Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Big Dipper: Update #4

For a guy who is now busy trying to meet multiple deadlines, I've been nailing up quite a few posts to this Blog the past few days.

A Lexis-Nexis news search for Lawrence W. Reich brings up 21 hits within the past 2 weeks. More action, more subpoenas, more play in the press. My comments, in no particular order:

A. Until today (25 February 2008), all of those hits were in Newsday, which is not surprising, given the Long Island situs of the story. But today, the New York Daily News weighed in with an editorial. The editorial's angle is to the effect that New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli looks like a smacked toochas for not catching this business with Reich. Regardless of whether one agrees with this viewpoint (I personally endorse it wholeheartedly), the proactive coverage of the story (as opposed to a reprint parroting the story) by a tabloid other than Newsday starts a new bar on the Gantt chart. It is no longer a Newsday exclusive.

B. One of the Newsday hits was Joye Brown's column of 19 February 2008. In that column, Ms. Brown states that the smoking gun letter to Reich from Harborfields School District Deputy Superintendent Joe Dragone was denied to Newsday's Sandra Peddie when she requested it pursuant to New York's Freedom of Information Law, but Peddie "obtained it elsewhere." I wondered about that, but now it all fits. Today's Newsday carries a story, under the by-line of Sandra Peddie and Robert Kessler, which essentially reports that last July, current Harborfields Superintendent Janet Wilson, who is now suing the Harborfields District over her nonrenewed contract, disclosed the matter of Reich's double dipping to her attorney, who then reported it to the Ingerman Smith law firm, of which Reich's was then a partner; and that the report set into motion a chain of events that led to Reich's resignation from the firm.

Query: Was it Janet Wilson who was Ms. Peddie's the "elsewhere" source for the document? Without drawing any definitive conclusions, I will note that (1) when I was with the IRS, almost all of the tax snitch cases I dealt with involved an ex-spouse, a spurned mistress or a fired employee; and (2) a school district superintendent who feels insecure regarding his or her continued employment is far, far better postured to copy documents without arousing suspicion than is a wife or husband who suspects the fidelity of his or her spouse.

C. The function of every business organization is dependent upon the social interactions of its members. It seems that while Sandra Peddie seems to be Newsday's point woman for the Reich case, Robert Kessler and others seem also to be in on the case, and, as alluded to above and in prior posts, other Newsday journalists who are not per se assigned to the Reich case seem to be socially interactive with Peddie and Kessler and others who are. This is the way a newspaper ought to run. But the corollary is that the collective Newsday organization probably has more -- lots more -- arrows in its quiver, which will be selectively and measuredly shot in a manner to best groom the story for Pulitzer Prize consideration or the like.

D. Notwithstanding the Ingerman Smith law firm's decision last July to rid itself of Reich, it seems that the attorneys there may have fallen somewhat short of the requirements of Disciplinary Rule 1-103, the so-called "rat rule" which requires attorneys in possession of information "that raises a substantial question as to another lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer" to squeal on their colleagues. There probably won't be any major disciplinary actions against the other Ingerman Smith attorneys who weren't double dipping, but I'm sure that nobody at Ingerman Smith is sleeping too well on account of it.

In Update #3, I stated that "[t]he case will, in all likelihood, get more interesting before it starts to get boring." For the next few weeks, this case is not about to get boring!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Driving Without a License & Judging with Too Much License

On 20 December 2007, Village Justice Thomas Liotti, the part-time judiciary official in the Village of Westbury, Nassau County, New York, threw out the unlicensed driving charge against illegal alien Rafael Quiroga-Puma because, reasoned Liotti, the New York statute which requires licensure unconstitutionally discriminates against illegal aliens such as Quiroga-Puma. Many of the real Americans in the blogosphere appropriately got upset over Liotti's decision.

But Liotti sustained the driving while uninsured charges against Quiroga-Puma in the aforementioned 20 December 2007 judgment, and now Quiroga-Puma has to reappear in Liotti's court.

Well, not quite! Quiroga-Puma's attorney made a big deal about the negative publicity the 20 December 2007 decision evoked from the real Americans, and built an argument that his client would be in peril of danger to his person were he to physically appear in the court. In response to Quiroga-Puma's attorney's concerns, Liotti issued another procedural opinion, which is:

A. A well-reasoned analysis of Quiroga-Puma's situation;
B. A rant to justify his 20 December 2007 decision;
C. A cogent argument for the New York State Legislature to make the Village Justice Courts more physically secure;
D. An egotistical self-laudatory screed designed to boost Liotti's political aspirations;
E. A well-written and interesting piece of reading.

