Monday, October 08, 2007

$325 AN HOUR DEFENSE LAWYER? WHY I'M VOTING NO.

The Greenburgh Town Board is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on a resolution to hire a lawyer at $325 an hour to represent the Ethics Board. I plan to vote no.
The attorney the Board members want to hire has a resume that does not concentrate on ethics. His web site does not even mention ethics as an area he or his firm is involved in.
The attorney is a brilliant defense lawyer who has represented, among others, the following individuals:
• El Sayyid Nosair, a criminal defendant who was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Nosair was convicted as part of the trial of the Blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and received life plus 15 years for the World Trade Center bombing conspiracy.
• Anthony Pirro (brother of Al)
• Robert Chambers (the preppy murderer)
I do not understand what relevancy a criminal defense lawyer has to an Ethics Board. Why hire an attorney who does not specialize in ethics?
I believe that the work should be handled in house – by the members of the Board. If there are extraordinary circumstances the Board should consult the Town Board on a case by case basis. There are other lawyers who specialize in ethics who might charge less and have the qualifications needed. The Ethics Board members advised the Board they may need an investigator. If that is the case, can’t we hire a non lawyer at reduced rates? We have many qualified citizens who are willing to donate their time to the town. Other volunteer boards have not retained outside counsel to help them.
We have a very difficult budget coming up (residents will start paying for the library expansion this year, the fund balance was cut by the Town Board last year). Discretionary spending by the Town Board must be reviewed carefully. This is another example of the Board’s increase in discretionary spending that will negatively impact the tax rate.
BOARD MEETING: THIS WEDNESDAY
7:15 PM
GREENBURGH TOWN HALL
PAUL FEINER
Greenburgh Town Supervisor

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sheehan will need to explain his choice of a defense attorney. Given Sheehan's ordering of a meeting to be held on Rosh Hashanah, the hiring of an attorney who represented a terrorist commited to the destruction of Israel is understandable. Sheehan is a disgrace and hopefully there will be audience members who will call him on his curious way of treating Jews.

Anonymous said...

DISGRACEFUL! INSULTING! STUPID! Don't spend my tax dollars on this.

hal samis said...

This topic is so over the top that I thought that it would go away after the pre-Primary hysteria was over.

But I was wrong.

Now I have written here before about my concerns regarding the rush to create new Ethics Laws and the resulting loopholes and generally once over lightly approach that neither prevent new occurances nor provide meaningful sanctions for offenses so judged.

And I have quarreled with the appointments of those that comprise the Ethics Board; particularly a member who has made it his business to miss most of the Board's meetings. At the same time because of the rush to fill the Ethics Board ahead of the Primary, it was not "possible" to find even one woman to seat on the Board.

Instead we have an all male Board of 5 members whose job it is...?
It wasn't to create the new Ethics Laws, Mr. Sheehan took care of that himself.
It wasn't to root out unethical behavior and dole out punishment because all the Ethics Board can do is to make non-binding recommendations to the Town Board -- on both guilt and punishment. Anyone else have a problem with the Town Board judging itself as to guilt or punishment should they be the targets of complaint?

Oh and to do this, they have determined that they cannot perform even such a superfluous role without having outside Counsel. Ignoring for the moment that the Town has staff attorney power and ignore that some of the members of the Ethics Board are themselves lawyers, what is the need for additional firepower to aide in the enforcement of ambiguous laws. Garbage in, garbage out.
Why does the Ethics Board have to start work with outside Counsel at their beck and call; have they been sued by anyone yet?

Do they need outside Counsel to change their new citizen complaint form which is more threatening in process than punishments for the crimes of the accused?

Do they need outside Counsel to tell Mike Sigal, the Chair of the Ethics Board and a lawyer himself, that his contribution of $500 to Eddie Mae Barnes was a no-no. Is it not a conflict when the Ethics Board Chair gives money to someone who has voted for him to hold this title?

