Archive | December, 2008

Oh, We’re Off Tomorrow?

24 Dec

Merry/Happy ___[insert appropriate holiday here]____.

Hopefully that pisses O’Reilly and Hannity off. Even just a smidge.

I’ll be very thankful this year if the constant drone of sickness, fever, vomiting, and pain that has befallen my household literally since the end of Thanksgiving pisses off. If Santa could make everyone in my house feel healthy tomorrow, that would be the best present of all.

I should buy a vat of Lysol and just start spraying.

Here’s a picture I took of Madeleine and Mia last night as they decorated the tree. That was before Maddy was up all night feeling unwell thanks to a new bacterium I discovered and have named “Kid Cuisinococcus”. Hopefully, that’s the last of it.

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In any event, posting will be light. Merry Christmas, etc., and I wish you and yours happiness, warmth, love, and LOLZOMG PRESENTZ!

Merry Hanakwanmas!

24 Dec

It’s been a decidedly slow news week around these parts as it would appear the politicians have taken some time off from their typical daily displays of incompetence to share a bit of the Yule Log and a nip of egg nog…which will undoubtedly be taxed under Paterson’s new budget.  Drink up now, next year, the nog will have a $1 per quart tax!  That’s the local political Christmas tradition, announce doom and gloom news in Mid-December and take the rest of the year off.

Personally, my family has a few traditions of our own.  We like to celebrate the holiday season perusing our collection of Soviet Christmas Cards and sharing some of the ol’ fascist fruitcake.  How about you?  What are some of your family traditions?  What did you have on your Christmas list this year?  What are you getting for that special concerned citizen on your list?

Blow the Whistle

23 Dec

It just might pay off:

POLONCARZ ISSUES STATEMENT ON FORMER COUNTY PROBATION DIRECTOR

Comptroller Notes His Office’s Role in Investigation

Erie County Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz issued the following statement regarding the filing of criminal charges today by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo against George Alexander, former chairman and chief executive officer of the New York State Division of Parole. Mr. Alexander was the former Director of the Erie County (“County”) Department of Probation (“Probation”), who resigned last week from his state position following the issuance of a New York State Inspector General report that found that he had misappropriated a County computer and engaged in wrongdoing while a senior state employee.

The announcement that New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has filed criminal charges in Buffalo City Court against George Alexander should be viewed by the public as an affirmation of the rule that if you are a public official or employee and you misuse public resources you will be investigated and held accountable for your actions regardless of your position. As the taxpayers watchdog in Erie County I am proud that an investigation started in my office has led to an appropriate action. I applaud Attorney General Cuomo and the New York State Inspector General’s Office for their efforts to root out corruption in government and to defend taxpayers against dishonest public employees.

On April 11, 2008, my office received a one-page anonymous letter in the mail. This letter, which was also apparently sent to top state officials, county legislators, and media outlets, alleged that the County had purchased a new laptop computer using grant funds and that during an audit, the laptop had been found to be missing. The letter further stated that the laptop had been traced to Mr. Alexander, who returned the “stolen computer and the matter (was) dropped.”

Upon our receipt of this letter, my office immediately commenced an investigation. Our investigation in April-May 2008 included extensive data collection, separate interviews with seven County employees, and an interview with Mr. Alexander conducted by myself and another member of my office’s staff.

Unfortunately, during our investigation, senior officials from the Collins Administration attempted to prevent our office from investigating this matter. (WTF??!! – BP) They initially denied our request to interview County employees. Only after I threatened to issue subpoenas did the Collins Administration authorize County employees to speak with my staff. In addition, senior management in the Erie County Sheriff’s Office refused to provide my office with a copy of their police report detailing their office’s limited role in this matter (we eventually obtained a copy of the report from Probation officials). I note that Probation officials cooperated fully with our inquiry.

My investigation found inconsistencies in and between Mr. Alexander’s statements and those of his former subordinates. We believed that Mr. Alexander’s explanations and responses to our questions were not credible. We also found that Probation had no justifiable reason for purchasing the laptop at the end of the state grant and then provide it to Alexander just before he resigned from the County to join the State Division of Parole. Our report also found significant failures of internal control in Probation and the County’s purchasing and asset tracking process for equipment. It is quite apparent that only a select few Probation employees were aware of the laptop’s purchase, and none knew that Mr. Alexander possessed it.

Following our interview of Mr. Alexander, I contacted a senior aide to Governor David Paterson to inform his administration that one of their cabinet-level department heads was under investigation by my office for the misappropriation of County resources and that we were nearing completion of our review. Very shortly thereafter, I was contacted by a representative of the State Inspector General’s Office who informed me that they were commencing an investigation into the matter. In May 2008, I and my staff member charged with investigating the matter met with the Inspector General’s representatives and presented our findings to them. I was subsequently contacted by officials from the New York State Attorney General’s Office Public Integrity Bureau and shared our findings with them.