The answer: F. All of the above.

Liotti's opinion dated 12 February 2008, which excuses Quiroga-Puma from physically appearing in Liotti's courtroom for the proceedings on the uninsured driving charge, can be accessed here.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Big Dipper: Update #3

I don't presently have time to do extensive commentary, but Newsday has been posting more articles related to the Larry Reich affair, and with by-lines not only by Sandra Peddie. Among the further developments: Two lawyers who formerly were partners in the Ingerman Smith law firm were also being listed, for state pension purposes, as full-time employees of the school districts their firm represented. And at least one school board member has it on good authority that he can expect a subpoena from the federal grand jury.

The case will, in all likelihood, get more interesting before it starts to get boring.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Big Dipper: Update #2

Why would a Federal grand jury be interested in someone who double-dipped at state punchbowl? The reason that first came to mind was tax fraud (though all of the monetary transactions were, presumably, reflected on the 1099s and W-2s and other such forms issued to Larry Reich. But it would have to be something financial, I figured.

Well, today's Newsday article shows the subpoened records being taken into custody by two Federal agents, an FBI guy and an IRS guy. Tax-related charges are likely in the offing!

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Power of Prayer

This is absolutely hilarious!

The Americans United for Separation of Church and State sicked the Internal Revenue Service on the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park and its pastor, Wiley Drake. So what does the Reverend Drake do? He implored his congregation to engage in "precatory prayer" against AU and its leaders. So far, so funny! But now, AU is actually unhinged about it!

Understand that I have no brief for FSBC of BP, nor for Rev. Drake. I have my deep religious differences with Rev. Drake, and with the Southern Baptists in particular. But neither do I support AU. Their true agenda goes beyond their purported "live and let live" message.

I consider it most comical -- and most telling -- that those who purport to push what amounts to an atheistic agenda are so intimidated by the prospect of Rev. Drake and his congregation praying to G-d for retribution against them.

Do any Voodoo practitioners out there care to get into the act?

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Big Dipper update

Update: As this Blog predicted (no great mentalist feat), the Lawrence Reich story has legs.

Newsday stories by Sandra Peddie in today's Newsday include "What did Law Firm Know about Pay Arrangement?" and "Official who Warned Reich now in Roslyn District." Newsday has also posted on its website a link to a smoking gun document indicating that Reich should have known that there may have been a problem with his remuneration arrangements.

And Newsday's regular resident pundit Ellis Henican's column today weighs in on Reich with the alliterative "Lawyer Larry Looks like he's Living Large." I am no fan of Ellis Henican, but this time he's right on the money. And I can just hear the whining letters Newsday will likely get from the fatso lobby, protesting Henican's observations regarding obesity.

The Larry Reich story isn't going to go away any time soon. But Larry might -- To a facility such as Allenwood, Danbury or Otisville.

Sit back and enjoy the fireworks!


The Big Dipper

The previous post to this Blog addresses the matter of Brenna Stewart, a NYC schoolteacher (who also happens to be (A) a lawyer; (B) a former New York State Court Officer and (C) terrorist/traitor Lynne Stewart's daughter) who now stands charged with various criminal offenses in connection with falsifications for her sick leave.

When the story about Lawrence W. Reich appeared on the front page of the 15 February 2008 edition of Newsday (the Internet edition posts the story at 4:24 PM EST on 14 February, so it didn't appear in the hard copy newsstand edition until the next day), I saw many parallels between his case and that of Brenna Stewart. Reich is an attorney in private practice who was listed by the school district he represented as a full-time school district employee for New York State Employees Retirement System pension purposes. Make that FIVE school districts! Apparently, Reich was not just double-dipping; he was quintuple-dipping!

And, thought I, if they're going after such a small fish (albeit an overweight one) as Brenna Stewart, then they should also be going after Reich, who, (in more than one sense of the word) is a bigger fish. Well, the front page of the next day's Newsday edition on 16 February 2008 reports that a federal grand jury is now interested in Reich's remuneration arrangements.

Now understand that Newsday is not my favorite rag (though I find that home delivery of the tabloid is a far less objectionable alternative than the New York Times), but every so often they break stories that keep various individuals in government honest, which is the way the news media are supposed to operate.

