courts because of a more litigious society, recession-caused litigation, and not enough judges, many considered his criticism of the judiciary as unfair. Cardozo finds the bench guilty of negligence in failing to perform their duties. In a word, he calls them lazy. Yet he does not find his own office negligent with their inordinate delays. In addition, Cardozo's diatribe is nothing more than a thinly disguised plea for the appointment of judges ("You let me name the panel, and I'll tell you whom they'll report out."). [Interestingly, Cardozo also criticizes the appointed N.Y. City Family Court judges.]

In answer to those ten "suggestions for court reform," eighteen of the twenty justices of the Appellate Division's First Dept. wrote a letter excepting to and taking issue with the Cardozo Manifesto. The two non-signers? Nelson Roman and Peter Tom. Justice Roman's secretary said that he had no comment and hung up. Roman's reluctance is understandable. Although there is no agency in marriage, his wife Carol Robles-Roman is the deputy mayor for legal affairs and has to support Bloomberg's Law Dept. head. Justice Tom did not return numerous telephone calls.

See the full article and letters in The New York Law Journal on December 7th, 17th, & 21st, 2009.

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Lebedeff Leaving?

Civil Court Judge and Acting Supreme Diane Lebedeff, now assigned to The Bronx, is planning to leave the bench around May of next year.

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New "Actings"

N.Y.C. Civil Court Judges Barbara Jaffe, Joan Kenney, Manuel Jacobo Mendez-Olivero, and George Silver have been appointed Acting Supreme Court Justices assigned to Manhattan. Also, Bronx Acting Supreme, Criminal Term, Analisa Torres has been re-assigned to Manhattan.

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Betsey Ball Plans Nuptials

Elizabeth Ann (Betsey) Ball, chief of staff to N.Y.State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, plans a Fourth of July wedding next year to Peter K. Cutler, the Buffalo, N.Y., mayor's p.r. spokesman. Betsey, formerly based in N.Y.C., ran Assemblymember Danny O'Donnell's campaigns, his district service office, and him.

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Tidbits: Senates & Santa

Interesting tidbits this holiday season: If you wish for improvement of the New York State Senate--all 62 senators claim the Senate presidency--you could go to R.H. Macy, take the lift to the 7th floor, climb onto the lap of the chubby man in a red suit and bushy white beard, and whisper into his ear. . . . It's almost impossible to reach our Federal Senators' New York City offices. Mensch Schumer's office telephone--when it answers--is staffed evidently by newly hired interns who are unfamiliar with current staff. Gillibrand's office answers the telephone perhaps because fewer people are calling. As of last month, her telephone number was still listed with 411 under the name of "Hillary Clinton"! And on the World Wide Web's Whitepages dot com, Hillary is listed with her old telephone number and address as the "owner" of the Senate.

On the afternoon of Christ's Mass day, yours truly decided to visit a number of Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches. None was as crowded as the 24-hr. Apple Mac Manhattan store on Fifth Avenue at 60th Str. (jam-packed with a waiting line to get in), except for Saint Patrick's Cathedral down the road at 51st Str. Incidentally, St. Patrick's had no security checks save for one man at a desk with a sign saying parcels and bags are subject to inspection. He was just there, inspecting nothing--not that he could have begun to check anything of the multitude present in the cathedral. (Yet on quiet weekdays they do. Your correspondent, who has dropped in on evenings to see a friend who works there, has had to undergo bag searches.)

The Rock. Center Xmas tree was gorgeous--and unapproachable, what with the crowd. Fifth Avenue had swanky stores at the building line and schmatah sellers curb-side. At the Bryant Park skating rink (free--paid for by cash-poor Citi Bank), there was an up-to three-hour wait. The Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia clubs were empty. Throughout these travels, but one uniformed police officer was espied, standing forlornly outside St. Pat's.

Have a restful Ramadan, a kare-free Kwanzaa, a chappy Channukah, a cool Yule, a splendid Solstice, a happy new Jar, and a roaring-good lunar new Year of the Tiger!

[Editorial assistance: Lauren St. Jude & the Baron of Yorkville.]


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