Imagine a job where you get paid $150 to $200 per hour for sleeping, with pension, insurance and paid holidays (when you get paid to sleep, the idea of a holiday is kind of strange but, yes, the sleepers get paid holidays). Is this a dream?

No, welcome to the very special world of the Columbia County municipal attorney. Right now rich lawyers are getting paid in their sleep with your tax money.

If an attorney were to bill for 21 hours of work (at as much as $175 per hour) in a single 24 hour period, we might conclude that either 1) the man is a machine who does not urinate, defecate, eat or sleep; or 2) Holmes is billing for time he spent snoozing in bed.

The man we are talking about is Tal Rappleyea, the man who is or was in 2011 the designated Town Attorney in Durham, Ashland, Prattsville, Lexington, Cairo, Stuyvesant, Austerlitz, Copake, Chatham, Greenville, Jewett and assistant attorney for Columbia County. The day of 21 hours of billing is October 1, 2010.

On October 1, 2010 Tal Rappleyea billed the above towns and Columbia County for 21 hours of work. That day was not way out of line of the other days I've looked at so far: there are more days over 15 hours billed in a 24 hour period than under. Even on his birthday, October 4, he billed for 13.5 hours -- he took it a little easy, as it was his birthday and all. He only worked 13.5 hours.

In 2010, by double and triple billing the man earned well over $200,000 from the towns, plus another about $44,000 from the County. Not satisfied, Rappleyea also steals benefits from the county for which he is not eligible.

I emailed the County Attorneys today to get clarification on this stuff. They refused to comment. So if I get some details wrong, it's kind of their fault. They are welcome to correct me and I will adjust anything I may have gotten wrong. Here is what seems to be the case, the scam.

The Columbia County Board of Supervisors (CCBOS) approves an annual salary for the attorneys in a resolution. Seems like all the assistant attorneys get about $44K: Clarissa D. Garvey, Charles E. Hoag, Jr., Tal G. Rappleyea, Robert J. Fitzsimmons, Barrett D. Mack, Brent R. Stack.

The attorneys, including Rappleyea, then calculate what hourly rate they would have to receive in order to work 30 hours per week, as would make them eligible for pensions and other benefits, then charge that hourly rate, whatever the number comes out to be. For example, rather than bill 5 hours at 150 dollars per hour, which may be the regular fee for that attorney, the would bill 30 hours at 25 per hour. The amount paid for the week may be the same but by lying about the numbers of hours, the attorneys steal pensions and benefits. And there is no way to know how many hours they actually worked, if they did any work at all.

Rappleyea bills Columbia County $27.24 per hour and the town of Chatham $175 per hour. Say what? But you see, it's a pension scam. He would never work for $27 an hour. He doesn't really work ever, actually, he sleeps, has coffee, makes some calls, goes to some meetings,  collects his dough. And his pension. I say when you put down "6 hours" it should mean 6 hours.

Other County attorneys work for towns and other clients, certainly including County Attorney Robert J. Fitzsimmons and likely Deputy County Attorney Andrew B. Howard. Just like Rappleyea, they are billing towns or other clients by the hour and collecting a salary from the county.

I wrote to all of these people today and asked if they would like to deny this statement: every single one of them is defrauding the government by claiming pension and benefit credits they don't deserve in the scheme I outlined above. I said, in my email, please deny this: What Rappleyea is doing is not exceptional: you are all stealing.

I got no response. They won't deny it. None of them deserve pensions. Why not at least deny it before I publish? They are all getting pension credits? More crazy billing in that list of names up there somewhere?

I only have hard evidence for Rappleyea. The people noted here, Stack and Fitzsimmons, refused to supply the records for the rest of the crew. If they were in the clear, why not give up the time sheets?

If Rappleyea's time sheets were exceptional, why not tell me that? You can excuse me for thinking his time sheets are not exceptional. When it says "hour" to me that means 60 minutes of work.

How many people at 401 State Street knew about this scheme? Certainly I told everyone in the County government before I wrote this blog entry. No one bothered to explain anything. What's to explain?  Shut up and go away.

Open season on the taxpayer in Columbia County. These rich guys, like Rappleyea, steal the sales tax my business brings in a year in 5 minutes.

If Rappleyea were a Democrat, he'd be in jail already. Double billing, stealing pension: his rap sheet is longer than the issues in this blog post. He is guilty of a number of crimes over a couple of years. More than one town, more than one man.

