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, March 23, 2008

Passport Snooping

The front page headlines are all making hay over the unauthorized snooping into the respective passport files of Barack Hussein Obama, John McCain and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Of course, this is a further symptom of the State Department's general incompetence. And, of course, Obama is now demanding an investigation into the matter.

To which I say, save the taxpayers' money!! Skip the investigation!! We already know what happened! Some State Department "contract employees" got curious, and accessed the passport files.

Unfortunately, these people were not employees (contract or otherwise) of the Internal Revenue Service. Because if they had been, they would have been subject to criminal misdemeanor penalties of fine and imprisonment, and also subject to civil damages lawsuits by the persons whose files were inspected.

Skip the investigation!! Congress already knows everything that it needs to know in order to pass the appropriate legislation to put State Department passport files on par with IRS tax files.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Big Dipper: Update #8

The New York State Union of Teachers has published its take on the double-dipping controversy. This 2-paragraph piece appears in the 13 March 2006 edition of NYSUT's party line paper, New York Teacher, on page 6:
"Wasteful spending contributes to property tax issues.

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi said that Newsday's investigation into school district expenditures on law firms shows that wasteful spending is a contributor to rising property taxes affecting communities statewide.

Because of the property tax increases, some lawmakers are calling for tax caps that would impose limits on the amount public schools could increase spending in any given year. NYSUT has opposed these caps, saying they would curb investment in public schools. They have hurt education in other states where they have been implemented and would lock in disparities that exist among school districts throughout the state, NYSUT leaders say."


Hold it right there!! It's wrong for the school districts to waste the taxpayers' money on pensions for outside attorneys, but its okay when the NYSUT milks the taxpayers with the teacher pension costs? Milorganite!!!!

Howcum whenever my household has a cash crunch, we have to cap our spending, but when the school districts have a cash crunch the just raise taxes?

Why can't my wife and I just ask our employers for a salary increase whenever our household spending crosses the line?

NYSUT costs the taxpayers far, far more than Larry Reich costs us. Dick Iannuzzi is one big hypocrite!!!

Why can't the school districts and the teacher's unions live within their budgets, just like the rest of us?

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Big Dipper: Update #7

Now that soon-to-be ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer has pushed everyone else off the front pages of the New York newspapers (in the case of Newsday, the front 8 pages), the developments of the big double-dipping story are hidden away in the back sections.

Now, it seems that New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has ratcheted things up a bit by requesting all Long Island special districts (school, fire, water, etc.) under his cognizance to name all persons who have been or may have been misclassified, per the IRS standards, as employees instead of independent contractors.

The story thread will be riding the back of the bus for the next week or two until Spitzer is finally sent to his room, which means that everyone connected with the double-dipping affair can do what they need to do (including lawyers who need to make deals for their clients) without the distraction of too much public attention.

Once the Spitzer story tones down, there likely will be some further developments to report.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Other Job Opening in Albany

In keeping with usual practice, I shall forgo the "me, too" postings regarding the Spitzer affair, though please be assured that I (a) am gratified to see an arrogant and power-mad control freak get his come-uppance; (b) sympathize with the prime victims of the crime, namely the wife and 3 daughters; and (c) am getting plenty of smiles in with the Eliot Spitzer jokes and limericks which have already begun to make their way around space and cyberspace.

One ironic aspect of the Spitzer story which isn't receiving much attention, however, is the appearance of the following classified employment ad on page 41 of the New York Law Journal of Monday, 11 March 2008, the very day the Spitzer story broke in the news:

Assistant Counsel to the Governor

The New York State Governor's Office seeks candidates for the position of Assistant Counsel to the Governor, in Albany, NY. The Governor's Counsel's Office provides legal advice to the Governor and Executive Chamber staff, drafts and negotiates bills, aids in the implementation of policy agency initiatives, oversees significant litigation, and provides advice on bills presented for approval. Candidates must be admitted to practice law in NY; possess superior writing, interpersonal and negotiating skills; work well within a small group; and be willing to dedicate long hours to complex matters. Other governmental experience and a minimum of 5 years of legal practice is preferred. E-mail resumes by March 14, 2008 to: acjob@chamber.state.ny.us. EOE


"provides legal advice to the Governor."

I think that Mr. Spitzer will now need plenty of that!
And what are the odds that Silda will engage (or already has engaged) Raoul Lionel Felder?

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Big Dipper: Update #6:


Some more slanted journalism from Newsday (what else is new?). I happen to support the cause towards which Newsday's journalism is slanted, but it is slanted journalism just the same.

The office of New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has issued an official report which finds that Larry Reich was misclassified as an employee of 5 different Long Island school districts. He should have been classified as an independent contractor, and, more to the point, he should not have been logging time as an employee for New York State pension purposes.

The specific finding in DiNapoli's report is "District officials should submit corrected retirement reports to ERS [Employee Retirement System] related to Mr. Reich."

Newsday's headline, however, is "NY Comptroller: Attorney has to Pay Back Pension."

First of all, the DiNapoli report is, at this moment in time, nothing more than a recommendation. The affected school districts have 90 days to come up with some sort of corrective action. The most logical corrective action would, in fact, entail a reimbursement from Larry Reich. But Newsday is a bit ahead of the process.

In Big Dipper Update #4 (26 February 2008) I speculated whether Janet Wilson, the Harborfields School District Superintendent, was Newsday's source of a certain document. DiNapoli's report does not directly answer that question, but it does state that "In August 2006, OSC [Office of the State Comptroller] received an anonymous complaint concerning the Harborfields Central School District. Among other issues, the complaint alleged that the District had classified an attorney, Mr. Lawrence Reich, as an employee while at the same time, paying his law firm a retainer for legal services." This is no proof of the Newsday source, but neither is it inconsistent with the proposition that Janet was their girl.

As far as the State of New York and its pension system goes, this presents an opportunity for all the double-dipping school attorneys to resolve their pension issues and avoid criminal prosecution.

But there still is the matter of the Federal grand jury, and the involvement of the IRS. The way I am now calling it: There may well be some tax fraud issues above and beyond the pension adjustment issues.

Nous verrons ce que nous verrons!

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

BIg Dipper Update: #5

Can't really go into details now, what with my many deadlines and busy schedule.

The sensational Newsday stories by Sandra Peddie, Eden Laiken and Robert Kessler seem to have gone quiescent, at least for now. But there are comments by Newsday's columnists and writers of letters to the editor.

But once the grand jury comes out with a true bill, everything else will likely be pushed aside to make way for the story on Newsday's front page.

Unless ... Peddie, Laiken and/or Kessler have something in the oven right now, some new angle, some new smoking gun document.

But what if? What if the Federal grand jury does not come up with enough evidence for a criminal indictment?

Well, NY AG Andrew Cuomo's office is investigating. There may be some state criminal indictments.

And there may be some civil causes of action as well. Suppose, for example, that in connection with the employment of Larry Reich or Carol Hoffman or any of the other attorneys who double-dipped, one or more of the school districts received more reimbursement from Federal funds than they were really entitled? This might be the basis for a qui tam False Claims Act action by a private party.

[Disclosure: I once had a FCA case in my legal practice. Uncle Sam settled with my client, and it never made the law books or the newspapers. The rest of the story, interesting as it may be, must remain in the attorney-client privilege file.].

And the involvement of the IRS guy, as noted in the 20 February posting, leads me to belive that there may be evidence of more than just a mix-up of the wrong colors of money.

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