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.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

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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