Political Insinuation Has Failed
Elected Officials Avoid Issues that Challenge a Failed Status Quo
Public Outrage is Left to Bring About Order by Demanding Respectful New Standards
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano had this January 1, 2016, won re-election to enter his second term in office. His most formidable challenge was lobbying for the much needed $2 billion Capital Improvement Plan to construct and revive a long neglected school buildings infrastructure. Further still, Mayor Mike Spano needed to revive planned, albeit languishing development projects that would change the physical landscape in the Yonkers downtown that were first envisioned by former Mayor John Spencer’s administrative guidance, yet disintegrated under Spencer’s successor, the former Deputy Mayor Phil Amicone.
On top of that, taxpayers had tired of the promises that lobbyists said they would deliver over steak dinners. Mayor Mike Spano had an ace in his sleeve; he became mayor of the City of Yonkers (CoY) with the support of union membership of every union in CoY. While the first term held the promise of fair, balanced and respectful discourse with Mayor Mike Spano and the disparate unions, the Mayor chose to delegate responsibility and negotiation to those who were dismissive of union membership concerns. It did not take long for those unions whose contracts had expired, some for as long as 7 years out to those who presently continue to work without a contract for 3 years. While responsibility for contracts that began 4 1/2 years ago languished under the Amicone Administration, those whose contracts continued unresolved within the past 4 1/2 years demand resolution and agreement yet go unsigned and are not immersed in negotiation.
A disappointing and growing anger against Mayor Mike Spano’s simmers as the mayor is perceived to have retreated from his promise of fairness and respect during a negotiating process at which he is often not in attendance, and where dates and times for negotiations are withdrawn at the last moment without prior notice. These are some of the bullying tactics employed by the Mike Spano Administration that have created a schism within Yonkers that permeates every aspect of governance. Yonkers is in an undeclared state of war. Even undeclared, people sense the anger, the fear, the helplessness, and the growing desire to remove the overbearing insult of the executive office who places blame for Yonkers’ financial woes solely on the back of labor. What is outrageous is that Mayor Mike Spano did not run on a platform of such cynicism when he first ran for Mayor of Yonkers. Likewise, when he ran and won his re-election effort he did not acknowledge much less give expression to his cynicism. Did Mayor Mike Spano not recognize the issues that beset Yonkers? That is exactly what he said. Why not? Does he comprehend the complexity of the issues facing CoY today? What should Yonkersites expect from Mayor Mike Spano as CoY contends with old and new issues and concerns?
Did the leadership of Yonkers’ many unions send a “wish list” to the North Pole last Christmas in hope they would get Santa’s help for fair and swift passage of raises for their respective membership within specific time constraints? It seems many have lost faith in Santa Claus and Mike Spano, though this writer continues to believe in Santa Claus!
One would suspect a stronger and more meaningful approach would have been devised to prepare a solid and unified negotiating team that would share collective responsibility for all union members. It seems the expression of unity and purpose of a unified approach is nothing more than spin. The privacy of negotiation has also failed a system in which there is a lot of talk and yet little action.
Yonkers Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Det. Keith Olson chose a different route. Olson sent out superfluous emails. He sounded the “horn” calling for “unity” for consumption by his hungry and trusting membership. The subterfuge allowed him to walk over the bridge from the PBA Office located at the Cacace Justice Center to Yonkers City Hall. Olson cut a sweetheart deal for “himself and his family”, doing so just before the mayoral re-election contest was to take place in November 2015.
No one was left to wonder whether Olson, the Yonkers PBA union president had communicated with other union heads. Olson ran to his office with his self-fulfilling contract that gave away significant changes to New York State Municipal Law 207-c. Within four days of the memorandum of understanding Olson divulges what he believes the contract he had negotiated was the best working police contract ever agreed to and voted upon. It didn’t take much time for The Captains, Lieutenants, and Sergeants Association (CLSA) and the Yonkers PBA membership to find out that what Olson told the members was in the contract was in fact contrary to what was written in the agreement. It was nothing more than “smoke and mirrors”. They believed Olson. Yonkers Tribune has been advised Olson gave Mayor Mike Spano his personal assurance that he would deliver for Mayor Mike Spano’s Administration for some unknown quid pro quo “favors” down the road.