The question is why does the Town need outside Counsel, not only ever but right from the start. And this question needs to be answered by those who oppose the hiring of outside accounting assistance for the Town's 2008 budget. A matter of some $5,000 which will come from the saved wages not being paid to the former
Town Comptroller. Does anyone object to the candidate or do they object to the need or is the candidate one who might uncover some irregularities that the Town Council would prefer remain hidden or at least delayed.

Unlike others, I am not so concerned with who is to become the Ethics Board lawyer. To me, there has been no established need for hiring anyone and that could easily be the result of the Ethics Board itself only being formed since Summmer. What is it that is so above their combined capabilities that begs for assistance?

If there is outside Counsel and the Ethics Board is itself merely an advisory board, what purpose remains to justify having an Ethics Board. They themselves are presumed independent of what, whom and if not so, then how does having their own Counsel make their position less precarious.

Clearly they, themselves, feel they are ill equipped to handle matters under their own steam so I suggest either outside Counsel and no Ethics Board or an Ethics Board which has no need for outside Counsel.

Or, best of all, let other nearby communities handle our Ethics transgressions and Greenburgh will handle the transgressions in these communities.

But, there is nothing pressing before the Greenburgh Ethics Board that cannot handled without outside Counsel. If the Ethics Board feels that their hands are already tied, if the Ethics Board has no "gumption", then let's thank them for their service, wish them well, so that "we're gonna wash the Ethics Board right out of their chairs send them on their way."

We don't need more names on the 25 year list. We don't need another brick in the wall and we don't need to look forward to the expense of 25 years of outside Counsel at $325 an hour either.

Shut this nonsense down, now. Let's stop burning down the house.

Anonymous said...

Sheehan must be receiving a promise of forensic jobs from this lawyer.
I do not want my tax dollars to pay for this type of a lawyer
I do hope that the jewish residents express their feelings to the hitler of the board Sheehan
that this is an insult to each and everyone .
He's willing to pay all kinds of money for a lawyer who represeted a terrorist.
When has Sheehan become a Jewish hater?
THis lawyer is a defense lawyer without an ethics background.
Feiner asked for $5000.00 to pay a consultant to help with the budget,and he was refused,Sheehan stating that there were people in that department who could do the same job.
Well Sheehan do we or don't we have a legal department that could do the same.
We should have represented at this meeting some of the Jewish leaders,from arround New York.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feiner's concerns are similar to citizen's concerns of his wanting to hire an accounting assistant. Mr. Feiner's request is a lower expense, but both seem unnecessary for the similar reasons.

Anonymous said...

There are real questions whether the Ethics Board needs a counsel, but it is not fair to complain because the lawyer they chose represented a terrorist. He is a distinguished lawyer. Many distinguished lawyers represented reprehensible criminals -- that is the basis and strength of our legal system. The client is not the lawyer and the lawyer is not the client.

Anonymous said...

If Mike Sigal gave Barnes $500, he MUST STEP DOWN from his post. How can he possibly pass judgement on the ethics of Board members that he supported with such a large financial contribution?

As far as the $325 an hour attorney for the Jew hating terrorist, Sheehan needs to explain himself. Why does he demand a defense attorney, not an ethics attorney? After the Rosh Hashanah debacle, you would think that Sheehan would have learned a lesson. Clearly he didn't. Why does he demand an attorney that defended a Jew hating terrorist? Out of the thousands of attorneys in the New York area, why does Sheehan demand this one?

A full investigation into any associations between Sheehan and this law firm is needed. This can be another classic play for pay situation much like the Bryan Cave million dollar no bid contract that Sheehan orchestrated in return for Suzanne Berger's financial and political support.

Anonymous said...

Sheehan is definitely insensitive toward members of the Jewish faith. I hope that some people have the courage to face the bully and tell it like it is on Wednesday Night.

Anonymous said...

Is mike Sigel Jewish,if so what's wrong with him.
Did he extend himself to a $500,00 donation to Barnes?
If he is supposed to be a retired lawyer why does he need some directions.
This sounds a little fishy to me.
Someone is afraid of some sort of investigation.
Now who on the board is the one.

hal samis said...

