Tuesday, February 12, 2008

WORK SESSION ON COURTS FEB 29 AT 4 PM

The Town Board met with the three Town Judges during our work session this afternoon. We are scheduling a work session (to be televised on public access and streamed live on the internet) on Friday, Feb 29th at 4 PM to discuss the courts and the audit we commissioned. The 3 Judges, court clerk and former Town Judge James Hubert will be invited to attend.
Over the decades there have been a number of problems at the court. Should the Town Board play a more active role in the courts or should we respect the fact that the Judiciary is considered a separate branch of government?

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

*
*
*
*
The Town Board should not play a more active role in the courts. The court is a separate branch of government per the Consitution, and the judges run the courts. The Town Board may not "play a more active role." But the Town Board runs certain aspects of the Town Court, and the Town Board can do the following:

1. The Town Board hires and fires personnel (except that by law the Town Board cannot fire the chioef clerk, who should have been fired years ago, except with the consent of the judges). I think that two out of the three judges can and should do it, and i hope that this is finally done. Most of the problems would disappear quickly if a competent chief clerk were put in place.

2. The Town Board should cause a review the operations of the court office and determine whether it is understaffed or overstaffed, and how effcient the calendar is handled compared to other large town cpourts (I chaired a committee in 1992 to study these issues and the results were surprising). You cannot depend on the judges to tell you because the judges, just like any other head of a department (or branch) will always say that they need more. The review should also find out why the paperwork in the court office has been in such a shambles.

3. The Town Board should force responsibility to clean up the financial records of the court. Those records are a mess (thanks again to the chief clerk's incompetence and other failings). it should also find out why money is missing and unaccounted for. I know from experience that it is not difficult to mainatin proper financial records. The forms are supplied by the state, the softward is well-established, and the moneys should balance to the penny. I don't believe that any court in any town (or village) of size has the money problems that Greenburgh has. And this is not new. We have had audits time and again, and the same problems keep coming up. And they will until the court has a competent and professional chief clerk.

This is what the Town Board should be doing -- making sure that there is a new chief clerk who knows how to run such an office. If it doesn't happen there will be another audit a few years from now and the results will be the same.

Herb Rosenberg

Anonymous said...

I think the Town Board has enough on its agenda. What happened to the overtime review????

Anonymous said...

Three of the four town court judges that have served Greenburgh have for the past three years (I'm including Jim Hubert here and his successor) have consistently found no reason whatsoever to discharge the chief clerk.

These three judges have rendered superbly capable service for the town, and no one has ever suggested otherwise.

Yet Rosenberg freely libels the chief clerk that these three judges have backed, calling her incompetent and worse, as if Rosenberg were prosecutor, judge and jury.

Even if Rosenberg's wild charges had any merit, and there's been no demonstration in any public or private forum that they do, his conduct in proclaiming this court official guilty of incompetence and wrongdoing sufficiently egregrious as to warrant her dismissal for cause is unbecoming of any lawyer and an officer of the court.

If Rosenberg has any evidence of wrongdoing by a court official warranting that any court official's dismissal for cause, he should be presenting such information to the appropriate judicial and/or law enforcement authorities, not slamming the poor lady on a blog.

Coming as these charges do from a former acting village judge, albeit one with a checkered past of his own, Rosenberg of all people should know better.

Not only that, but all lawyers, including Rosenberg, are supposed to adhere to ethical standards that require them to think very carefully before making public statements that tend to undermine the integrity of court officials in the manner he has just done.

Herb Rosenberg said...

The short answer to the posting of Anonymous who wrote at 11:06 P.M. is that he should read the 2003 audit report on the court. It paints a devastating picture of the maladministration of the court office -- missing funds, unrecorded receipts, cash laying around, large amounts of unfiled court papers, and so on. The new audit shows that things are still a mess and the administration of court funds and files is still in shambles.

In courts the judges judge. They don’t run the court office. That is under the management of the chief clerk. There is no place to point other than to the chief clerk, and this one has a record worth pointing to.

I need no lectures from the 11:06 writer, who clearly has an ax to grind, either because he has some connection to the court or because he has the need to always attack certain messengers of the truth because of who they are. He should certainly not speak for the judges, especially untruthfully. The nature of his pompous comments about ethics probably identifies the writer, and all I can say is that he is up to his old tricks, which is diversion and insults. As far as what I have said about the court office, this time -- it being just once too often that its malfunctioning has been disclosed through an audit -- I suspect that action will finally be taken.

Anonymous said...

One of the basic financial controls has been lacking for years, namely, the timely and accurate reconciliation of the court's bank accounts. More than $2 million annually appears to flow through the court system (based on recent budgets) and it appears based upon the 2003 report and the fact that the Town had to hire an outside accounting firm at I believe in excess of $125 per hour to do basic accounting work is an unconscionable waste of taxpayer money because the administrative personnel don't do or know how to do their jobs. Yes, Town Board get involved. Where was the Town Comptroller during this period? Whoops - missing in action? Or told to stay out? What were the facts?