My comments on the matter:

A. Disclosure: A number of years ago, I had a case with Reich's former law firm, now known as Ingerman Smith but formerly known as Ingerman, Smith, Greenberg, Gross, Richmond, Heidelberger, Reich & Scricca. The matter was unrelated, and with an attorney other than Reich.

B. According to the news reports, Reich insists that he didn't know how the papers the school districts were filing with the New York State Employees Retirement System were characterizing him. I know that my wife receives periodic statements from NYSERS with respect to her own pension. Furthermore, it is a matter of public record that Reich was counsel for the respective school boards in the following cases involving school district employees and their compensation and retirement:

Hoerger v. Board of Education, 127 A.D.2d 88, 514 N.Y.S.2d 395 (2d Dept. 1987).

Board of Education v. Nyquist, 36 A.D.2d 199, 319 N.Y.S.2d 661 (3d Dept. 1971).

Methinks he should have had some idea as to what the NYSERS statements he received implied, and the papers filed by the respective school districts which gave rise to such statements!

C. Newsday got much of its info through requests to the various school boards, pursuant to New York's Freedom of Information Law, which basically is analogous to the federal Freedom of Information Act (albeit slightly more protective of the government). The school districts are not very large organizations at the administrative level; they are small enough that FOIL requests of any notability would quickly become known to those school district personnel who may be implicated by such requests. From my own experience with submitting FOIL requests over the years, I have reason to believe that such a process occurred in a larger and more complex New York State governmental unit.

D. Don't be surprised if the New York State Attorney General gets involved in the matter. As reported in the Newsday articles, the folks in Mr. Cuomo's office have effectively admitted that they are aware of the matter, and are determining what action, if any, they ought to take.

E. Though there is the obvious imperative to somehow punish (or at least touch the bank account of) Mr. Reich, there may be repercussions for some of the school district employees and/or administrators involved.

F. The Ingerman Smith law firm may well be in for some flak as well. As reported in the Newsday articles, the firm's correspondence with at least one of the school districts indicates that they knew of, and approved of, and acquiesced in the arrangement regarding Reich.

G. I do not think that we have heard the end of the matter, nor would I be surprised to see more Newsday articles under the by-line of Sandra Peddie, the Newsday reporter who wrote the aforementioned articles. The articles are obviously the result of many months of research legwork. If this matter really does blow up in everyone's face, then Ms. Peddie may be in for some professional accolades. Notwithstanding my gripes against Newsday, I would not begrudge Ms. Peddie one iota if she were to receive a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Lynne's (not so) Little Liars


"I don't object to Gladstone always having the ace of trumps up his sleeve, but merely to his belief that the Almighty put it there."

--- Attributed to British MP Henry Labouchere.

As reported here, here, here and here, a New York City schoolteacher now stands charged with forgery and criminal possession of a forged instrument, in connection with her alleged falsification of an excuse to take sick leave time off from work. The potential maximum jail time is 7 years.

It is very likely that someone has it in for this hapless schoolteacher. In many respects it just isn't fair. I'd say that I sympathize with this schoolteacher, except that I, too, am biased against her.

The schoolteacher in question is Brenna Stewart, who is the daughter of traitor, terrorist collaborator and former attorney Lynne F. Stewart. Brenna is also admitted to practice law.

According to the allegations, Brenna used a fake doctor's note purporting to document that she suffered from a contagious disease in order to substantiate her sick leave request. The physician who wrote the note was not licensed to practice in New York, but is licensed in Florida. This physician is Zenobia Brown, who is Brenna's sister (and Lynne Stewart's daughter). Brenna also submitted a purported doctor's note from a nonexistent physician.

Brenna is also accused of altering a copy of a relative's death certificate in order to substantiate funeral leave.

The leave was used by Brenna to attend mom's trial and sentencing.

As an attorney who (A) is married to a physician; (B) has approved sick leave requests from government bureaucrat subordinates; and (C) has occasionally given broad interpretation to the applicability of sick leave when managing his own personal attendance/absence from work, I shall make the following observations, in no particular order:

A. On one hand, if you take away all of the baggage carried by Lynne Stewart and her family, this then becomes a petty picayune penny-ass case. Can't the prosecutors find something else to do on their time and the public tax dollars? Why can't they just boot Brenna from her position as a teacher (removal proceedings reportedly have been initiated)?

B. On the other hand, a criminal conviction on some of the more serious charges would likely result in Brenna's disbarment as an attorney. Maybe the prosecutors ought to go for it!