Since that time, I remained in contact with state officials concerning this matter, including the Attorney General’s office. At the request of the Inspector General’s and Attorney General’s offices, and due to their separate investigations, I did not disclose my findings or comment on this matter until they could conclude their work so as to not jeopardize any criminal investigation they were undertaking. Regardless of the outcome of this matter, I look forward to continuing to partner with the Attorney General on his efforts to root out public corruption as both our offices work to help restore the public’s trust in our government.

Now that this matter has been brought to the public, and speaking on behalf of my office, I reaffirm to the public that if you are aware of potential waste, fraud, or abuse of your tax dollars, please report it to my office immediately. Mr. Alexander’s resignation and prosecution appears to partially be the result of an anonymous tip. This shows that every tip will be investigated by my office regardless of the potential party alleged to have conducted the wrongdoing. Our office created the County’s whistleblower hotline which allows you the public to report alleged wrongdoing anonymously, via letter, e-mail, the Internet or telephone. We investigate every allegation, take all reports seriously, and as is evident from this matter, will forward the information we obtain to other parties to pursue a criminal investigation if warranted.

Hardwick on Sunday

23 Dec

I’ll be in-studio with the Perfesser this Sunday the 28th at 11am. Further details to follow, but none of you will be reading this site after Wednesday, so I figure I’d get it out there now.

Happy Hannukah!

23 Dec

fail owned pwned pictures

Less than a month to go

23 Dec

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures

Snow in Buffalo

23 Dec

Is there really an excuse for the city not to have laid a plow down on every single road within its limits by midday yesterday? It’s not like snow is a rarity here.

New York State Thruway Closed

22 Dec

The free-to-use roads around town are all open and the main thoroughfares ought to be passable. After all, they didn’t close my work today, so there must be some way to get downtown.

But the Thruway, which charges you through the nose for the privilege of traveling upon it, has closed from exit 46 in Henrietta all the way to the Pennsylvania state line. Why are the free roads open, but the aspensive road is closed?

That’s 132 miles’ worth of toll revenue they’re missing out on!

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It’s that time of year again

22 Dec

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I like the BNL Christmas album way better than “Snacktime”, incidentally.

The Art of Giving

22 Dec

The Buffalo News has undertaken a major piece of enterprise reporting and it’s one that is long overdue.  A look into the alternative economy of Western New York, the non-profit community and the hundreds of foundations which fund them.

As someone who thinks that the two major “businesses” in this town are government and non-profit sector employment, I’ve always wanted to read a comprehensive look into the makeup of the local fundraising market.

The only time we dipped our toe in the water on this issue, it was met with a large community backlash when we had the temerity to ask whether or not the Wendt Foundation could find a better use for their money than funding the anti-casino lawsuit through the Network for Religious Communities.

So, it was with great anticipation that I opened my paper this morning to find a well-researched piece on our local foundations.

It seems the conflict is whether or not the local foundations are using their monies for the true betterment of the community.  By that, I mean are they spreading the wealth around to organizations who are trying to fill cracks in the societal foundations of America’s second poorest city or are they primarily funding organizations which they themselves directly benefit and believe other people would benefit from as well?

“This is a huge systemic problem in philanthropy. Too little money goes to benefit those that need it the most,” said Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, an independent organization based in Washington, D.C.

“Unfortunately, many donors practice patronage giving. They support institutions they themselves benefit from. If they like the symphony, they give to the symphony, and they give to their alma mater. Those may not be bad things to give to, but it’s certainly not my vision for what philanthropy should be about in this country, and I don’t think it’s what most people think philanthropy should be about,” he said.

In other words, should foundations donate more money to an organization like PUSH Buffalo (~$70K in 2006 funding) rather than the Buffalo Philharmonic (~$2.5MM in 2006 funding)?

Could the money given to the Philharmonic have been put to better use if spread out around the city?  Or is it in the interest of this community to continue to sustain the Philharmonic at huge levels when the region as a whole seems to have decided to not support it with ticket purchases?

Is the continued presence of the Philharmonic one of the main anchors of the community that keeps this foundation money invested in Buffalo?  It’s a pretty complex and layered issue, one that I look forward to reading more about.

Michelle Kearns, Patrick Lakamp and Mary Pasciak did a great job in the first installment of defining the boundaries of the story and I look forward to the next two installments.  On a meta-level, this kind of story is exactly why newspapers are so incredibly vital.  The resources needed to research and execute a story like this are not available to community journalists.