Written by Howard Weitzman Thursday, 10 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.
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 00:00
First Presbyterian Church is a hub of activity in November as it holds its annual Victorian Fair and holiday luncheon, on Nov. 22 and 23, traditionally the start of the holidays in Oyster Bay.
On Tuesday, Nov. 19, as the hall was being set up for the Victorian Fair, we asked if the rummage sale would be in the basement again. Isa Gutierrez said, “Oh, no. It’s our Granny’s Attic sale, we don’t call it a Rummage Sale.”
True, the Episcopalians, across the street at Christ Church, call it a Rummage Sale, following their English tradition. The Presbyterians have Scottish roots, which was evident on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 1. “It is our St. Andrew’s Day Worship, it is close to the actual day, and in keeping with the church’s Scottish roots, people will wear tartan plaids. It’s done in many Presbyterian churches,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Prey.
Saturday, 30 November 2013 00:00
On a crisp November evening, more than 200 people arrived at Chelsea Mansion in East Norwich for the Long Island Jewish Community Relations Council Holiday Party, "Multicultural Visions, Artists Exploring Identity." People from all ethnic and religious walks of life mingled under the heated tent viewing art from six local artists, equally as diverse.
There was Stanley Covington, an African American artist from Hempstead; Paul Kolker, a Jewish doctor, lawyer, and artist from Westbury; Rene Efi Hakimian, a Persian Jew from Great Neck; Simon Zareh a Jewish Iranian art collector from Rosyln; Lisbeh Herrera, a Nicaraguan American artist from Bayshore (her husband and children were present but not the artist); and Manu Kaur Saluja, a Sikh artist from Old Brookville now living in Queens. While guests and many politicians viewed the magnificent art and chatted with the artists, the background was filled with beautiful music played by high school students from Suffolk County Asian American Advisory Board Orchestra. Talk about diversity.
Thursday, 28 November 2013 00:00
Nicole Giannetti entered her third cross country state meet in her career with one goal in mind: to place in the top 20 and earn an all-state medal. After finishing 38th in 2011 and 26th in 2010, the goal was definitely within her reach.
“She was ranked 25th according to one website, so we knew it was going to be close,” said Coach Kevin Cotter. “After looking at some of the times of her competitors, I told her she could potentially finish in the top 10. If she fell short, at least she would still remain in the top 20 and earn that elusive medal.”
Thursday, 28 November 2013 00:00
News 12 Long Island has selected senior Katrina Garry of Locust Valley as a News 12 Long Island Scholar Athlete for the 2013-14 season. Now in its 27th year, the weekly award recognizes outstanding ability by high school seniors in athletics, scholarship, leadership and service to others.
Garry was interviewed by News 12 about her achievements and this award earlier this month; the segment aired Wednesday, Nov. 6 and can be viewed by heading to www.longisland.news12.com/multimedia/scholar-athlete-trina-garry-1.6394824.