Written by Howard Weitzman Thursday, 03 October 2013 00:00
Threat of lawsuit, made at public expense, aims to silence political opposition
Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman announced that he received a letter from the law firm Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, at the behest of the Nassau County Attorney’s Office, threatening a lawsuit unless he retracts a complaint he filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The complaint, based on an investigative piece published by the Wall Street Journal, highlights evidence that Comptroller George Maragos’s annual financial report is misleading and that the County Attorney’s office colluded with a partisan Republican judge to ‘cook the books’ and misrepresent the county’s financial condition on the annual financial report.
“It is a new low for Mr. Maragos to use taxpayer dollars to hire an attorney to threaten his political opposition,” said Weitzman. “I have asked the SEC to look at the way Mr. Maragos and the administration manipulated county finances to claim that the county ended the year with a ‘miraculous’ surplus, when in fact the county has gone deeper into debt,”
This is the third attempt Republican leaders in Nassau County have made to keep Weitzman from disclosing the truth about the county’s financial reports. This month alone, Weitzman was twice denied the opportunity to testify at public hearings, even though the hearing notices explicitly stated that there would be time for public comment.
The thrust of Weitzman’s complaint is that Maragos and other county leaders misrepresented the county’s financial condition, thus misleading the public and county bond holders. The county’s 2012 official financial report prominently touts a surplus that is a total work of fiction. On the last business day of 2012, County Attorney John Ciampoli sought a controversial and highly unusual court order to push outstanding property tax refunds from 2012 to 2013, in order to make the county appear to have a budget surplus on its 2012 annual financial report, the last annual financial report before Maragos and County Executive Ed Mangano face re-election. Maragos has repeatedly defended the surplus, which he called “like a miracle,” noting that auditors have certified his report. Auditors never certified the claim of a budgetary surplus.
“Every CPA knows that you cannot hide behind the old ‘the auditors certified it, so it’s correct,’ line,” said Weitzman. “The county’s financial statements are the responsibility of the Comptroller, not outside auditors. Even so, auditors also certified statements by Enron, WorldCom, and Lehman Brothers before their misdeeds were exposed.”
The threatening letter received by Weitzman alleges that his complaint could have “the potential to seriously affect the County’s ability to obtain financing in the near future.” This claim is patently absurd because the only way the complaint could affect the county’s ability to obtain financing would be if the SEC finds that the financial statements falsely masked the County’s 2012 deficit. In that case, Weitzman’s concerns would be validated.
Counsel for Mr. Weitzman submitted a letter responding to the outside counsel hired at the behest of Mr. Maragos. In the letter, Weitzman’s attorney contends: “We will seek sanctions and attorneys fees in the event that you commence a frivolous lawsuit against Mr. Weitzman. We will be glad to use that opportunity to conduct discovery and expose the truth behind the ‘voodoo accounting’ upon which Mr. Maragos’ ‘miraculous’ surplus is based.”
County legislators have started to ask questions about the cost and appropriateness of Ciampoli’s actions. Concerns have been raised about whether it is appropriate to hire lawyers at public expense to intimidate critics of the administration.
From the Office of Howard Weitzman, Democratic Candidate for County Comptroller
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
Although Fuel Cafe is six years old, it's been a work in progress since new owners took over one-and one-half years ago. The main part of the cafe was recently redecorated and an adjoining room is soon to open. And though there's been several changes, the concept remains the same—this is a place where healthy and hearty food is served. The food is grilled or baked, never fried, and they do not use microwaves so everything is made to order.
With a menu of over 170 items and dozens of combinations of meats, vegetables, bread and more, be prepared to do a lot of reading to figure out what your meal will be.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
For the past six months, Hicksville resident Chris Collins has spent his days digging for fossils and his nights falling asleep to the sound of vervet monkeys and coyotes. As a teacher’s assistant at the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) in Kenya, Collins got a firsthand look at what it was like to live like an anthropologist.
Collins got his first taste of Turkana last year, as a student at the TBI field school which was founded by Stony Brook University and paleoanthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey. As a student, Collins spent four months learning about archeology, paleontology, geology, ecology and human evolution. What started as a study abroad experience, turned into a life changing experience as Collins soon found himself homesick for Africa.
Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00
As they come off their most successful season in 30 years, the Hicksville Boys basketball team faces a challenge in replicating last year's success. The 2012-13 season saw the Comets compile a 15-5 record and had their season ending in the Nassau County semifinals to rival Baldwin. According to Head Coach Phil Essigman, who is entering his 14th season with the varsity team, the team will feature only two returning players from last season. Last year’s team was incredibly deep and experienced and it is part of the “rollercoaster”, as he described it, of high school sports for teams to go through periods of grooming inexperienced players.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 00:00
Hicksville’s Mary-Jo Depaoli, and Nao Joe scored with awards on Sunday, November 17 in the 5th annual Blue Ribbon Run for Prostate Cancer, a 5 Kilometer road race that started and finished at Syosset-Woodbury Community Park.Depaoli crossed the finish line with a time of 23:01, earning her second place honors in the women’s 35-39 age group, and Joe finished the race with a time of 28:36, to earn third place in the women’s 30-34 age group, A record breaking total of 414 runners and walkers crossed the finish line.
The race was held by the Town of Oyster Bay and raised money to help in the fight against prostate cancer. Free prostate cancer screenings were offered on-site, as well as informative urology and men’s health exhibits, refreshments and prizes for participants.