In the meanwhile, other union officials attempted to communicate the lack of protection and the potential hazards Police Officers would face should some tragedy befall them during their career without the protections of Municipal Law 207-c. Olson would dismiss their warnings and admonitions. It was later learned that the “deal” Olson agreed to was of benefit to “him and his family”‘ and not of benefit to the PBA membership.
Some unions have devolved from at one time serving their membership to the present where union leaders are longer devoted to their membership. Gone are the day to day in-house labor issues or the violations of policy and procedures. Sources advise that the Yonkers PBA is focused on maintaining an opaque, rather than a transparent, explanation of the PBA’s money trail; both the collections of cash and the expenditures that go unexplained and unaccounted. Yonkers Tribune is advised that at issue is that the Yonkers PBA membership is not afforded an accounting breakdown of where and how dues are spent.
Yonkers Tribune insiders advise the Yonkers PBA has not informed its membership about Olson’s spending of funds intended for legal counsel protection with the Quinn Law Firm specifically over the questionable and seemingly illegal impeachment of a Yonkers Police Detective who was no doubt a political threat to Olson because the impeached detective spoke openly on behalf of fellow members.
Sadly, it appears that using Yonkers PBA membership dues can and does buy positions, jobs, and “Yes!”, if you are a PBA member, getting a slap on the wrist for conducting an unauthorized investigation against CLSA members and others within the Yonkers Police Department and is allowed to continue because of the protection by political puppet masters. For Yonkers PBA President Olson and those who hang around him like groupies, as if he were a psychedelic rock star, targeting and threatening civilians, is just an added bonus for paying his lobbyist bills on time. And that is only the beginning. Just imagine what may reside in an internal computer drive or found on a secure iCloud account.
Fast forward… Under the leadership of Yonkers Police Detective Keith Olson there is no doubt that Mayor Mike Spano, and those who speak in his name, have stepped on these union heads, since the mayor took his second oath to the office of Mayor of the City of Yonkers in January 2016. So what are the positive aspects gained by the Yonkers Police Department under Olson? For starters, Olson was able to hold on to his political seat. He got a nice city vehicle, recently upgraded to a newer All Terrain SUV that most Yonkers Police Captains and other Yonkers officials are not afforded. Olson also got his sister Kelly Chiarella her first paying city job; first assigned to Constituent Services and now to the Office of the Aging as its Director. All these benefits gifted on the taxpayer’s dime and paving the way for Yonkers City Hall to screw the Yonkers PBA membership by having them vote to make changes to Municipal Law 207-c, which coerced many of the members to choose between the legal costs of engaging arbitration or forced retirement. They are and were performing their duties when suffering injuries, They are now pariahs. The Yonkers Police Department patrol force is unfortunately too new to have recognized Olson’s self-serving conduct, and even less able to judge his lack of moral integrity. Further still, Olson’s petition style leadership has no success record. That is except for being accused of serious internal corruption as he, Yonkers Police Chief John Mueller and Det. Sgt. Brian Moran are in the yet to be heard 1983 Civil Rights Federal Lawsuit.
By now it is no secret that Yonkers International Association of Fire Fighters – Local 628 President Barry McGoey negotiated a more respectful contract for his membership than did the Yonkers PBA Union membership. Local 628 did not accept diminishing Municipal Law 207-a that applies specifically to Fire Fighters. They negotiated minimum manning seats which, if necessary, demands Yonkers fill those seats on an overtime basis, as well as an increase in longevity benefits. All accomplished without personal benefit to Barry McGoey personally, his family, or friends.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano continues to maintain an unabridged ribbon cutting schedule into the first 6 months of his second term while CSEA, Yonkers Federation of Teachers, among others are still without contracts 3-years on. Signs have been sighted chastising the Yonkers Industrial Development Agency accusing the YIDA incentivizing the City of Yonkers to hire non-union workers in a city built by union labor.