C. If Brenna Stewart is taking sick leave, or annual leave, or any other kind of leave from her job, then that means she is not teaching the kids, which is not such a bad thing.

D. And while we're on the subject of Brenna's fitness (or lack thereof) to practice law, what about Brenna's sister Zenobia's fitness to practice medicine? In all of my 20+ years of marriage to a physician, I have yet to even ask my wife to document a nonexistent illness, contagious or otherwise. Because I know what her answer would be.

E. In most governmental offices, a bureaucrat can generally go out sick for a day or two without having to document any illness or medical situation. Why did Brenna have to document the sick leave in the first place? It usually is the chronic abusers of sick leave who are called upon to substantiate their need for sick leave, not the ordinary working bureaucrats.

F. As Charlie Halpin, my Personnel & Labor Relations professor, used to frequently tell us, employees come in to work when they are sick, and stay home when they are well. Charlie acknowledged to us that this was more than a little bit of a facetious and hyperbolic statement, but it does have more than a grain of truth in it. These so-called "mental health days" are frequently a wise use of sick leave for employer and employee alike. I myself functioned better overall when I could take a day off from work once in a while, and I noticed this phenomenon in some of the people I supervised. An employee who crosses the line from boredom to demoralization is not very productive, and his or her production is error-prone and quality-deficient. A "mental health day" now and then can work wonders.

G. Lynne Stewart's tendencies towards duplicity and falsehood seem to have been acquired by her two daughters. Is this genetics or environment?

H. To be sure, Brenna's mere attendance at her mother's trial and sentencing was, in and of itself, an appropriate and admirable act. Being there to give moral support to one's parents does not necessarily amount to condonation of their misdeeds. But Brenna should have been able to figure out, in short order, that the venue she was attending would be the subject of national and international attention in the news media. My father has frequently said to me (even as late as a few months ago) that if one is going to do wrong, one should at least do it right. Applying this maxim to Brenna, people who play sick should at least act sick, and not place themselves into positions where their alleged illness is likely to be questioned! What was Brenna doing in a crowded courtroom if she really had a contagious disease? Did she think that her presence in the courtroom when she was playing sick would actually go unnoticed by the folks back at school?

And so, to paraphrase Henry Labouchere, I do not object to Brenna Stewart taking loose liberties with her sick leave, but merely to her belief that her profligate use of the sick leave privilege should be beyond all question and account.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Healing Rabbi Weinberg

Healing Rabbi Weinberg

Rabbi Weinberg is one of my heroes. I shall not go into the details of my personal connection with him, other than to say that we have personally met on two occasions, the last of them being over 20 years ago, and that, for various reasons, he has had a very positive effect upon my life and upon many in my family.

Now, he is ill, and needs our spiritual help. Accordingly, I direct everyone to the Aish website for further details. Go and do what you need to do!

My comment: Many people have a severe aversion to using the word "cancer," and accordingly, will use terms such as "the dreaded disease" or the like. The Aish website only discloses that Rabbi Weinberg has "a serious illness." This may or may not be cancer, and for my purposes, the Rabbi's particular diagnosis is irrelevant.

Cancer is the one disease of adults which is actually curable (at least some forms)! People with diabetes or heart disease or pulmonary diseases may be able to control their afflictions, but they almost never are actually cured. The phobias surrounding cancer serve to impede a clear understanding of the malady amongst the general public. The way I see things, a frank and direct public approach to cancer would result in a higher cure rate.

Whatever the nature of Rabbi Weinberg's ailment, I wish him a refuah shleima, a complete and speedy recovery.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Glenn Winuk has Prevailed!

The 25 June 2007 posting for this Blog reported the victory of 9/11 hero Glenn Winuk's family in the Court of Federal Claims. The posting expressed the hope that "the Department of Justice will not appeal Judge Horn's well-reasoned and well-substantiated decision, so that Glenn Winuk's family can hold their heads up high in full knowledge that Glenn's heroic actions are appreciated, and that Glenn Winuk can have his hard-earned and dearly paid rest in peace."

Well, the Justice Department guys/gals did appeal, but, having second thoughts, moved to voluntarily dismiss the appeal. The on 10 January 2008, US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit granted the motion and dismissed the appeal. The LEXIS cite is 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 1640 (Fed.Cir. 2008).

So now Glenn Winuk is officially a hero. But we all knew that.

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