NOTICE OF ERROR, Please read.

I sit corrected by a more reliable source that Mike Sigal DID NOT give $500 to Eddie Mae Barnes. This had been reported earlier on the blog and apparently it was as wrong then as was my posting regarding it tonight.

My apologies to both Eddie Mae Barnes and to Mike Segal and I promise to only use first hand material in the future.

I am truly sorry for posting this incorrect information and apologize also for and to those posters who apparently followed my footsteps in subsequent postings.

Anonymous said...

Very good. If Sigal HAD given Barnes money, it would be a disgrace. I'm glad he didn't.

Anonymous said...

There is a $500 donation listed on Eddie Mae's financials from a Meyer Sigal of Scarsdale (Edgemont). Who is he?

Anonymous said...

Meyer Sigal IS Mike Sigal. He did give Eddie Mae $500, and probably also to Steve Bass (will someone check the filings on this).

Someone should ask him directly. it is important.

Samis, your notice of error is erroneous.

Ed Krauss said...

Why does an ethics board need its own attorney, and a defense attorney at that?

Are they going to do something that is indefensible?

If one were to look at the aggregate number of dollars spent by the Town of Greenburgh on "outside counsel" over the past decade and a half, we could probably have a down payment on a new court house.

One could understand, to a limited degree, the out sourcing of certiorari work to a certiorari specialist because our law department is probably staffed with municipal law specialists. But when we have a certiorari specialist on staff, and we did-she was the Town Attorney- we still outsourced. Now we want to outsource work to a lawyer whose basic practice appear to be criminal defense. Does that make any sense?

you needn't answer that, it was rhetorical. What isn't, the need is superfluous. Much like many of the unnecessary wasted dollars on "feel good" items. When "tuchas ist affen tisch" and we're at the beginning of that era this fiscal year, and the Board is eagerly willing to spend $350/hour for an unnecesaary job, performed by a lawyer out-of-his-discipline, and balk at a professional who is willing to charge $75/hour for a needed task performed by a top flight professional, questions have to be raised about the competence of those making the decision and what is their hidden agenda.

All the BS about his being a CPA, present or past is just a smoke screen. His being a Feiner loyalist because of one letter to the editor begs the question, "where have you been for the last five or so years..."Especially Diane the Quiet J who lives in Ardsley but obviously knows little or nothing about what goes on in her own village. For those members of the Board who don't live in Ardsley, Mike Kolesar has been a vocal opponent to Paul Feiner.

Besides, making political decisions when hiring someone for a professional position, is not only provincial but just plain dumb.

How easy it was for you to give "Bryan Cave" (as in bat cave) a ONE MILLION PLUS DOLLAR contract without thinking about whether we needed their servics or not;and now, as I understand it, four(a majority) are in the process of bestowing an open-ended $325/hour contract to a credentialless attorney-in the area of ethics- while puting Mike Kolesar's $75/hour with a $5000 limit through a nit-picking, super petty, politically
motivated ringer.

I have often used the phrase "shame on you," but this mindless act transcends "shame on you," and descends to an as yet reached level.

It's apparent, the "GReenburgh Circus" makes a twice monthly appearance at town hall and the C-movie show lasts for 3-4 hours.

What goes around, comes around as the old cliche goes, and there's every indication the carousel seems to be speeding up. Even party loyalists are becoming more aware of the Self Inflicted Wounds, which during war time result in Killed In Action.

When you "run through Stop Signs," acting with out thinking, the light at the end of the tunnel could be an 18-wheeler.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that Mike Sigal did not donate to Eddie Mae but that his son (if he has one by the same name) did donate?

Anonymous said...

There doesn't appear to be any contribution from Sigal on Barnes' financial disclosure forms on file with the state, but why is it okay for Sigal to give money to Feiner (which he did), but it's not okay for him to give money to Barnes (which it doesn't look like he did anyway).

Anonymous said...

To Anon 9:57.

