Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bernardo Watch: High-Wire Terry

This is one of the funniest things I have ever seen:

Comedy gold. She'll be doing EST and Primal Scream therapy next. I wonder how much Len paid for this bit of fluff?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gallo Rewards His Buddies, Too

Realizing this news is somewhat old, it's still worth wondering how these people get away with this stuff. The reasons have to do with not enough people paying attention to the rapacious interests that see local government as their own personal piggy bank.

The latest outrage (or last month's, depending on how you look at it) has to do with newly elected Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo appointing Mike Madsen to be the city code enforcement officer:
Michael Madsen, a former Kingston alderman and Ulster County legislator, has been appointed city zoning code enforcement officer by Mayor Shayne Gallo.

Madsen said he also is working in the city’s Office for Community Development as a housing rehabilitation specialist, a vacant position.

He said his city salary is $29,000.

Madsen said he has taken no courses in zoning matters but thinks he is qualified for the job given his background in construction and his and time as an elected lawmaker — four two-year terms on the city’s Common Council and one two-year term as a county legislator.
Hey, what about me? I think I'm qualified to be Emperor of the Universe. Why, I even have more than a decade of management experience.

And how many jobs does Madsen need, or is he the Langdon Chapman of Democratic politics here in Ulster County?

And then we get to the money quote:
Madsen worked last year on the election campaign of Gallo, a fellow Democrat, an undertaking that he called a team effort by like-minded individuals. (emphases mine)

“He (Gallo) surrounded himself with people who had the same vision ... and if some of us happen to have the expertise of doing the job and we are all on the same mission with his vision, it seems to fit like a glove,” Madsen said.

Gallo spoke similarly.

“The individuals who have been appointed to positions in the city share a similar vision and passion to make the city the model city that I have been talking about,” the mayor said on Thursday.
They share a similar vision, alright -- a vision that includes rewarding cronies with cushy jobs, apparently.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Schooled on Robert's Rules

So, the Bernardo cabal made a stink a few weeks back regarding the need for new legislators to learn Robert's Rules of Order. Judging by last week's meeting, the person most in need of remediation is Bernardo herself. Take a look at the video (fast-forward to the 124-minute mark). In it, Legislator Tracy Bartels invokes Robert's Rules, saying that the legislation being considered must be "severed on demand," i.e, that a legislator can demand a separate vote for each piece of the legislation. Bernardo then asked if anyone wanted to second Bartels's motion. Bartels corrects Bernardo that no second is needed. Bernardo then asks if there is any discussion of the motion. Again, Bartels has to inform Bernardo that there is no discussion. The motion must be granted "on demand," in other words, a legislator can simply ask that certain bills -- in this case several abstracts -- be voted on separately.

Let's hope Bernardo will attend the session on Robert's Rules. Looks like she needs it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Follow the Money

One of the reasons we should support the Bernardos is their innovative business acumen, their top-flight fiscal management. Right?

Well, not so fast. It appears that the county is on the hook for nearly another $100,000 thanks to the Bernardos' incompetence (this was too good not to reprint the whole thing):
If you want to see how easy it is to be a fiscal conservative, take a minute to learn Bernardo Math.

First you take a $50,000 budget appropriated and adopted job (counsel to the Legislature) and cut it to $49,750, telling the newspapers you saved the taxpayers $250 because you prorated the pay for time actually worked.

Then you subtract $100,000 (10 Legislators @ $10,000 because the Legislature downsized from 33 to 23 members) and then you add in $59,000 for a new financial analyst and $25,000 for a new paralegal.

Then you add some miscellaneous raises including $4,030 to an employee hired on 6/7/2010, whose salary is now at $60,970, and then you add a deserved raise to minority counsel whose pay increases from $4,223 to $12,500.

Then you add a raise for the newly appointed confidential secretary who hasn’t even started work yet and bump that job up to $51,083. Now you do your addition and subtraction and wave your magic pencil and voilĂ !

With ten less Legislators in 2012 than in 2011, you have a department personnel budget of $451,030, which is – drum roll, please! – $89,203 MORE than the previous year. And that, my friends, is how Bernardo math works.
You got that right, Robin. Count the silverware!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bernardo Watch: You Got That Right, Dave

David Donaldson telling it like it is:
“It’s about rewarding Independence Party people, and it’s rewarding the good ol’ boy setup.”

And it's high time to call it like it is. Ulster County, with a legislature that couldn't be more equally divided, has fallen under one-party rule -- and that party managed to drum up less than eight percent of the legislative vote county wide!