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a job for that noted CSI Sir Francis Sheehan. Come on Francis, go get em!!!!!!!! Start sniffing out the money trail the same way you dropped to your knees trying to locate the dominatrix's feces!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Since Geisella retired we have had comptrollers who were only there to collect a paycheck.
We find ouselves with all these audits because of all the wrong goings on in this town.
Well if they can do it so can I attitude has hit the tax payers where it hurts.
I do hope the new comptroller will be the right person to put this town on an honest tract.

Anonymous said...

Rosenberg is skating on very thin ice regarding legal ethics.

I am familiar with the draft audit report of the Greenburgh town court for the years 2002 through 2005. It identifies significant defiencies with respect to the court's accounting for bail and fines.

It concludes, for example, that the court was not able to provide an accurate record of bail held for pending cases which identified each defendant and the applicable cases for which bail was held. The draft also found that the court's internal control was not adequate to provide safeguards over the amount of bail collected and held for pending cases to assure the proper recording of related transactions. The draft concludes that there were "significant deficiencies."

But Rosenberg's public statements that the chief clerk bears responsibility for these deficiencies and should therefore be fired for cause violates his ethical obligations as a lawyer in several respects.

First, it should be noted that the draft audit report nowhere blames the chief clerk for any of the problems it found. Nor did the report at any time recommend her replacement.

With respect to the issue of bail, the audit report recommended only that "as of the end of each month, the Court should produce a bail activity report and a current bail report for each Justice, and reconcile those reports to the amounts on deposit in the various bail accounts. Any differences found should be promptly investigated and resolved."

The Lawyers Code of Professional Responsibility in New York states that "Every lawyer owes a solemn duty to uphold the integrity and honor of the profession; to encourage respect for the law and for the courts." (EC 9-6).

That ethical consideration means that lawyers are supposed to be circumspect when making allegations about court personnel. Rosenberg crossed that line when he proclaimed the chief clerk guilty of impropriety warranting her dismissal.

Rosenberg, of course, has a right like every other citizen to express his opinion. But as a lawyer, he has to be very careful when criticizing courts and their personnel. The Code says, "While a lawyer as a citizen has a right to criticize [court] officials publicly, the lawyer should be certain of the merit of the complaint, use appropriate language, and avoid petty criticisms, for unrestrained and intemperate statements tend to lessen public confidence in our legal system."

Rosenberg crossed that line when he proclaimed the chief clerk guilty of incompetence warranting dismissal for cause. The audit report he relies on makes no such finding.

As Rosenberg should be aware, the Greenburgh court has been under close scrutiny for years by the Office of Court Administration.
Additional personnel, equipment and software have been added over the past three years to the court to correct deficiencies that have already been reported. Among the personnel added was a former forensic auditor for the Westchester DA's office. As a result of all these changes, which Rosenberg nowhere mentions, it is not clear that the chief clerk is or should be responsible for the findings in the draft audit report, and the fact that three of the four judges who've been sitting these past three years on the Greenburgh town court don't see any reason to fire the chief clerk speaks volumes.

Yet without knowing the facts, or worse, plainly choosing to disregard them, Rosenberg went ahead and made unrestrained and intemperate statements about the chief clerk which do tend to lessen public confidence in our legal system.

Even if a case could be made against the chief clerk, what Rosenberg did is plainly wrong, and he should be admonished for it.

Anonymous said...

It is something to note. Every time somebody (and always somebody who signs his name) blows the whistle against the establishment people in town, some anonymous person besmirches them. I saw it with Jim Lasser, with Hal Samis, with Ed Krauss and now with Herb Rosenberg.

What if what Rosenberg says is true? If we have audit after audit that shows that the financial records are way off, why not look where the fault it. Are the judges supposed to keep the financial records? Is a lower level clerk responsible for setting up records and files? No to both. If the problems are to be corrected then you have to look for the person who is in charge, and it seems to me that Rosenberg is right when he says that the chief clerk is in charge, and if the records are bad year after year, then she probably is the wrong person to be in charge.

The judges knew about this after the earlier audit, and they did nothing. Of course they won't admit now that they were wrong in not taking action earlier. I hope that the new judge takes a firmer stand.

Anonymous said...

Some of us might like to see if a case can really be made for dismissing the chief clerk for all these problems identified in this latest audit report. However, that effort is not helped when lawyers like Rosenberg publicly proclaim that the chief clerk is responsible and must therefore be fired for cause.

What if Rosenberg is wrong, the person he claims responsible is fired improperly for cause, and the problems at the court still continue? The town would have yet another huge liability on its hands.

Wouldn't it make a lot more sense if Rosenberg or anyone else who thinks he or she has evidence of wrongdoing, writes to the Office of Court Administration that's responsible for the Greenburgh court, and asks that that office look into the matter and make a report to the town court judges who are legally responsible for the administration of the court?

