Saturday, April 30, 2011

widespread problems

Cross posted at

Five reports or releases on the Comptroller’s website release in the past five years reveal irregularities, with financial problems in Clermont, Greenpoint, Kinderhook, Hudson, New Lebanon and the Germantown school district. (Town of New Lebanon 2010M-239; Town of Clermont 2010M-55, Audit Finds $19,000 in Questionable Charges in The City of Hudson, July 9, 2007; Germantown Follow Up, January 29, 2010; DiNapoli Investigation Leads to Embezzlement Guilty Plea, March 01, 2011)

How did this HUGE local story not get in the paper? This report is hot: New Lebanon is not looking good. This is 5 days old! Here is the meat:
Internal controls over wire transfers were not appropriately designed and operating effectively to safeguard Town assets. The Board did not establish written policies or procedures for wire transfers. Consequently, online access to the Town’s bank accounts is not effectively limited. For example, the Supervisor, bookkeeper, and accountant (who is not a Town employee) all have online access to the Town’s bank accounts via a shared user name and password. In addition, the Town does not require confirmations from the bank prior to wire transfers being completed. Furthermore, all 41 of the wire transfers we tested, totaling $949,498, lacked documentation identifying the individual who initiated the transfer, and five of those, totaling $62,195, lacked documentation as to the purpose of the transfer. Due to these control weaknesses, the Board cannot be sure who initiates wire transfers, or if they are appropriate.
Internal controls over purchasing were not adequate. As a result, Town officials made purchases of highway materials totaling $84,570 without properly soliciting or awarding bids, and made procurements of goods and services, such as for the rental of equipment, totaling $36,356 without using requests for proposals or solicting written quotes, as required. The failure to comply with legal requirements and Town policies increases the risk that the Town could overspend for goods and services.
Internal controls over IT are not appropriately designed. The Board has not established policies or procedures for the back up of Town and Court data and remote access to the Town’s computers, or adopted a formal disaster recovery plan. Additionally, backup copies of the Town’s financial data are not stored in a remote location or tested to ensure that the data can be restored. In addition, the Court’s case management application has not been backed up, or tested, since January 2009. As a result, there is an increased risk of loss of important data along with a serious interruption to Town operations, such as not being able to process vendor claims or operate the Justice Court.

Clermont giving away the store?

The Board has not adopted a policy nor have Town officials developed procedures to govern the level of unreserved, unappropriated fund balance to be maintained and/or to determine whether the amount maintained is reasonable. In recent years, the Board has generally adopted highway fund budgets that under-estimated revenues and over-estimated expenditures, which generally resulted in annual increases to the amount of total fund balance. Actual sales tax revenues were also higher than estimates in the general fund over this time period, contributing to that fund’s excessive fund balance. Further, Town budgets have not always included sufficient appropriated fund balance to help offset highway fund property taxes in ensuing years’ budgets. These budgeting practices have resulted in excessive general fund and highway fund balances. At fiscal year end December 31, 2009, the general fund unreserved, unappropriated fund balance was reported at $322,688, 102 percent of the ensuing year’s total budgetary appropriations of $316,395. The highway fund unreserved, unappropriated fund balance was $175,279, 64 percent of the ensuing year’s total budgetary appropriations of $274,215. Collectively, these factors have contributed to the highway fund levying more property taxes than necessary to fund operations. In addition, Town officials did not properly establish a capital reserve fund, totaling $97,305, in the highway fund.
The Town’s procurement policy does not address the procurement of professional services. As a result of this lack of policy direction, the Town spent about $100,750 for professional services without seeking competition and did not enter into written agreements with these service providers. In addition, the Town, in conjunction with two neighboring towns, acquired a used paving machine for $28,000 without complying with competitive bidding requirements. As a result, Town officials may have paid more than necessary to procure these professional services and the paver. Additionally, the Town paid a contractor $6,000 prior to services being rendered without the legal authority to do so. This and two additional payments to the contractor, totaling $18,000, did not follow proper claim voucher processing procedures. Making payments prior to services being rendered or goods being delivered increases the risk that a vendor could collect payment and then not deliver the agreed upon services. Furthermore, the practice of making payments outside of the normal claim voucher process increases the risk of unauthorized or inappropriate payments being made and not detected in a timely manner.
During our audit period, Town officials donated approximately $24,000 in Town funds to outside service organizations. We believe that $10,000 of the donations were not appropriate because they were for events considered social in nature, which did not further legally authorized Town purposes. While some of these monies were for allowable youth programs promoting a Town purpose, the Town did not have a written contract with the organization providing the service, as required by law.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