Does this look like democracy to you? How long are Ulster County residents going to allow unelected party bosses like Chapman call the shots?

Yet another good article by Doxsey.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chapman Should Withdraw

If for no other reason than to protect his (big) boss from any appearance of impropriety:
Ulster County Legislature Minority Leader David Donaldson Friday accused Chairwoman Terry Bernardo of “sneaking” through a $49,750 contract with the law firm for which her appointed legislature attorney works by paying the firm, Bonacic, Krahulik, Cuddeback, McMahan and Brady, LLP of Orange County.

[. . .]

The minority leader also asked Chapman to reveal any potential conflicts of interest as legislative counsel since he is also counsel to Senator John Bonacic and to the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering of which Bonacic is chairman.

Donaldson said that Bonacic has commented that getting Sullivan County a casino is his “number one priority.” Communities in Ulster County, most notably Ellenville, have expressed interest in obtaining casinos. The new owners of the Nevele Hotel are hoping to include gaming as part of their redevelopment plan. (emphasis added)
This is a really good point. If NY State approves a casino plan, there will be a few counties that will reap huge tax revenues. Needless to say, this will instigate a certain amount of competition. Ulster county is just one of many counties that could attract a casino (and there's a deal for the Nevele in the works).

So how can Chapman honestly represent the fiduciary interests of Ulster County when he's so heavily involved in Sullivan? He can't.

Chapman should withdraw his name from consideration as counsel to the Ulster Legislature.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Nice Work if You Can Get It

How'd you like to have a job that pays you more than a quarter million dollars per year? If you're Sandy Mathes, that's what Greene County was paying you as head of its IDA. To put that in perspective, Mathes' outrageous salary is almost twice what a United States congressman is paid, and it's approaching the level of salary reserved for executive-branch officials. The President of the United States makes $400,000, just 25% more than Mathes was making.

Anyone with half a brain would look at numbers like these and wonder what the hell is going on in Greene County. With just 50,000 residents, Greene County has a little over a quarter the population of Ulster (approx 180,000 residents as of 2010). What could Mathes have been doing that could possibly justify such a salary?

And it gets worse. Mathes left under a cloud regarding his salary, and rightly so. But he continued to receive salary and benefits well after his resignation, according to Patricia Doxsey at the Freeman:
Mathes is a former member of the Greene County Legislature who became the head of the county’s Industrial Development Agency in 2002. He left the agency in 2011 amid significant criticism over his salary and bonus structure. Mathes’ salary rose from $75,000 in 2002 to $130,000 in 2010, and he also received bonuses of as much as $175,000.

Under a “separation agreement” with Greene County, Mathes drew a $2,525.48 weekly salary through Feb. 28.

His first day as an Ulster County employee was March 5.
Mathes also received a nice benefits package with his golden parachute, according to Doron Tyler Antrim at the Daily Mail:
He was also given 45 vacation days and continued health insurance for the remainder of 2011.
I'm sure we'd all like to know how such a small county can justify all of this. And I'm sure all of us would like to know how WE can get a job that pays $6,000 per week -- and then an additional $131,000 per year for doing...nothing!

WTF? It makes you wonder whether some of this money was making its way into the pockets of someone other than Mathes. I would also think a FOIL request for this "separation agreement" would be in order. How long was Greene County willing to keep paying him?

And does our attorney general know about all of this? If not, he should.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Promises, Promises

Let's see if she actually follows through on this:
Chair of Ulster County Legislature Visits Shandaken

Terry Bernardo, of the Chair of the Ulster County Legislature, attended the board meeting.

Town councilman Vincent Bernstein told Bernardo that it was vital to get the Bridge Street Bridge in Phoenicia reopened. The bridge has been closed since it was damaged in the Irene floods last fall.

“Can we bank on your help?” he asked Bernardo.

Councilman Alfie Higley echoed Bernstein's plea for getting the bridge reopened.

“We really need it by summer," he said. "Cars don’t go in [to Phoenicia], I’ve seen it myself.”

Bernardo assured everyone that she would do what she could.
How about, "This is something that needs to be fixed and you have my unwavering commitment to making sure it happens soon"? Instead, Shandaken residents receive nothing more than vague promises.