It is no answer that the duly elected town court judges can't be trusted. If they have evidence of wrongdoing by an employee under their control, and they fail to act, the Office of Court Administration has a number of remedial measures it can take against those judges.

But if the evidence (which has still not been gathered) doesn't warrant a dismissal, it is wrong for Rosenberg and others to proclaim today that the employee is guilty and demand her removal anyway.

berger fails us again said...

and the local democrats keep nominating judges despite their shortcomings as evidenced by the audits.

perhaps its time for merit selection of judges and not let suzanne berger decide for us.

Anonymous said...

You can bet all the money on one of the comments was written by no one other than Bernstein.

Anonymous said...

At the work session you could have seen that there was something going on with the personnel employed in the court.
They did not mention names but it was repeated over and over again .
Rosenber is correct.
Let's see how this plays out.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think that the financial disaster at the court happened by spontaneous combustion? No, there is responsibility. And Rosenberg was a judge so he knows how it works and it sounds right that the chief clerk should take responsibility, or else explain who else screwed the finances up on her watch.

Anonymous said...

Town management can't even handle the highway department's operations. Focus on baseline town services before offering help to non-town entities (court) and districts (parking).

Anonymous said...

Do you mean,10:24, that Gisella wasn't there to collect a paycheck? As a former copy
editor at a book publishing company, with nary a clue about accounting no less what a controller does. she was the poster child for Greenburgh controller wannabees.But not to worry, controller is the highest paid patronage job in town, and competence is not a requisite.

I don't know why 11:05, AKA Bobbie the "I wannabe king, but I'm too short to reach the thrown," Bernstein, doesn't sign his name when many people know it's him. When you a charter a course of sticking knives in people's butts (if he were taller, it would be backs) it's understabable why you hide from your name. The least you can do is alter your writing style. Maybe that's what you do when you use a variety of anonumice to stab a variety of people you don't like.

You and Roger Clemens he took steroids and look what it got him, while you use the power of the anonymous to hurt people with no apparent gain (which is a sickness unto itself) to give you the illusion of strength. Man look in the mirror you're a very small, very nasty, very yesterday guy whose future is behind him. After Juettner and Sheehan are dispatched with your "behind the scenes power" will be no more. And
you my little miscreant will revert back to what you were. Zero.

So make hay while the appendages are around, and work doubletime to hurt as many people and your own community as you can. the fat lady is warming up. when she sings it's over little Mr. bigman.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 4:20, yu may have points to make but not the crappy way you are doing it.

There is plenty to criticize Bernstein about - his ethics, his truthfulness, his egomania, his bluster -- that are obvious and legitimate because they go to the substance of what he says and does. But calling him short is not crickett. There plenty of good short people and plenty of bad tall ones. Clean up your act.

And Gisella may not have had an accounting degree, but the office ran smoothly while she was the Comptroller and there was never a scandal or even a question. She learned the requirements because she was a mayor of a village for many years and was admired for her knowledge and ability, as far as I remember. Besides, she retired about ten years ago, so why bring her up now? Stick with recent culprits, of which there have been many.

Anonymous said...

That's the point in mentioning Giesellia,we don't want to mention the incompetent comptrollers that were in office when everything started to hit the fan.
Check what audits were done and will be done and see who is at fault.

ed krauss said...

I wholeheartedly agree with 10:33's basic premise. And, it is one of my major peeves with this blog...and probably others. From the "safe house" of anonymity, posters rip people apart, slander them, even make up anecdotal bubba meisa's, totally false, and without any merit, with impunity.

I know it's wrong, BUT, if they had to identify themselves, there would be fewer posters and less controvercial postings.

Whether you like him or not. Wheher you respect him or not. Whether you agree with him or not. And whether you feel or think under the guise of anonymity he does to others what others do to him, he is a human being. He deserves to be criticized about what he says or does and not about his physical characteristics, his family or his children.No one should be subjected to that.

So 10:33 I hope more people follows your lead and "punch above the belt." It may take a bit longer to beat your opponent, but you won't get disqualified, and you'll win with dignity.

ed krauss said...

I wholeheartedly agree with 10:33's basic premise. And, it is one of my major peeves with this blog...and probably others. From the "safe house" of anonymity, posters rip people apart, slander them, even make up anecdotal bubba meisa's, totally false, and without any merit, with impunity.

I know it's wrong, BUT, if they had to identify themselves, there would be fewer posters and less controvercial postings.

Whether you like him or not. Wheher you respect him or not. Whether you agree with him or not. And whether you feel or think under the guise of anonymity he does to others what others do to him, he is a human being. He deserves to be criticized about what he says or does and not about his physical characteristics, his family or his children.No one should be subjected to that.

So 10:33 I hope more people follows your lead and "punch above the belt." It may take a bit longer to beat your opponent, but you won't get disqualified, and you'll win with dignity.

Anonymous said...

Why isnt the Supervisor focusing on the departments with the larger budgets? Like Public Safety?