The City Council’s Own Appalachian Arrangement?
By Gary Tilzer
“Someone intentionally designed this scheme. It was no mistake.” Norman Siegel
Siegel was talking about U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia’s investigation of the City Council’s appropriations of member item discretionary funds to fake non existing non profits. Unrelated to Garcia’s investigation Siegel brilliantly filed a tax payers lawsuit against the council’s member item system that was designed to get at the truth of Tammany corruption over 150 years ago.
This crack into what the federal prosecutors are up to came up when they asked for a delay in Manhattan Supreme Court of civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel request for an inquiry on behalf of eight New York taxpayers. The inquiry would not determine guilt or innocence, but would merely lay out the facts surrounding the case for public review. The inquiry being sought is known as a judicial summary inquiry, and it comes from a rarely used section of the City Charter. The section, 1109, was created in 1873, a product of the Boss Tweed era, when the New York politician William M. Tweed bilked the city of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Holding a judicial inquiry before the federal investigation is complete would make it virtually impossible for the authorities to prosecute anyone because testimony from the inquiry is not permissible in a criminal proceeding.
It clear the U.S. is looking to do something and remember many of the major players have all hired lawyers.
Garcia’s inquiry has led to the hiring by council members of three different criminal defense law firms and a tax payer lawsuit by Siegel himself. The city is paying the bill for Lee S. Richards III, a former federal prosecutor for Speaker Quinn and for Sullivan & Cromwell, a firm that the council has hired to assist in responding to the federal investigations. Former speaker Gifford Miller has hired Henry Putzel III, as his lawyer, with his own money. It has not been reported if former speaker Peter Vallone who has been interview by the U.S. Attorney has hired his own lawyer.
Let’s now look at how this developing story has been reported or not reported in the local media and what kind of job the reports did in informing the public what is really going on
After reading John Eligon New York Times article on June 27, 2008 titled, "U.S. Inquiry Into Funding by Council Is to End Soon," the reader is left wondering what the U.S. Attorney was investigating. Eligon did not even mention that councilmembers were lawyer-up, and why? Eligon was so busy spinning that the investigation was ending and attacking Siegel that he overlooked several other main points. Is Garcia getting ready to prove an organized criminal conspiracy as Norman Siegel charged? Was the crime intentionally designed by Quinn, Miller or others to rip off the city for their friends and supporters? Is Garcia being helped by an inside informer who was part of a conspiracy to help build his case? Who would the grand jury indict? Councilmembers? Lobbyist? A-Rod?
From the New York Times: “A federal investigation into the City Council’s appropriation of funds to fictitious groups should conclude within 90 days, a prosecutor said on Thursday. But the prosecutor, Rua M. Kelly, an assistant United States attorney who spoke at a hearing in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to determine whether the court would hold a separate public inquiry, did not indicate whether anyone would be charged.” - New York Times, June 27, 2008
The Times writer continued to downgrade the investigation by adding the following spin line to his story “If she does indeed grant it”: “The U.S Attorney asked Justice Joan B. Lobis of State Supreme Court in Manhattan to delay any public inquiry for 90 days if she does indeed grant it. Mr. Siegel said he was fine with a 90-day stay and, in fact, welcomed Ms. Kelly’s news that the federal investigation was nearing completion.” – New York Times, June 27, 2008
Nowhere in the Times' article, was the fact that Garcia’s office could request an extension on the 90 day delay. That came out in a Daily News story by Frank Lombardi three days earlier. “Garcia’s office wants the inquiry, which has yet to be approved by the court, postponed for 90 days, with possible extensions.” – New York Daily News, June 24, 2008
Also not in the Times story, but included in Lombardi’s Daily News story was who was a target of Siegel’s suit: "It seeks to have officials such as Mayor Bloomberg and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Quinn and her two predecessors as speakers, as well as current and former Council budget aides, testify under oath.” – New York Daily News, June 24, 2008
The Times story did include a hit by a city lawyer against Siegel, which had noting to do with the point of the story: “Stephen Kitzinger, a lawyer for the city, said he believed Mr. Siegel’s request for a public inquiry was motivated by his desire to run for public advocate, an office he has sought twice before, in 2001 and 2005. “It would appear that this is a publicity stunt designed to promote a campaign,” Mr. Kitzinger said in court.” - New York Times, June 27, 2008
Since when is getting at the truth a stunt? That is the job of any good journalist.