" Local boards, such as planning boards, zoning boards of appeals, historic preservation boards and environmental quality review boards, are subject to standard rules of administrative law and do not have unfettered decision-making authority. They may make a decision only when all of the requirements specified in state statute or local law are addressed... The Court of Appeals has clearly held that generalized community opposition, in the absence of substantial evidence relating to the substantive legal grounds for making a determination, cannot constitute support for the denial of an application."

-- NY Department of State

"It is not sufficient to simply enact a Code of Ethics and then ignore it. Local government officials need to ACT continuously on their entity’s code of ethics:
Adopt a Code of Ethics setting forth standards of conduct for all officials and employees
Conduct periodic reviews of the code to ensure it still adequately addresses the expected conduct and remains a current and meaningful document
Train all officials about the code and emerging ethics issues to help them understand and comply with ethics requirements."

-- New York State Comptroller

"But, even with the best of intentions, an ethics board dominated by administration insiders cannot exercise independent judgment and oversight."

-- NYS Bar

"The prohibited contract provisions of Article 18 should be replaced with a strong and comprehensive recusal requirement covering not just contracts but also applications and any other authorizations and actions sought from an officer or employee of the municipality who exercises power with respect to the contract, application, authorization, or action. Article 18 should be revised to also include a comprehensive and sensible code of ethics."

"Section 808(2) contemplates that county ethics boards, if they exist, will render advisory opinions to officials of municipalities within the county under Article 18 and the municipality’s local ethics code, unless the municipality has its own local ethics board. But few county ethics boards will in fact do so."

"Enforcement offers the single most potent educational tool for ethics training. Currently, Article 18 contains no civil enforcement provisions, except in the financial disclosure context. "

"In municipalities where the ethics board does have enforcement power, either as required by Article 18 or as authorized by the local governing body, the law should specify the due process mechanism for conducting investigations of potential violations, for enforcement proceedings those violations before the ethics board, and for penalizing such violations. The types and limits of the penalties must also be clearly stated, and local ethics boards should be required to adopt due process rules of procedure for investigating complaints and conducting enforcement actions – before a complaint is received or an investigation is required."

"Unlike a request for ethics advice, an ethics complaint can normally be filed by anyone – even anonymously – or the board may initiate an investigation on its own. The law must grant ethics boards investigative authority and subpoena power. As discussed above, a municipality that does not wish to give its own local ethics board such power may contract with another ethics board, such as the county ethics board, to enforce Article 18 in that municipality, although absent a local ethics board with full advisory and enforcement power, a municipality should not be permitted to enact a local ethics code."

"As local governments are increasingly facing the need to conduct internal investigations of agency/departmental/ employee actions, the state should be required to provide guidance regarding proper process and procedure in such matters."

"In 2010, local government also came under scrutiny and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli proposed revising the General Municipal Law and making other changes to improve municipal ethics. The bill, which was more limited than the proposals presented in this report by the Task Force, was not enacted."

