Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Greene Mischief

   Although  Seeing Greene hibernated during the late long winter, staff minions did gather some   items that could be deemed blog-worthy.  In the category of Greene Mischief, accordingly, could be recorded or alleged cases of welfare fraud, of home invasion (two of them, with weapons;  against acquaintances), of daylight burglary (by women), of counterfeiting (with five-dollar bills being “alerted” to look like fifties, per The Daily Mail), of the priest who has been suspended from duties after being sued in civil court for alleged sexual abuse, of statutory rape in “a suspicious vehicle,” of the would-be property developer in Hunter who flouted DEH regulations and court orders, and of the seven store clerks who evidently did, and the 21 who did not, get caught in a sting operation, mounted by Sheriff Greg Seeley and the State Liquor Authority, that was aimed at curbing sales of alcoholic beverages to minors.  
  Now for some more interesting, or entertaining, cases. 


Sad Moment..(I Need Your Help)..
I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, my family and I came down here to Manila, Philippine for a short vacation and we were mugged at gun point last night at the park of the hotel where we lodged, all cash and credit card were stolen off us but luckily for us we still have our passports with us...

We've been to the Embassy and the Police here, but they're not helping issues at all they asked us to wait for 3 weeks but we can't wait till then and our flight leaves in few hours from now but we're having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let us leave until we settle the hotel bills, we are freaked out at the moment...Well I really need your financially assistance...Please let me know if you can help us out. Write me back so I can tell you how to get it to me.

That e-mailed plea for help went to scores of GreeneLanders.  It went to people who were included in a list belonging to the ostensible sender: none other than this county’s official historian, David Dorpfeld.  It was a hoax.  The actual Dorpfelds are safe and well.  And solvent.  And literate.


   GreeneLand’s Board of Ethics has been convicted of unethical conduct.  According to State Supreme Court judge Richard Platkin (as reported in The Daily Mail, 2/16/12), when the Board inflicted censure on New Baltimore town councilman Art Byas it “failed to abide by its own rules and regulations.”
   The case originated with a compound complaint made in 2011 by town employees, who accused Mr Byas of failing to heed, promptly, a call to return or destroy his copy of a file of confidential personnel information that had been distributed inadvertently to several local officials, late in 2010, by Town Supervisor Susan O’Rorke.  Mr Byas did not heed the call immediately, but by December, according to the town attorney, all recipients had done so.
   The ethics panel--Michael G. Avella, chairman; Rosemarie Webb; Joseph Konopka—adjudged that when Mr Byas did not heed the call, immediately, he violated a provision of New Baltimore’s ethics code, prohibiting municipal officers from disclosing confidential information acquired during performance of official duties.
   No recipient of disclosure was ever named.
   Mr Byas challenged the board’s ruling, along with the aura of validity that Ms O’Rorke and some other town council members had bestowed on it.  He accused the Board of Ethics of making its judgment on the basis of an inaccurate news article and without “making direct contact with me, or attempting to subpoena me.”  (Ms O’Rorke claimed that Mr Byas “ignored” several chances to explain his actions to the ethics panel).
   Judge Platkin ruled that the ethics board’s censure, being “devoid of legally sufficient proof,” and marked by “respondent’s failure to according petitioner the protections to which he is entitled by law,” is “vacated, annulled, and declared of no legal focus or effect.”  (In the Daily Mail account, the last quoted word was affect).
   The Board of Ethics reportedly issued a statement averring that the judge “misunderstood the facts and erroneously applied the law.”  But no such statement, or any link to the county’s Board of Ethics, exists on the Greene County Government web site.

   That web site offers, among other things, a list of Departments, each with its e-mail address.   Click the address for Treasurer and you get an invitation to send an internet message to, ahem, Willis Vermilyea.  Click for Sheriff and, after being told that Gregory Seeley is the sheriff, you click what is identified as his email address, you get a prospective mailing to Richard Hussey.  With regard to Mental Health, where Margaret Graham is listed as director, clicking her nominated e-mail address yields a call to pkconrad.  In the case of the Industrial Development Agency, Sandy Mathes is identified as executive director; and clicking on the link to his email address yields a prospective note to that gentleman.  But Mr Mathes left the I.D.A. nine months ago.  Mr Hussey has not been sheriff since 2008. 
   Meanwhile, the county government’s link to “Press Releases” produces—and has produced for several years—the message  “No new releases.” So who, pray tell, is minding GreeneLand’s official web site?


   Charles Stiefel, former head of the multi-national Stiefel Laboratories (skin care products, with a production plant here in GreeneLand), is being accused by the federal Securities & Exchange Commission of defrauding company employees.  In an action filed in Florida, the Commission contends that Stiefel and his sons kept employees in the dark about the imminent sale of the company to the pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline.  Before that deal was known to be in prospect, they offered to buy back private company shares that were owned by employees.  According to the Commission, the Stiefels gave “misleading valuations” of those shares, buying back the units at about a third of what GSK soon afterward paid for them as part of a $2.9 billion purchase.  The deception, according to the SEC, short-changed the employees to the extent of $110 million.   
   In addition to the SEC’s legal action, the former chief financial officer of Stiefel Labs, along with three other former company officers, is suing the Stiefels on grounds resembling those cited in the SEC action for fraud. 
   At the time of the sale to GSK, about 200 employees operated the Stiefel plant in Oak Hill.  Among them, and since retired, was Cairo town councilman William Carr Jr.  In response to a call from Seeing Greene, he identified himself as one of “many dozens” of former shareholders who have a stake in the outcome (in 2013, perhaps) of the SEC’s lawsuit.
     P.S.  Charles Stiefel was honored by accountants Ernst & Young back in 1996 as Florida Enterpriser of the Year.
     P.P.S.  When the GSK takeover took place in 2009, closure of the Oak Hill Stiefel plant was announced.  But a rescue operation that was led by Sandy Mathes, who at the time was executive director of the county’s Industrial Development Agency, induced the new owners to stay in Oak Hill, albeit with a shift from making skin care products to making toothpaste.  The inducements--tax breaks, low-interest loans, cash grants--amounted to about $2 million.
    (For more coverage of the Stiefel matter, see Scott Thrum, “SEC Sees Bitter Pill at Drug Maker,” Wall Street Journal, 1/24/12).