Monday, November 14, 2011

What's up with the attorney line in the budget?

There are a lot of questions about the 2011/2012 Stuyvesant budget.

Here is one question about the 2011 figures: Why the games with attorney fees?

Before we start, I have to make this clear: all expenses to deal with me up to now, the money spent by the town to date, in 2011, have been related entirely to their campaign against me in town court, at the town zoning board and at the town planning board.

NONE of the actions in the budget now and NONE of the money spent prior to October 26, 2011 were spent on actions which I initiated. THEY initiated all the actions and spent $100,000 based on their choice to hire a special prosecutor. The federal lawsuit has been covered by insurance up to now.

Now, I have sued the town, naturally. My article 78 is unlikely to be covered by insurance, unlike my federal civil right suit filed in March. Anyone in my shoes would have to sue them. They forced me to sue them.

In 2012, yes, they will have a lot of legal expenses based on suits that I filed against them. So, there will be legal expenses in 2012, just like in 2011. The 2011 expenses are from them hitting me and the 2012 expenses are from me hitting back.

Clear? 2011: them hitting me, 2012: me hitting them. Now, on to the budget... Note, they hit first. I'm exercising my right to self defense.

The town spent $90,000-100,000 on a special prosecutor for me in 2011, David R. Everett of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna. Those funds are mostly not in the 2011 budget.

The year is almost over. The money has already been spent. About half of the fees paid are actually in the budget, about $50,000 of the $100,00 spent.

Half the funds are not in the budget. The budget shows $95,000 in the bank. Does that mean the town really has $45,000 in the bank? Or where is the other $50,000 coming from? Or does the town owe David R. Everett and Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna another $50,000 and will pay out of the $95,000 that's still in the bank?

When the fees to the special prosecutor are in the budget, the funds are listed under the zoning and planning, not in the "town attorney" line. When David R. Everett of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna works on my case, his fees are applied to zoning and planning.

Here are the potential problems with the way the money is listed: 1) some of the money was spent in criminal court, not zoning or planning; 2) when Tal Rappleyea worked on the same issues, his fees were applied to the town attorney line.

In short, the listing of the expenses as entirely in zoning and planning, pretending that criminal court never happened, is a flat out lie. Listing these expenses as zoning and planning is not how the town usually handles the same kinds of bills in the past.

Why would the town do this? Here I have to speculate: 1) not to raise any red flags at the comptroller's office (a 450% increase in actual expenses in November 2011 over projected budget in January 2011 in the attorney line might trigger an automatic audit); 2) the town attorney's fee was set at $125 an hour in January at the organizational meeting, but David R. Everett of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna was paid at a much higher rate and the town never amended the pay schedule set at the beginning of the year.

Now, let's take a look at the 2012 figures, again concentrating on the attorney line. The proposed 2012 budget does not include any increase in town attorney expenses over the anticipated expenses of January 2011. Say what? Do they plan to fight at least 2 lawsuits with the same $30,000 they budgeted in 2011?

No. They will have $100,000 or more in additional legal expenses in 2012. As noted, it isn't clear how much carry over there is to handle these additional fees. They have $95,000 in the bank? Or $45,000? How can you cover perhaps $150,000 in fees with $45,000?

Why not raise the attorney line and put in the actual fees? Well, next year, they can legitimately claim to have been sued. When the comptroller comes and says, "Why so much increase?" they can say, "We were sued!" But that won't explain 1) why the expenses in 2011 before the suit and 2) why they didn't increase the budget in 2012 when the first suit (and there will be many) was already filed in October before the budget was made?

So, how much did the town spend on David R. Everett and Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna in 2011? Can't tell by looking at the budget. How much does the town expect to spend defending suits as a result of the stupid decision to hire David R. Everett of Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna? Can't tell by looking at the budget.

Is this even a budget? Looks like an exercise in creative accounting to me. If I was on the board, I would in no way vote for this possibly fraudulent document.

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