"The Task Force has been charged with answering the question, “What is the proper level of disclosure for attorneys in public service?” To answer, further questions must be asked: What is the purpose of public service? What can fairly be required of public servants? Should disclosure rules be different for attorneys than for other public servants? In the pursuit of the answers to these questions, we have reviewed and discussed the New York City Bar Report on attorney-client disclosure,1 the bill passed by the Legislature (S.6457) in the 2010 session and its subsequent veto by Governor Paterson,2 other bills pending in the 2010 session of the State Legislature, several public disclosure laws across the country,3 existing State disclosure laws and annual financial disclosure statements submitted by legislators.4 As members of a task force within the State Bar Association, we are also cognizant of the direction from the House of Delegates that “disclosure rules should not be unduly burdensome, so that compliance would discourage attorneys from participating in government” and that “[e]thics laws provide transparency in government including disclosure of business and professional interests.”5 The rules of disclosure should not, to the extent practicable, discourage public service by any honest, qualified person."

-- BAR

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

birthers and barkers: witchcraft in 2011

What does Obama's birth certificate have to do with this this physics paper?

Nationally, some people believe Obama was not born in the US although the story makes no sense. Even if he were born in Kenya, he would still be an American citizen. To believe the story, you have to think that two young people, 18 and 25 years old, flew from Hawaii to Kenya in 1961, which would have cost about 3 years salary, and secretly renounced Ann's citizenship, Barack's mother. It just can't be true.

Locally, some people believe that if you have 15 times as many dogs and are 15 times farther away you make 15 times as much noise when in fact the laws of physics as established based on the surface area of a sphere as described in 100 AD preclude this possibility. It just can't be true.

People believe stuff because they would like it to be true for political reasons. No matter how hard you might wish it were true, if it isn't true, it isn't true.

In both cases it is very easy to disprove the charge. People were convicted of witchcraft in New York State... to wit, the 1665 witchcraft statue, as per THE CASES OF HALL AND HARRISON, At the Court of Assizes held in New Yorke the 2d day of October 1665 etc. has never been repealed.

Doesn't mean people are in fact making their neighbors sick with voodoo. But if they are, you can still bring the charge. I mean, the 1978 law against dog barking in the town of Stuyvesant went unenforced for 30+ years. I was charged under this law although the charge defies the laws of physics more surely than a charge of witchcraft.

It would be just as fair to charge someone with witchcraft under the 1665 statute in Stuyvesant as to charge me under the 1978 statute. Didn't stop the town government from doing just that.

roby and bertram

Controversy: Martin Roby versus Valerie Bertram, supervisors of Stuyvesant full version.

Here is the short version (correction) of the back and forth between Bertram and Roby linked at the top of this post:

The supervisor has interjected herself into a planning board process. Is this normal or helpful?

Some of the statements of the supervisor appear to be inaccurate: Chatham does have a noise ordinance. The PS21 tests were not conducted according to the DEC guidelines discussed but with the town's sound ordinance as the governing legal authority, a sound ordinance would be legally binding

The PS21 results did go to state court, an article 78 filed against the town by a neighbor of PS21. The case was dismissed at the state level and the issue of the DEC standards did not come up and is not relevant, as claimed by Valerie Bertram, apparently. Bertram is apparently right that the case went to court but that this decision justifies the use of the DEC guidelines is wrong.

I am glad that Ms. Bertram is engaging with the public on issues before the town. This has not always been the case, say, with the missing money from the attorney invoice line in the 2009 budget or the boat club assessment. However, if Ms. Bertram's statement in January in our private meeting is to be taken on face value, there may be unethical aspects to engagement on this particular issue now in April (planning board and supervisor issue) but I am no expert on the matter. I only report what she said to me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

planning board again: I stand accused of violating the laws of physics and creating too many jobs

I had to work. Here is the audio of the meeting last night. Here is what I would say about it from my point of view:

1) I did invite the planning board to a sound test in February and no one responded. In fact, Tom Shanahan said it was ex parte communication.

The board is mad that I didn't invite them to my sound test in April. When I did invite them to my sound test in February, they were mad that I sent an email to all the members of the board.

You know when I say something like that, I have the links to prove it. Don't temp me: I can always prove everything I say.