If you want some advice when it comes to dealing with the Bernardos: Get it in writing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Spending the Taxpayers' Money

Of the 23 members of the Ulster Legislature, just four are new to the job. So why the hell do the Bernardos want the taxpayers to foot the bill for a full legislative session, if the only thing on the agenda is a review of Robert's Rules of Order? It's idiotic, especially when you consider the expense:
"I don’t get it,” said Legislator Richard Parete, D-Marbletown. “I think Robert’s Rules are important, and I’ve taken it upon myself to become familiar with them, but I don’t know if this is something that needs to be done in a special meeting, where our clerks and attorneys have to be present and (legislators) are paid mileage.”
You're not the only one who is trying to figure out what the hell the "fiscally conservative" Bernardos are up to, Rich.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Another Carpetbagger

What is it with Bernardo bringing in people from other counties? Ya gotta ask yourself why she keeps doing this, almost as if she's dancing to a tune only she (and Chapman, and Bonacic) can hear:
Longtime Ulster County Deputy Legislative Clerk Karen Spinozzi has retired, effective immediately, and Legislative Chair Terry Bernardo has chosen Greene County's former IDA Director Alexander "Sandy" Mathes to replace the 40-year county employee. Bernardo said Spinozzi actually retired in 2007, but was helping out on an hourly basis.

"While I would love her to say, I fully understand her desire to spend more time living life outside the office," the legislative chair said.

She said she chose Mathes as replacement to fill Spinozzi's role as a means to "focus on providing economic development and finance advice, something he is highly qualified to give."
Great. So what kind of "qualifactions" does Mathes have? This kind:
An assemblyman’s inquiry into state authority employees’ bonuses revealed the executive director of the Greene County Industrial Development Agency received $175,000 in performance bonuses in 2009, while 23 employees of the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency shared $26,100 in longevity bonuses.

In a press release, state Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Elmsford, said he began an inquiry into bonus payments to authority employees after learning nearly $3 million had been paid to two employees of the Fulton County Economic Development Corp. He said initial data shows bonus payments ranging from $1.5 million to $3,500.

“Some of these payments are obviously unacceptable and some may have reasonable explanations,” Brodsky said. “The initial data is all self-reported and it is simply unclear what the full extent of the problem may be.”
$175,000 in performance bonuses for Mathes, while the underlings starve. Nice work if you can get it..

Sounds like Mathes will fit right in to the Bernardo Gang.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bill West Has Seen Enough

This has been circulating for a few days now, but it's definitely worth highlighting for those who may not have seen it. Former chair of the Ulster Legislature Bill West has had enough of the Bernardos. West recently sent out an email to Roger Rascoe that reads as follows:
March 5, 2012

TO: Roger Rascoe & Friends of the GOP
FROM: William West – Former Chairman UC Legislature


I would urge that as quickly as possible you meet with Ms. Terry
Bernardo and ascertain who’s team she is on – is her goal the destruction
of the party? In a short two months she alone has caused more damage to our
Republican party than any 30,000 county Republicans have ever done.

She appointed an attorney (Independence Party) from Orange County to be
Legislative Attorney – alienating all the Republican members of the Ulster
County Bar – and depriving the GOP of an opportunity to groom an Ulster
County person for future elected office.

She ran a personal fund raiser which will drain potential funds from the
County GOP and the efforts of other Republican Legislators. The county pie
is only so big. I cannot recall a Legislative Chairperson ever having a
personal county wide fund raiser. Normally legislators raise funds in their
own district – is she so little respected in Rochester that she can’t raise
campaign funds in her own Legislative District??

She appointed as her secretary a member of Independence Party who has not
been a friend of the GOP for many years.

Unfortunately, her inept behavior is starting to tarnish the image of
Senator Bonacic. This is something we definitely do not need for the
upcoming election.

Now she has placed all Republican Legislators in the unenviable position
of having to support the unsupportable at the next Legislative meeting -
the approval of the Orange County Attorney contract.

This might be an opportunity to demonstrate – to the voter – the
independence of the GOP legislature. A no vote by the UC Legislature might
wake up Ms. Bernardo.

I shudder to think what the next ten months will bring forth. Roger, I
would urge prompt action on this matter and let us start moving in a
positive direction. Maybe it should be an agenda item at the next meeting.