Don't lie. Barnes' financial disclosures show a $500 contribution from Meyer Sigal (that is Mike Sigal) one week before the primary, which is several months after he was appointed to the Ethics Board as its chairman, and while the Ethics Board was considering the old claims against Feiner.

If Sigal gave money to Feiner as well then that is wrong also. When did he give Feiner a contribution? This year? If so it's wrong. Two years ago? Sigal wasn't Ethics Board chairman then, so that would be OK.

Why can't people be truthful?

tower of babel said...

mr krauss may have something to say but his point is lost on his attempted cleverness. ed - please dont try to mimic the shadow and their ilk. say it in simple plain english.

Anonymous said...

How is anon at 11 so sure that Barnes' financial disclosures show a $500 contribution from Sigal one week before the primary that he or she can call anyone who says otherwise on this blog a "liar"?

The state board of elections website shows no such contribution by Sigal. Maybe Sigal made such a contribution, but how is anon at 11 so sure?

But even if such a contribution were made, why is there anything wrong with that? It's great that there are citizens active in the community who think it's worthwhile to contribute financially to local candidates running for office.

Without the support of local citizens like Sigal, and without any system of public financing of local campaigns, candidates would either have to be wealthy enough to finance their own campaigns, or they would have to take money from people with business pending before the town.

Sigal, as ethics chair, has as much right to make contributions as the next person.

Anonymous said...

Mike Sigal is Meyer Sigal, and the contribution is clearly listed on Barnes's latest filing. The slowness of the Board of Election in posting these filings to their website is unfortunate. As of Friday Bass did not file. He is a week late and there are warnings that are sent, and fines can be accessed. Reggie Lafayette, the Commissioner told me Friday that quite often losing candidates take their time until "really" warned or threatened with fines. Often they then come in with a whole pile of documents at the last moment.

It is interesting that under the new Ethics Code, contributions to incumbents are much more restricted than they would be to mere challengers.

I haven't read the whole code in detail, but a Greenburgh town employee or possibly a member of a Town Board may be restricted in who, or what, they contribute. It seems to me a restriction of "freedom of speech."

But, be that as it may, it seems incredibly strange that the Chairperson of the Ethics Board would not recuse himself from gift giving to candidates, whose conduct he must judge.

With regards to the controversy over the Board's hiring of this lawyer for the Ethics Board, I am against it. Too me it is a waste of money and he seems to lack the expertise to deal with these issues. Is he being hired to go on expensive fishing expeditions?

Also I would be curious whether all of the candidates have filed their financial statement's with the Ethics Board. Right now it is voluntary. What does that mean?

Will he be then able to supoena the records of all the candidates who didn't voluntarily file? This could prove quite costly to the town when one is considering a $325 per hour billable rate.

Let the Ethics Board order all the filings from the Board of Elections, and let these volunteers look over all of the statements, plain and simple!

I hope that Town Board has the good sense to stop this next boondoogle in its tracks.

Richard J. Garfunkel

Anonymous said...

To 11:41, the financial report has been widely distributed and I have seen it. So have many others. It shows "Meyer Sigal" with a post office box address.

Nothing wrong with anybody making contributions to political candidates. It is different with the Ethics Board members. Their job is to look at "appearances" as well as actual actions. They are supposed to be impartial and be seen as impartial.

The reason judges are not permitted to make political contributions is that they are supposed to be seen as totally impartial. It should be the same with Ethics Board members contributing to the Town Board which appoints them. Especially in a hot political climate, in which the Town Council has been waging an ethics war with the Supervisor. Pay to play, remember that?

I have already lost confidence in the Ethics Board and that confidence will return only when Sigal is replaced.

Anonymous said...

Eddie Mae's monetary contribution form was filed with the Westchester County Board of Elections. Listed: Myer O.Sigal Jr. Contribution was dated 9/10/07 for $500. A post office box is listed.
Does Eddie Mae and Steve have to recuse themselves from the vote tomorrow because of the donation?

Anonymous said...

Besides Sheehan's possible connections to this law firm, Sigal needs to declare if he has any associations with them as well. Something here is not Kosher.