2) It is standard procedure to have applicant hire consultant and board review it. This test would not be necessary had the board attended the test in February.

3) I did the sound test on the one and only day available until June, likely. Yet, members of the board are not happy about the 1) the speed at which this is being resolved, saying I am dragging the process out, and 2) that I did the test too quickly and efficiently.

I am both dragging my feet and acting too quickly. I am both complying with their requests too efficiently and professionally and not taking the process seriously.

4) The charge against me is clearly false, as demonstrated since last Fall. The charge defies the laws of physics and you don't need to do a sound test or hold meeting after meeting to dismiss this charge. It can't be. There is no evidence that the charge is true. Lots of evidence that the charge is false. I have done every single thing they asked me to do.

The charge is impossible. Other charges are irrelevant. Dismiss the case on the grounds that not only didn't I do what I am accused of, I can't do it even when I try my damnedest because it is impossible.

IMPOSSIBLE! Find someone who can do algebra and use google to say it is possible. Just go on the record and say the charge could be true in this universe.

Do some simple algebra. Google "decay of sound over distance." Go get that app I used, MotionX for iPad and iPhone and measure the distances.


5) Ray Jurkowski, Principal, Morris Associates, Greenport, NY will apparently review the report.

6) The truth: because sound decays at the inverse square of distance the charge that my dogs produce more barking than the barking produced by a normal residence is impossible. I proved that in October. I know that this point, number 6, is exactly the same as number 4 but I just can't repeat it enough.

7) The request for my workman's comp insurance is new. The board member who requested this did not specify workman's comp in the past. The reason she wants to see my workman's comp documents it to prove that I have had more than 2 employees at some point in order to shut my business down for creating too many jobs.

8) In the past, Tom Shanahan of the Shanahan Group, an Albany lobbying firm, has taken me to task for creating too many jobs. This charge has not dropped off the radar screen.

Sadly, the charge is not true. We're it true! I could only dream. But no. I can't create that many jobs because I am spending all the money I would have invested in the local economy on sound engineers and lawyers to prove that I am innocent of a charge which defies the rules of the universe we live in for which the other side has not a shred of evidence that any of their multiple charges are true.

9) The lawyer for the Planning Board, David Everette, accused my side of being slow. However, I am before the planning board because I offered to settle the dispute in December. I voluntarily went to the planning board to approve the settlement, although negotiations were not finished and not conducted in good faith on the town side. The board chose to have public comments. The board requested a sound test. If the board had approved the settlement in January as I requested we would be done already.

The board is dragging this out and stalling. The board is introducing new conditions. The board is requesting irrelevant information.

Monday, April 25, 2011

mountains of video and audio

Here is video from June 2010 of me leaving my property (about 5 minutes) walking through the village (about 8 minutes) and returning to my property. You will note that I demonstrate that there are a number of dogs on my property, all out in the yard enjoying the weather. On this day there were in excess of 25 dogs I believe and can get the exact number easily.

Here is the sound test conducted on February 19, 2011 to which all the members of the town board and planning board were invited but declined to attend:

There were over 30 dogs on my property at this time and no measurable increase in sound at the road.

Here is some video from the sound test of April 16, 2011. The only dog you hear in this video is not on my property although there are 31 dogs on my property at this moment, all out in the yard.

Here is sound engineer Ken Andria comparing the decibel measuring app I used on my ipad in February with his B&K instrument, showing that the iPad is sufficient to measure the phenomenon.

The next 5 minutes were recorded by engineer while running other audio equipment (report in production). The next two videos are from different video recorders recording overlapping time. One is recording down by the road near the complaining neighbors and the other is right in the barn with the dogs. When the dogs are loud in the barn, they can barely be heard by the road.

That was the road. Here is the barn at the same time. The first two minutes are before the previous video. At 2:20 the sound test starts. At about 5 minutes I really get the dogs to bark. The audio device was right on the other side of the fence when I used the cat to get the dogs to bark.