William West
Woodstock Republican Committee Chairman
Sounds like the claws are coming out. Pass the popcorn.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Baird's Conflict of Interest

This is even more interesting. Doing a little Youtube research reveals that Baird was recently confronted by a town resident regarding his apparent conflict of interest in serving on two elected boards at the same time, one of which has budgetary power over the other. Baird, it turns out, is also an elected fire commissioner in the Village of Bloomingburg (from the district website):
District Officers

Commissioner John Tobin as Chairman

Commissioner Richard Knibbs

Commissioner Larry Arnold

Commissioner Harold Baird

Commissioner Russ Wood

Commissioner Jim Beaurmen

Commissioner Thomas Dempsey

Treasurer Richard Diffendale

Secretary Kim Baird
The resident, whose name is Richard Morris, cites a NY State Comptroller opinion that the two posts are "incompatible." The reason for this is that the town has budgetary power over the fire district, at least partially. So how can Baird make an unbiased decision in regard to fire district funding? Well, he can't, can he?:

Baird is apparently using his status as fire commissioner in his campaign literature, according to Morris.

Gonna have to do some research on this one.

Another Chapman Apparatchik?

So, we have another Chapman/Independence Party connection in the Town of Mamakating. If you recall, Chapman serves as planning board attorney for the town, so it's interesting to learn that its two-term supervisor, Harold Baird, is now planning on challenging Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther. Baird announced his plans last week:
The list of Republican challengers for Aileen Gunther's state Assembly seat doubled Thursday when Mamakating Supervisor Harold Baird announced his intention to run.

Baird exited Mamakating Town Hall at noon to read a brief statement outlining his reasons for seeking the 98th District seat. The district includes all of Sullivan County and parts of Orange.
"I just think we need a voice up in Albany for this area," he said afterward. "The city, they have a stronghold on what goes on in New York."

Baird joins Bloomingburg resident Gary Linton in announcing a run for a seat Gunther has held since 2003. That year she defeated current county Legislator Alan Sorensen in a special election following the death of her husband, Jake Gunther, who'd held the seat.
Baird is a bit of a cipher. But he did run on the Independence line this past election year, picking up 96 votes (use the drop-down menus to see the results), so there's no doubt that all of this is occurring with the blessings of Independence Party Central Committee Member Chapman.

My guess is that Baird will be clobbered in the primary. But he's the perfect empty suit if his handlers can figure out a way to make him presentable enough for prime time.

Baird won reelection by a whopping eight votes, by the way. How's that for a mandate to run for higher office?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Freeman Gets it Right, Again

Ya gotta hand it to the Freeman's Patricia Doxee, a reporter who is proving that good coverage at the local level is still possible. Her latest piece questions the propriety of hiring Senator Bonacic's law firm as counsel to the Ulster Legislature (through Bonacic stooge Langdon Chapman), to the tune of $50,000 per year. Whoops. Sorry. It's actually $49,750:
The contract between Ulster County and the firm being hired as legislative counsel is raising some eyebrows — because the Legislature is contracting with a law firm rather than hiring an attorney, as it has done in the past; and because of the cost of the contract.

Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo submitted to the county’s contract management team a proposed $49,750 contract with the Orange County law firm of Bonacic, Krahulik, Cuddeback, McMahon & Brady.
Yep. Doxee's article actually uses the name, "Bonacic." So why make the payment less than $50,000? Doxee explains:
It’s an amount that falls just below the $50,000 contract threshold at which legislative approval is required.
Got that? If the proposal had been for a few bucks more, a messy process would ensue. We usually call this process "democracy," for those of you keeping score at home. But the Bernardos don't go in for any of that We-the-People crap.

Minority Leader Donaldson also questions the Bernardo gang's motives:
“They (Republican lawmakers) are purposely trying to skirt the law,” said Legislature Minority Leader David Donaldson.

[. . .]

That the contract amount is just $250 below the amount that would require legislative approval, “is a bit on the shady side,” Donaldson said.

And our budget boss ain't buying it either:
County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach said he found the contract amount “curious.”

“It really does raise issues because it’s so close,” said Auerbach, a Democrat.
Doxee's article goes on to explain that the county contract management team, despite the Bernardos power play, went ahead and submitted the proposal to the legislature anyway, and that the full legislature will vote on the proposal on March 20.

But the most entertaining part of Doxee's article comes in the form of a quote from Bernardo herself, who says she was simply pro-rating Chapman's paycheck:
“The private sector doesn’t pay people for days they don’t work, and I don’t believe the Legislature should either,” she wrote. “The annual line item is $50,000. There are 366 days in this year. Langdon is a good lawyer, but I am not going to authorize paying him for days he was not our counsel.”
See? She's just being a careful steward of our tax dollars. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Makes you proud, don't it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Breaking the Law?