21 hours in a single day, I mean, come on.

Quitin Cross, Hudson Democrat, got two years for much less, credit card fraud, a couple thousand. Pegeen Mulligan-Moore worked for Democrats and stole $380,000. Went to jail for hard time. Any Republicans get indicted by any Republican DA? I know Democrats steal. So do Republicans.

Will, where are the documents to prove all this? I got them. I would post them, no problem. First, I would like to see some of these people deny some of this, explain why they did not respond to my requests to show me the documents that prove the stealing of benefits is not widespread.

The ball is in the court of the County Attorney's office. I looked at the documents. I saw fraud. I emailed for an answer. Silence.

What's the deal? Anyone buy this grid?

In episode one of the Sleepergate scandal, we saw how Tal Rappleyea, who is or was in 2011 the designated Town Attorney in Durham, Ashland, Prattsville, Lexington, Germantown, Cairo, Stuyvesant, Austerlitz, Copake, Chatham, Greenville, Jewett and assistant attorney for Columbia County, claims to work as much as 21 hours in a single 24 hour period. I only looked at one month so far: October 2010. More to come. WORSE than 21 in another month?

Following episode I, Tal Rappleyea resigned as County Attorney and perhaps Stuyvesant Town Attorney.

We also saw, in episode one, that the other attorneys in the office, Clarissa D. Garvey, Charles E. Hoag, Jr., Tal G. Rappleyea, Robert J. Fitzsimmons, Barrett D. Mack, Brent R. Stack, refuse to deny that they are stealing pension credits for no or little show jobs as does Tal Rappleyea.

Now we come to episode two. The time sheets these guys send in say they are supposed to work at least 6 hours a day.  Here are their timesheets:

So I figure, if they don't mind sending in time sheets to the taxpayer to get pensions, they would have no problem affirming that that information on the time sheets is correct. So I made up some affidavits asking the attorneys to verify that they do some work to get their money and benefits.

Here are the affidavits I asked the attorneys to sign (in the video below), with their time sheets:

I put the affidavits in an envelope and wanted to hand deliver the affidavits to the lawyers. I went on Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 11:20 AM.

The affidavits are confidential, county business. I went into a public office building to deliver confidential material individually to the people mentioned in the correspondence. The matter is of public interest and valid activity in a public office.

And the guys don't have a desk? And they are not there whenever I check? And no one know when you might be popping in?

I see 10 people on the payroll, all full time. I want to see 10 desks and 10 butts sitting in them. If I can't see that, I'll come back and check again until I see it.

So I went back on Friday, Febuary 3 at 11 AM.

Robert Fitzsimmons has 7 lawyers on the books but he never has 7 lawyers in the office. These are TIME SHEETS with PENSION CREDITS not invoices of independent contractors. That's a big difference.

Now we're at two visits with an average of 2 attorneys per visit. Should be 7. I would have thought 5, maybe 6 might be reasonable: one in court, one sick. The secretary should be able to tell me when they might be back.

Well, I struck out. Four to six no show lawyers. Pensions, salaries... maybe a couple hundred thousand stolen every year for at least 3 and probably many more years.

I'll keep checking. I'll even write Fitzsimmons an email and tell him when I'm coming if he wants. I said I would be back on Monday at 9:30 AM to check again. I wrote him an email.

Now the county attorney Fitzsimmons panics. He can't actually get all the attorneys to come to work and they don't have desks. He calls the sheriff. If I dare to go into the office and count lawyers again, they will arrest me.

I thought about this interaction later. If I can send the sheriff to deliver my paper the same as the county attorney, then the sheriff cannot say that the police AGREE with the paper.

No show jobs for rich lawyers to steal pensions. They won't sign the affidavits. No desks. Not at work. No one knows when they will be in to work.

They had a bunch of sheriff's deputies waiting on Monday, February 6, 2012 in case I showed up again. God forbid I should walk into a public office and check to see if public officers are where they claim to be.

Where in this email did I say which Monday I was coming? Some Monday. And I won't come alone. Send me an email if you would like to join me. I need as many people as I can get. If you work Monday, we can try Tuesday. Or go on your own. Find any lawyers? Report back to me.

Email me.

So, on Monday, February 13, I went to see Pattrick Grattan at the Kinderhook Town Meeting: audio here. Not great quality audio on the iPhone. This incident was reported on page one in the newspaper.

Listen, as best you can, to what Grattan says. If you can't make it out, let me know and I'll try some filters in GarageBand.