Here are about 2 minutes shot on April 22 by the post office in Stuyvesant Falls.

Here is the same walk I did in June 2010 more or less on April 17, 2011. Again, I start on my property with about 28 dogs (plus my 3) walk into the hamlet and back to my barn and demonstrate that I have a large number of dogs present.

Here is audio of the same.

Here is the video of Saturday April 23, 2011. In the first 5 minutes I'm on my property with more than 30 dogs present. In the second 5 minutes or so I'm in the village. The last 5 minutes show me walking back to my property and into the barn to demonstrate the number of dogs.

Here is the audio of the same.

Here is the video made by Frederick Platt on December 30, 2010 on which I was issued a ticket punishable by up to 15 days in jail and the basis for the revocation of my permit to operate my business, I guess, although that action (revocation) was taken on August 9, 2010. Clearly, even when the video is shot by my opponent on a day when I had over 70 dogs present, at his property, the noise generated is in no way loud. If the noise is not loud, then I am not in violation of any conceivable statute.

Here is some video from June 2010 with a lot of dogs not barking:

As to habitual and loud barking, here are 8 minutes shot on April 21, 2011 which contain few barks and no loud or persistent barking.

Here is July 2009 with 16 minutes on my property and no barking:

Here are 5 minutes from April 15 with no barking:

Here is April 14 with 7 minutes and not much barking:

I could go on showing no barking for years.

In addition to 37 statements of support (including 2 from Yerick/Platt, from Mike Campbell and Shanna Pickwick -- the closest neighbors), the open house inviting the whole town into the barn (2 planning board and 1 zoning attended or came by later), and a physics paper proving the charge is impossible, I also have video showing that on many occasions my property produced a fraction of the barking caused by many of the neighbors.

Except for Platt/Yerick, who have given me statements of support in 2009 and 2010, none of the other complainers live within 1500 feet and they all mention issues other than barking in their letters.

Even the video made by Platt himself proves that the charge is impossible, as shown in the physics paper. I didn't need to make any video: just look at what the other side made.

And the sound report by Ken Andria will show the same thing: other dogs barking are much louder than my dogs even when I hold a cat over the fence to provoke them to bark in the corner of the yard closest to the road.

I wanted to put all the video in one place. I could take the passwords off, let anyone see it all.

The charge of loud barking (persistent or otherwise) is simply and obviously and completely false. I have proven that it is false although it is actually not my job to disprove a charge but for someone to prove that it is true.

This should have some bearing of what the board decides to do.

Monday, April 18, 2011

mock it like a serb

The New York Times suggest mockery is the key to political change.

I would not want to argue with or dispute something printed in the Grey Lady, The Paper of Record. No. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

dog signs

Over at wikicoconews, I write about power lines and nuts and cheats.

If you see one of these dog signs around, and I hope you do, here is what they stand for:

For the right to work and feed our families / Against government micromanagement of business 

For the civil rights lawsuit against Stuyvesant /Against Stuyvesant's politically motivated harassment of Glencadia Dog Camp

For equal protection for all  / Against government abuse of power

For constitutional protections and open government / Against government corruption and waste

One of those ought to cover it. Maybe not all. Maybe all. We'll see. Something like that.

Want a sign? Come on over and pick one up. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


My dog barking charge was adjourned.

I talk more about this on my other blog.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

3 blogs

I know it's kind of crazy for one person to have 3 blogs, but I do. One is for daily news and I try to update it every day. Here is Wikicoco News. Sunshine on the Hudson (this one) one here is for longer sort of "stories" -- single issue posts. And the third one is for dogs: here.

This site is good for finding out about my case and Stuyvesant politics from my point of view. Wikicoco News is updated quickly every day. Take 60 seconds and scan it when you're in the mood. Glencadia Dog Blog is all about dogs. is a wikipedia site for the whole county. I would like other people to move in and take that one over.  It's not a blog: it's supposed to have pages about all kinds of issues.

Got it? Thank for stopping by.