All kinds of interesting things coming over the transom these days. The latest is an anonymous note sent to County Executive Mike Hein accusing Terry Bernardo of breaking the law when it comes to the way her office is treating employees. It reads:
"Dear Mr. Hein,

Something is happening on your watch that needs to be addressed. The new chairperson is in my opinion breaking at least one and possibly two labor laws.

1.) Continues to tell employees to work more hours than they are paid for -- since these people are paid hourly it is clearly a violation

2.) Berates employees in the same room as other employees creating a hostile work place.

3.) Allows her husband to sit in on employee only matters.

It is not only a disgrace but also unprofessional. This needs to be corrected without retribution against any employee. Should this continue the original of this will be delivered to the NYS Department of Labor."
Let's go through each of these. The first is a matter of civil service law. If the Bernardo regime is telling employees to work more hours than is in their job description, the employee should be entitled to overtime, and would also be able to file a grievance with the union. If I were an employee who was being asked to perform duties that require time beyond that contained in my job description, I would tell my boss to take a hike and talk to my union rep.

The second point is typical Bernardo. When you don't know what the hell you're doing, the simplest thing to do is bluster your way through. You know, just be a loudmouthed asshole. The Bernardos don't know how to ask politely, all they know is how to bully. Par for the course.

The third point is the one I find most interesting. If this claim is indeed true -- that Terry Bernardo is allowing her husband Len to sit in on potentially privileged employee discussions -- it should definitely be investigated. Employers, including the government, are bound by a number of federal laws regarding employee privacy, Title II of HIPAA being one of the biggies. If there is any truth to the Bernardos being this cavalier with employee privacy, Hein should definitely look into it.

But I'm guessing he won't.

It'll be up to the employees in question to come forward. Hey, if you're looking for a forum to air the dirty laundry, you've got one right here. Your privacy will be respected, I assure you (unlike with certain others).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wishnick Upon a Star

Is Ken Wishnick in trouble with his own caucus? That's the scuttlebutt, anyway. Wishnick was apparently part of a behind-closed-doors ambush of a couple of local reporters, led by the Bernardo Junta, of course, during which Landon Chapman threw his substantial weight around and berated these reporters for supposedly slanted coverage. This is par for the course with the Bernardos, who see these kinds of intimidation tactics as simply another tool to accumulate and maintain power (it's also not a very good way to ensure you get the coverage you want, and is likely to have the opposite of the desired effect).

Wishnick, on the other hand, should really know better than to cozy up to these cranks. Granted, he did win the Independence line, which means he had to genuflect to Len Bernardo (and Langdon Chapman) at some point. But he decided to caucus with the Democrats, thus he owes it to his party to show a little loyalty.

Hey, Kenny? If the dinner-party invitations suddenly dry up, this is why.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

All Roads Lead to Bonacic

So, who is Langdon Chapman? This question needs to be answered. After all, Terry Bernardo, the newly installed chair of the Ulster Legislature, went out of her way to appoint Chapman as the new counsel to the chamber, this over the strenuous objections of attorneys in Ulster County.

Chapman, of course, doesn't live in Ulster County. He lives in Orange. So why would Bernardo go out of her way to appoint a carpetbagger? Well, for one, he's State Senator John Bonacic's chief of staff. Seems a little odd to have the chief of staff to a state senator providing legal advice to an allegedly independent legislative body, doesn't it? At the very least, there's the appearance that Bonacic's office will have a huge influence over the legislative agenda in Ulster County.

If that's not enough to give one pause, try this on for size: Chapman is also the planning board attorney for the City of Port Jervis in Orange County. If that's not enough, he's also the planning board attorney for the Town of Mamakating in Sullivan County. What? There's more? He is also the town/village attorney for the following municipalities: The Town of Bovina and the Town of Stamford (both of which are in Delaware County), and the Village of Liberty (Sullivan).

In addition to this, Chapman is also an associate at Bonacic's law firm, Bonacic, Krahulik, Cuddeback, McMachon & Brady, LLC, in Middlewtown. Just how many jobs does this guy have? And why was it so important that Bernardo appoint him? At whose request? I can't imagine that Chapman's appointment came as a result of a talent search. Seriously. They scour the local market looking for someone who's a good fit for the job, and the person they come up with is this guy? No. This is some sort of quid pro quo, with Bonacic's law firm the likely beneficiary.

I wonder just how much business Chapman steers to his boss's firm? Definitely worth looking into.