So, there is some kind of law that means that the top elected official in the county can't meet with me because I might sue him. He can't talk to his wife because she might sue for divorce one day. If he doesn't talk to her, she definitely will sue him.

Anyone can sue anyone at any time, I guess. So we all stop talking?

And when the person accused of embezzlement was associated with the opposition and not a personal friend of Pat Grattan, as here, he was able to do something about it. Funny how that work. When it's your friends, there is nothing you can do. When it's some nobody associated with the opposition, then, well, that's easy.

Grattan, in the Register Star article cited above, wants to get every penny back from Mulligan-Moore. He wants to keep that story in the news. But Fitzsimmons: he can keep stealing. We wouldn't want the husband of his judge and ticket mate, someone he has known for years socially, to have to stop stealing, let alone give the money back or go to jail, like the hapless Mulligan-Moore.

So today I met with the Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka. I want to thank the District Attorney for the opportunity to meet with him.

Robert J. Fitzsimmons, Esq. is the lead attorney of a private law firm: Fitzsimmons, Mack and Mills. He is also county attorney with oversight over Brent R. Stack, Tal Rappleyea, Barrett Mack, Andrew Howard, Charles Hoag, and Clarissa Garvey. 

Stack, Mack and Fitzsimmons are also in private practice together at the same law firm.

So, if Fitzsimmons catches Mack or Stack working on their own legal work in the office instead of doing the public business, if he catches them doing private work at the county office on county time, he would have to discipline him... 

.... although, of course, his personal interest is likely in not disciplining him.

And that would never happen because Mack never bothers to show up at all and doesn't have a desk.

Then Fitzsimmons can hire someone at his private firm, like Brent Stack, and then hire him again at the county office. So you'll have him around and pay with the taxpayer's money in case you need him for your private work.

And who are the clients anyway? I know guys get away with this in the State Senate and State Assembly. What is the client paying for? Legal work by the firm or grease in the county office? Very nice set up: no show public job give you leverage to get money through a no work private job. Not that I can prove this part: they don't have to disclose their private clients, except through financial disclosures, and not even there, and those are highly redacted. 

Stealing pensions is a big deal. Think about how many tax increases and budget fights have to do with pensions and costs governments have to pay for decades after people retire.

Here are the key pension rules:

 For Tier 2, 3, 4 and 5 members, the minimum number of hours in a standard work day is six, while the maximum is eight... Since elected and appointed officials do not usually work a fixed schedule or have pre-set work hours, they must keep a record of their work-related activities so you can accurately determine the number of days worked to report....Effective August 12, 2009, each elected or appointed official must prepare a record of work-related activities (log) for three consecutive months within 150 days of the start of a new term or appointment if: 1) They are members of the Retirement System and 2) Do not use your time keeping system that shows hours worked. (This includes systems that keep track of accruals and attest that, other than time charged to accruals, full hours were worked.)
Fine rules. No compliance in Columbia County.

Rappleyea: $378,000. Mack: $210,000. Howard: more than $330,000. Hoag: $420,000. Plus pension credits and other benefits worth about 1/3 of pay. With just those four guys we easily have 1.5 million in fraud and embezzlement. They never did a lick of work, as per the pension rules.

Right now, the Germantown school board is considering eliminating the high school. They can't afford to pay the pensions. Look at the battles in Wisconsin and check out your local town budget if you don't think this is a HUGE deal. 

Government pensions. Benefits. No show jobs. Rich attorneys.

Right now, what percent of these pensions we are paying out for people retired in Florida are based on crooked accounting? A superficial look at Columbia County government suggest that a large percentage of what we pay is to allow crooks to retire on comfort on the tax money of people who actually work. The workers pay. The no workers get pensions.

What kind of value are we getting as taxpayers for all these pension folk? None. Are you going to get a pension? I'm not. I spent all my money defending myself from a corrupt town. 

Let's look at the Columbia County attorney office. What is the county getting for maybe as much as a million dollars a year in legal services? This million dollars or so does not include other legal services for bond issues, development corporations, etc.

The Columbia County Attorney's office spends $517,000 a year on salaries for seven attorneys and three secretaries. They all claim pensions and benefits which add another third or more in the cost to the taxpayer. 

We're close to a million in total wages and benefits, let alone pensions already being paid out for people who might not have worked a generation ago.

