Goodbye 2010: That Was Another Year That Was
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The year in which the Queens Tribune celebrated its 40th Anniversary is coming to an end as I write this; economically, politically, and in most ways, 2010 was a not-too-compelling continuance of the several years before.
The world was wrapped in a shroud of recession and, in spite of signs of hope, Main St. Queens continued to struggle. The plague of unemployment had not yet abated. The folks from Long Island City to Little Neck spent with caution and worried that their retirement plans may be in jeopardy — except those who had no job - they just worried.
Politically, the Democrats paid a price for the economic situation. The House of Representatives will no longer be in their control and the Senate will no longer be filibuster-proof. In New York, the State Senate went back to Republican control – after the Democrats embarrassingly botched their first shot at control in more than a generation.
Hiram Monserrate is justifiably gone – shat on by his fellow Senate Dems after buying back his vote – and then defeated at the polls. Although not Queens, Pedro Espada is gone too – only he appears headed for a long stay at a different type of publically-run facility.
Aravella Simotas and Ed Braunstein are two new Queens electeds — Assemblymembers going to Albany to, well, be part of that mess. Mike Gianaris moved from the Assembly to a position of leadership for the messed up State Senate Dems – but in the minority.
David Paterson, a seemingly good man, ended his embarrassing service as Governor with a $62,125 fine for his ethical missteps in ripping off Yankee tickets. This final straw is symbolic of his very disappointing term in office.
It was another year for a late budget in New York – a very late budget with a deficit we’ll be paying off for generations. And a year where the Aqueduct Racino contract was finally awarded after being taken out of the hands of the legislators and governor when they appeared to be playing personal board games with the Monopoly money they thought they were entitled to spread around.
Emerging Past, a horror film centered on the psycho-adventure of Pam, a Tribune photographer, was shot in 2010 in our offices and our borough by locally-grown director Thomas Churchill. It won for Best Horror Feature at the New York City International Film Festival.
As a result of the 2010 Census, New York State will lose two seats in the House of Representatives, bringing our voting influence to an all-time low.
Tom White and Gloria D’Amico, two giants of the Queens political scene, left us to do their politicking in better places.
The long, drawn out pension scandal centered in the office of Comptroller Alan Hevesi drews to an end as the once fair-haired intellect of Queens politics, copped a guilty plea and acknowledges complicity.
Ed Koch reemerged from his movie watching and semi-private life to lead NY Uprising, an effort to bring reform to Albany – which will soon be tested as the legislature begins the budget process and plans for reapportionment.
The voters of New York City, for a third time, ratified a two-term limit for City officials – only the Charter Revision Commission presented them with the option of giving all present office-holders an extra term.
Our friend and Trib columnist who shares this page is leading the effort to get the question back on next year’s ballot to have the people’s two-term limit law take effect immediately.
At the end of a multi-year, multi-million dollar search, our new voting machine premiered to: a lack of privacy, malfunctions, poorly trained inspectors and result delays.
Our Junior Senator, Kirstin Gillibrand, emerged after her election as an effective leader, skillfully honchoing the 9-11 First Responders Health Care bill to a year-end passage.
Carl Paladino came out swinging and quickly disappeared into oblivion.
And son of Queens, Andrew Cuomo, takes the helm of a dysfunctional ship of New York State government and attempts to right a terribly listing, old, tired and corrupt vessel.
The Tribune, after 20 years, moved its offices to a sparkling new home one block north of the Cross Island in Whitestone and the second logo hand cut by my late father-in-law who crafted the original for our move 20 years ago, was hung in the new Tribune office.
And it was the first time in years that our whole family made it to the annual Tribune Holiday Party to wish to our friends and readers a Happy Holiday and May the New Year Bring only Good News to You and Yours.
May 2011 bring health, peace and prosperity.
Valcich’s Letter Blew Whistle, But What Was Follow-Up?
By HENRY STERN
The indictment of six people by the U.S. Attorney, with the assistance of the City Department of Investigation, broke open the CityTime scandal. ”Payrollgate” dwarfs many other thefts from the City of New York. This case is a biggie; it deserves a name of its own.
An early warning of serious problems with the contracts is laid out in a very specific six-page letter, written in February 2003, signed by Richard Valcich, who at the time was director of the Office of Payroll Administration, which was in charge of the project.
The Daily News, which was on the story first, ran Juan Gonzalez’s column on p3, the lead news page. The letter by Valcich was made available in response to a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request made by the News. Their reporter and columnist, Gonzalez, has been writing about the scandal for over a year. Several of his articles were published in the News over at least a year. Apparently, however, they were ignored by the authorities with the power to correct the situation.
As a result of recent revelations, a dozen new questions come to mind. We know it is easier to ask questions than to answer them, but the City pays millions of dollars to supervise these activities, in order to save the hundreds of millions that may be wasted because of failure to control a gang of thieves, not to mention the contract not being fulfilled.
1. Did Valcich send copies of his 2003 letter to anyone else besides the contractor?
2. Whom did he report to in the Mayor’s Office and the Comptroller’s Office?
3. Were they informed of the situation?
4. Did SAIC respond to Valcich’s letter in any way? If so, how?
5. Did Valcich have any relationship with any contractor after he retired in 2004?
6. Did he write anything at the time of his departure to indicate any concerns about the project?
7. What, if any, was his relationship with his successor, Joel Bondy? Did he recommend Bondy for the job?
8. How were Valcich and Bondy appointed to the OPA position in the first place? How long did Valcich serve? (The earliest reference on the web to his time at OPA is a March 1997 article.)
9. During his tenure, did Valcich ever have contact with oversight agencies, or city investigators, over the situation that was developing with SAIC?
10. Which staff member, if any, actually wrote the letter that Valcich signed? Are the employees who worked on this matter still with OPA?
11. What was the role of Comptroller William Thompson’s office in all this? He had leadership responsibility for OPA from 2002 until he left office in December 2009. Did he ever say or do anything about the ballooning costs? Was he aware of the problem? Did someone represent him in dealing with these matters?
12. Who in the mayor’s office had responsibility for OPA? Did Valcich and Bondy submit regular written reports dealing with the situation? If they did, who read the reports and what did they do about them? If they did not submit reports, who failed to demand them? If they submitted false reports, did anyone check them?
We ask today, what agencies, if any, are trying to find the answers to all the issues in this case? It will take some time to completely solve this massive case. We would hope there would be reports, from time to time, as facts are discovered by the probers.
The fraud here endured for six years. The investigation must not be as protracted as the wrongdoing. Although at first it appears like a case of “Who left the barn door open, and why,” it may turn out that there were more serious derelictions on the part of individuals with responsibility to oversee the contracts.
By the way, what ever happened to the payroll reporting system SAIC and others were supposed to produce?StarQuest@NYCivic.org