The Yonkers Federation of Teachers (YFT) was in negotiation for a new contract until a video sting operation taped by Reporter James O’Keefe of Project Veritas exposed YFT President Pat Puleo and YFT Vice-President Paul Diamond for advising an individual thought to be a teacher in the Yonkers Public Schools District how to cover up possible abuse. A media storm ensued only to dissipate as quickly as it began. There was outrage among some in the Yonkers Public Schools yet tepid concerns among elected and appointed office holders. There has been no known inquiry until but a few days ago that purports to engage in any ethical investigation. Will it become a white-wash?
It was however not too long ago when Yonkers PBA President Olson complained about the Yonkers Tribune‘s report of the tragic demise of Yonkers Police Det. Frank Fernandez in which Det. Fernandez drove head-on into a Yonkers Fire Engine. The pending toxicology report is spoken about among esoteric circles to established as we reported that elevated alcohol levels were a contributing factor to his untimely passing. As media await the findings Yonkers Tribune have noticed that some among the Albany Delegation were inclined to censor our reporting of the tragedy and our substantiated findings then so that the facts and truth be allowed to wane.
Concern over lead in the drinking water of the Yonkers Public Schools has also been brushed aside. Again, no concern for the cognitive capacity of students attending those schools. No interest in focusing on an issue that was unknown to be of concern many years ago. Local politics and politicians maintain their silence by not acknowledging lead to be harmful to children of developing age.
Similarly, Project Veritas exposes those in education, principals and teachers among them, who will defend abuse among specific schools so as to maintain their employment by getting along to get along. Parents are also marginalized in this process. The riff-raff is in charge.
The Project Veritas videos underline circumstances that cannot be expunged. The responses by Puleo and Diamond are their responses. Their responses were not scripted by Project Veritas Reporter O’Keefe. Their responses were extemporaneous. They not only hurt themselves, but they hurt the YFT membership. Puleo and Diamond seem to be laying low while Mayor Mike Spano and his negotiating team refuse to engage in contractual negotiations with the YFT. Mayor Mike Spano is using the circumstances that are swirling about Puleo and Diamond as a convenient excuse to avoid negotiations because CoY doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to conclude a contractual agreement for the benefit of the teachers union.
What are the ramifications for CSEA President Lionel Turner and the employees he represents as he maintains his best efforts for fair and equitable contracts for his membership that lapsed 3-years ago.
CSEA President Turner has been seemingly left to hold up against a steady headwind whereas the “unity horn” sounded by PBA President Olson for all union members in the past are now muted by Olson engaging Lobbyist Nick Spano to represent him and his “greatest friends” on the PBA membership’s dime at a rate of $$48,000 per year. Turner has gained more credibility as he continues his efforts on behalf of his members and not for himself.
The Yonkers Police Department has been plagued with internal union corruption since Yonkers PBA President Olson took the helm. At issue is whether such an office holder can be immune to all sorts of wrong-doing? In fairness to Mayor Mike Spano, such alleged conduct had begun before Mike Spano became the Mayor of Yonkers, but the buck has passed on to him. It is the responsibility of every elected official representing CoY as Yonkers Councilmembers, Westchester County Legislators, NYS Assemblymembers, NYS Senators, and so forth, to address allegations expressed and/or part of the so-called folklore, or await the Department of Justice to intervene on these concerns, if they aren’t already investigating these, among other allegations as this is written.