What part of that million or is stolen? Half? It's been going on for years. We're talking about a multimillion dollar fraud.

Compare these two:

Brent R. Stack, assistant county attorney FULL TIME, 7 hours a day, pay rate: $37 per hour, 7 years on the job, $2590 every two weeks, $67,340 per year.

Charles Hoag, assistant county attorney PART TIME, 6 hours per day, $27 per hour, 10 years on the job, $1640 every two weeks, $42,640 per year.

What? The guy with more years gets less? The difference between part and full time is one hour? Lawyers working for $27 an hour? 

Why do they "work" for $27 if not to steal a pension? 

Never saw Hoag in the office. Stack does do work -- clerical work requiring no law degree like answering FOILs that Gail Dicosmo is supposed to do (she disappeared off the website last night for some reason, as did a couple other names). Hoag does nothing. Discosmo doesn't do her job. So, Hoag doesn't mind if his junior gets more than him. Why should he complain about a pension and pay with no work?

Next comparison:

Tal Rappleyea, assistant county attorney III, 6 hours per day, $27 per hour, 9 years on the job, $1640 every two weeks, $42,640 per year.

Lisa Brightly, confidential secretary, 17 years on the job, $22.70 per hour, 7 hours per day, $41,200 per year.

What? An attorney and a secretary get almost the same annual pay? And no one's complaining? Why complain: any pay is a good deal if you do NO WORK. Did I mention the pension?

Here are the rest:

Sheila Zito, clerk/typist, $17.25 per hour, 7 hours per day, 12 years on the job, $1207 every two weeks, $31,382 per year.

Barrett Mack, assistant county attorney III, 5 years on the job, 6 hours per day, $27 per hour, $1640 every two weeks, $42,640 per year.

Rita Lacasse, typist, 12 years on the job, $19.50 per hour, 7 hours per day, $1370 every two weeks, $35,620 per year.

Andrew Howard, deputy county attorney NA, 2 years on the job, 6 hours per day, $2608 every two weeks,  $43.50 per hour, $67,800 per year.

Clarissa Garvey, assistant county attorney, 7 hours a day, pay rate: $37 per hour, 10 years on the job, $2590 every two weeks, $67,340 per year.

Robert Fitzsimmons, county attorney, 5 years on the job, $53 per hour, 6 hours a day, $3210 every two weeks, $83,460 per year.

Our current chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors turned in a bookkeeper who was syphoning off funds with the help of the Comptroller and local DA. No one else knew about the crime and the perpetrator had no connections.

When a well connected person is caught red handed by the Comptroller, nothing much happens if they are cozy with the local mucky-mucks.

Stay tuned for next episode: sleepergate, road trip to Albany 

Ain't pretty. First I found out the town of Stuyvesant is corrupt. Then I found out Columbia County is corrupt. What do you think about the state of New York? Not looking good. 

It's a Republican town in a Republican county in a Democratic state. But when it comes to corruption, there is only one party, the party of power. Motto: get yours.

I keep thinking that as I go up the chain, town to county to state to federal government, I will run into an honest, dedicated public servant willing to do the job they are paid to do by the people and say no to obvious rackets of corruption. 

Other news: I filed two lawsuits against Stuyvesant on February 8, 2012. That makes a total of four. Why? New York State has not system of municipal and local ethics enforcement. 

1. FOIL: Freedom of Information Law-- I want some canceled checks and they aren't giving them to me and other issues.

2. Zoning: I filed another suit agains the zoning board of Stuyvesant to get them to enforce the law the same to cronies and non-cronies alike. 

I'm not a reporter but I'm breaking a story, or trying to. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm filing suits. I have no authority or badge or experience or education in any of this stuff. 

I can use help. Email me

If the authorities don't shut this racket down, there are always the courts... or giving up. 

I wish I could just walk away from this stuff. 

Howard Dean, 66, of Locke, N.Y., pleaded guilty and was sentenced on January 11, 2012 for second degree grand larceny for taking Fridays off for 17 years, cheating the taxpayer and the State and Local Retirement System.

In February 2012, former Rome police officer Thomas C. Hubal, pleaded guilty to third degree grand larceny, six months incarceration, five years probation, and must repay the more than $88,000 he stole from the State and Local Retirement System associated with double dipping.

Okay, Comptroller, you can nab the lone wolves who cheat on their own with the aid of the local DA or when the employee works for the state, not a local government. What about rackets of many individuals when the local DA has not requested your aid?

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