Anonymous said...

The revised ethics code doesn't permit public officials to accept contributions from appointed town officers.

Is Sigal, as ethics chair, an appointed town officer?

He's not a department head like the building inspector or the planning commissioner, but all the same he's asking the town for money in the 2008 budget, just like every other department head.

While Sigal himself may not have violated the ethics laws, his giving Barnes the contribution puts her in a difficult spot. Why would he do such a thing?

Anonymous said...

Could it be possible that Sheehan put all idiots on the ethics board that he now decided to have an outside attorney,[a defense lawyer]with no knowledge of ethics.
This lawyer knows that his forte is crime,and not ethics and how could he ask for all this money which is unethical.
Hey Sheehan what's wrong with our law department,are you also saying that they are incompitent.
It is amazing how you think that you and only you have brains.
Yes a beebee brain.

Ed Krauss said...

To ANON, 11:07:

I'm hurt. I'm never in the "shadow" I always use my name. As withyour critique, My opinions-wrong or right- are there for ANONs like you to criticize. Don't get me wrong, I welcome criticism. Once I separate the parts and distill that which is worthwhile I learn and move forward a better person.

The "Tower of Babel," not withstanding, I try to express myself as clearly as possible using the most appropriate words at my command.The piece you refer to was meant to be serious and not humorous, because in my mind there is much tragedy in Greenburgh emanating from Town Hall.

Anonymous said...

Did the head of the parking authority donate to Eddie Mae? Isn't that a conflict? Doesn't the Parking Authority ask for things from our Town Council?

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous 10/9 1:13 PM,

Does it bother you that there is the possibilty that a Doris Friedam, listed at 21 B South Broadway, Tarrytown NY gave $99 to Alfreda Williams' Committee as reported by that Committee on 9/16/07? Is it the Town Judge, running for reelection? Did she violate any ethics or judicial code of conduct? Did she make the contribution at $99 expecting that it wouldn't be reported (the legal requirement is $100) and Williams' Committee "goofed" by reporting it publicly? Did she make other "unethical" contributions? Only the "Shadow" knows for sure.

Anonymous said...

I think that Judge Doris Friedman lives in Irvington.

Anonymous said...

Mike Sigal gave $200 to Alfreda Williams

Ed Krauss said...

Whoever 6:58 PM is, who put my name to his or her trash is a disgusting coward and liar.

It's not bad enough that anons post vicious rumors and outright lies on this blog, now they put other peoples'-MINE- name to their BULL SHIT!

I never said anything remotely close to Eddie Mae, the head of the parking authority and did not post the posting signed with my name.

I think maybe the Blog has run amok.

hal samis said...

Will the real Ed Krauss stand up?

I think you've got the anonymous wrongly at 6:58.

However, attesting to this with my own eyes, I do see that Stephanie Kavourias, Executive Director of Hartsdale Parking, did contribute $100 to Ms. Barnes. As the Parking folks have been, are and will always be, before the Town Board...most recently Wednesday, September 26, 2007 Town Board meeting, Agenda Item CO2 "Resolution authorizing the Town Supervisor to enter into an Inter-Municipal Agreement with the Hartsdale Public Parking District for the period 1/01/08 through 12/31/08"... it does seem as though Ms Barnes should not have accepted this campaign contribution especially since she has been most attentive (or was she sleeping through this too) to the goings on regarding the Ethics Board and the laws she voted for.

And the Parking District will be back for parking fee increases etc.
One might even suppose that higher Parking revenues would provide the income that supports raises for the Parking District's employee, Stephanie Kavourias.

But after all, who cares. Since the New York State campaign finance web pages are behind, in real time, the County Board of Elections reporting and I did not get a chance to drop in there and obtain a copy of Ms. Barnes' filings, such as they are, I stepped back and withdrew from an earlier statement that attributed a sizeable contribution to Ms. Barnes from the Chair of the Ethics Board. As I'm not going to be able to stop in soon at the Board of Elections, tonight at the Town Board meeting, I'll just ask Ms. Barnes face to face.