Reports of Yonkers Police offices being broken into and files gone missing will not be a credible defense, much less an excuse in the pending Dario Tenor Federal Lawsuit. High profile legal eagle Bonita Zelman, Esq., enters into the deposition phase to be gleaned from Yonkers Police personnel in which two former Yonkers PBA Trustees have pleaded to perjury charges. Will the infestation of internal union misconduct have bearing on the outcome of the case? Is it time for union heads to be held accountable as they are charged with skirting the law? What good is it to have an Ethics Policy or internal investigations when political interference is permitted to insinuate the outcome? Is the allure and stench of union money the vehicle by which one buys cover and by which law can and is obstructed? What therefore is the sense of having an Inspector General when he was and remains a political hack, gets paid by the taxpayer, who submits meaningless, and inane reports of no wrongdoing, and he seemingly cannot comprehend or deduce corrective action. Case in point, the Yonkers Police Insignia Placards that are the “parking anywhere you like” passes. The findings were reported, yet no corrective action had taken place, and the Yonkers PBA continues to hand them out to the “friends and family” network while tax paying Yonkersites are racking up parking fines; all controlled through Yonkers City Hall, whether designated to be the charge of Mayor Mike Spano or others. In a “strong mayor form of government” every action is either approved or disapproved by Mayor Mike Spano!
Perhaps CoY would have been all the wiser to have spent lobbying money to gain fair and equitable contracts for Yonkers city workers instead of nurturing a bevy of developers who continue to await anticipated promised contracts and seed money that are not finalized. So while many wait their turn as Yonkers City Hall waits out the clock, Olson, his family and friends are eating high on the hog, drinking pristine lead-free bottled water, while others are getting parking tickets, and continue to pay ever increasing parking fees in government parking lots.
The summer months began without a chirp from the likes of NYS Assemblymember Shelley Mayer who chose to cozy up to the likes of Yonkers PBA President Keith Olson whose failed petitions to silence media about the inner workings of the Yonkers PBA has gained some traction, but not with all media. It just may be propitious to advise the likes of PBA President Olson, and other union leaders that their commitment may best be carried out in serving their membership. They need to be reminded that their job is to oversee contract and employee issues, and not to attempt to obstruct the law or engage in any wrong doing concerning the welfare of the public interest. Olson gets about $4,000 a month , not including the free city car and free gas and insurance for that vehicle, plus a credit card to wine and dine his buddies. Yet collectively they are not bound by New York State or Federal Laws like all others. Why?
Conduct by all union leaders must be held under public scrutiny no matter how many politicians accept campaign contributions, or how much money they throw to their lobbyist firms. Is the lobbyist’s cash horde hush money, or a get out of jail card?
City and State representatives have a fiduciary responsibility to their constituents to do the right thing. The allegations presented herein are serious for any city attempting to grow a stable of business investors and developers. Tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, repetitious and blatant perjury are not conducive to societal woes. Attempts to manage, silence, ostracize, or spin reality for political influence and expediency is anathema to concepts we claim to adhere. Attempts to silence freedoms of speech and assembly by throwing members out of organizations by fabrications and frivolous petitions will come to light and will even force media long silenced to find their voice lest they become irrelevant by their not telling.
Yonkersites are changing. Reporting the news is protected by the U.S. Constitution. While Yonkers City officials, county, and state representatives may not like what they read, hear, or see, they have taken the oath to uphold the rights of all Americans as defined by the respective Constitutions of the city, state and nation.
It seems as though some of Yonkers’ politicians have morphed into union leaders and some union leaders have become politicians. So for now, union leaders like Yonkers PBA President Keith Olson run silent and deep until they are fished out of office or removed by external circumstances. For the many CSEA, YFT, among other union members stymied without a contract pondering their next move, do not be dissuaded by the slow turning wheels of justice piecing together a credible case against an out of control PBA leadership who maintains an entourage of people willing to perjure themselves before authorities.
Yonkers disavowal of selective outrage can only be dismantled by public discourse and appropriate corrective standards becoming adopted by Yonkers City Hall. At issue is how long will the process take before it becomes respectful of Yonkersites?