August 31, 2009
Honorable Philip A. Amicone
Yonkers, NY 10701
Dear Mr. Mayor:
I am in receipt of a copy of Inspector General Philip Zisman’s letter to you dated August 31, 2009.
I am writing to convey to you my very deep concern with your attempt to force Inspector General Zisman from office and the jeopardy in which your action places critical, ongoing investigations.
Many of us currently in public office in Yonkers, you included, have labored hard in recent years to change the image of this City, its government and its politics. Unfortunately, attempting to fire the City’s only independent watchdog in the middle of ongoing investigations of, among other things, spending at the Board of Education and the developer’s compliance with negotiated benefits at the controversial Ridge Hill project, only serves to set back efforts to improve trust in government.
As you know, the Inspector General, unique among City officials, takes direction from both the Executive and Legislative branches of government. Indeed, the Inspector General is presently conducting at least two significant investigations which were initiated by the City Council not the Executive.
As you also know, the Inspector General’s term expired several months ago and Mr. Zisman has been serving in an “acting” position since that time. While I personally have supported and will continue to support Mr. Zisman in the performance of his job, it is beyond comprehension that nearly a year has passed since his term officially expired, you have never publicly articulated any grounds for not reappointing him to the position and, yet, have not offered any alternative candidate for the position.
Leaving the Inspector General and his office in such limbo for months on end was bad enough. Now you have sent a message to any individual or government entity which is currently under investigation that time is on their side, that the Inspector General is not supported by the Administration and that they need only dig in their heels until Mr. Zisman is gone.
For example, you are certainly aware of ongoing efforts by the Board of Education to deny the Inspector General’s right to audit the books of the Board, an audit I might add, made all the more relevant by recent press reports of the salaries, overtime and other expenses at the Board. At a time when the City Council was, unanimously, prepared to go to court, if necessary, in support of the Inspector General, your office was completely silent. Now, the Board of Education no doubt understands fully that it need only wait out the Inspector General until he is gone. Frankly, the taxpayers whose money is at stake deserve better.
I urge you to immediately and publicly state your support for the right of the Office of the Inspector General to audit all City funds, including the nearly half billion dollars spent each year by our Board of Education
I also urge you, in the interests of good, open and transparent government, to reconsider your position and state publicly that Inspector General Zisman will, at least, remain in office to complete the important investigations currently ongoing and, finally, I urge you to reconsider your desire to replace Inspector General Zisman, an individual who has served this City well for over a decade and, in my opinion, deserves immediate reappointment to his office.
Very truly yours,
John M. Murtagh
cc: City Council Members