If it is true, wouldn't that be a dilemma? Ms. Barnes took money from the Parking District and who would decide to judge her, the Ethics Board headed by one of her largest contributors.

Glad that we have these fabulous, new, toughest Ethics laws anywhere...

Anonymous said...

I thought the Town Council wanted to ban pay to play? This ain't happening.

Anonymous said...

Contributions to Alfreda Williams are not ethical problems because Williams was not in a policy-making position. But contributions to incumbent Town Council members (Barnes and Bass) are ethical problems in spades.

hal samis said...

Actually, the Town Clerk's office has also been charged with negotiating franchise agreements with cable providers Cablevision and Verizon.

And by not complying with FOIL laws, the Office of Town Clerk can retard the information flow to the Public that may be important content at Public Hearings. Presumably, Public Hearings should provide the Town Board with reasons to vote for or against proposed Resolutions.

Anonymous said...

Remember (or maybe it was before you began to care Hal)-
It was the stated policy of the Supervisor to require FOIL requests for routine materials. And yes, there were always three votes to back him up. The Clerk simply did what she was told to do - and excused from attendance at Town Hall before mid-afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Remember (or maybe it was before you began to care Hal)-
It was the stated policy of the Supervisor to require FOIL requests for routine materials. And yes, there were always three votes to back him up. The Clerk simply did what she was told to do - and excused from attendance at Town Hall before mid-afternoon.

Ed "the real one" Krauss said...

If an elected official, and the Town Clerk is an elected official, simply "follows orders," then it may stand to reason all elected officials "follow orders."

But who gives the orders?

Since the supervisor is a full time position, and the clerk is a full time position could it be the supervisor? (And while we're at it, since the town clerk is a full time position, codified by NYS law, who is empowered to let the clerk come to work after noon?)

If the supervisor does not tell the clerk what to do, are each of the board members available at all times for the clerk to call and ask what to do? And, if so, does she need at least three votes to procede?

The town clerk did and does her work without having to get directions; her working hours, if as you allude, were reduced to "mid-afternoon, as far as I can see, contrary to common sense and the law. So I don't think she or the "allowers" would jeopardize their positions by authorzing a part time job with full time pay.

Mr. or Ms. 10/12 5:57 PM, you should get your s--t together before you denigrate Hal or anyone else from your supercilious tower of anonymity. If you're so damn sure, and so smug put your name to it to let Hal face his accuser.

hal samis said...

Thanks Ed!

Everyone else note that the Town Clerk gets $73,686 for what the anonymous blogger says is really a part-time job.

Let's assume that our fair Town needs a full-time clerk, so maybe Alfreda Williams could come in earlier and as an incentive we'll double her pay to compensate her for working the full day. Then she'll be earning $147,373 and be the Town's highest full time employee. Oops, I forgot, she also earns $5,000 as the Custodian of Elections. Not a bad racket.

But since she had "permission" to come to class late, why is she telling people that in the morning she is doing Town work, just not at Town Hall.

Oh yeah, Alfreda's been so busy that she probably forgot to give credit to Winsome Gordon, the Town's grant coordinator for obtaining the grant to defray the cost of the records storage room.

But Alfreda does a mean job as waitress for the Town Board when they order in dinner at work sessions. And let me not overlook how well she sets out the plates of candy for the Town Board at work sessions and Town Board meetings.

Finally, I wasn't questioning having to submit a FOIL request. I was only reminding residents that the Town Clerk was moving at lightening speed backwards to fulfill those troublesome requests of some residents.

And, it was the Town Clerk who refused to process Email FOIL requests despite State Laws of July 2006 which obligated the Town Clerk to comply with them and, in a Town the size of Greenburgh, to fulfill those requests by Email if so requested.

But there's only so much she can do when getting to the office after 12:00.

I guess the next step is to FOIL to see the written authorization allowing her to come to work in the afternoon.
If I FOIL on behalf of anonymous, will Francis and Gil get their copies?