A Guest Column by Ted Carroll
Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.
JFK used this very bromide in ultimately taking personal responsibility for the 1961 Bay of Pigs military fiasco in Cuba. A half century later the Tremont Group (Rye) and the Fairfield Greenwich Group (Greenwich) – both so called “feeder funds” of the now reviled Bernie Madoff – claimed initially that they were shocked, appalled, outraged, etc and had been “lied to” by their then largest financial benefactor. And as events unfold in current day Rye City government, it’s clear once again that personal responsibility is to date equally absent from Rye’s Madoff Golf Club debacle.
And so it goes, for now, at Rye City Hall, where the council party line is closing in on “orphaning” Mr. Yandrasevich along with his unique wine cellar as the de facto sole bad actor in the drama. The endeavor here is apparently to exclude – by intent, design and scope of investigation – any and all other senior managerial authorities and scenarios. In this evolving municipal fairy tale Mr. Yandrasevich simply walked into city hall one day and presented his first tortuously skimpy invoice from his then unincorporated RM Staffing Co. and – PRESTO – it was approved and the funds were disbursed. That RM Staffing was actually a no-bid cut-out company designed for masking payments to substantial numbers of exploitable underpaid undocumented foreign workers went somehow miraculously undetected. And it all just continued and snowballed from there.
Regrettably for this convenient meme, Rye – at the time that first invoice arrived – had, in the very same building, senior elected and senior paid managers ranked well above Mr. Yandrasevich. Tasked by statute to act as legal fiduciaries for city residents in matters such as this one, these fiduciaries were: Mr. Steve Otis, Mayor; Mr. Kevin Plunkett, Esq, Corporation Counsel; and Mr. O. Paul Shew, City Manager. As to their current whereabouts; I understand Mr. Shew can be reached (as always) at his long time home in Massachusetts. Mr. Plunkett – profiled just last week in The Journal News as one of the most highly paid public employees in Westchester County – now serves as Deputy County Executive. And Mr. Otis is now a NYS Assemblyman who resides in Rye and commutes frequently to a land called Albany.
Recognizing the political and patronage deflection possibilities of at least two of these men I approached the lectern in council chambers on the night that Brune & Richard LLC was to be selected as the lead outside investigation firm. I asked some pointed, politically difficult, questions: Could Brune & Richard be impartial and unimpeded in their investigation, given Mr. Plunkett’s decades long tenure at the highest level of New York’s Pataki Machine? Would they be allowed to go where the evidence took them? Was Brune & Richard’s fiercely protected spotless reputation and Democratic Party bono fides enough to enable them to soldier through any backchannel backstabbing? The council answer was all nods and smiles and yeses and affirmations.
Now that we have all come to know those on the council bench it should come as no surprise to any resident of the City of Rye that as of today ZERO attempt has been made to interview any of these men under oath. None of these men – our past city fiduciaries – has been questioned as to how this fraud was allowed to begin. None has been asked how, seemingly inexplicably, that no questions were asked about these strange invoices along the way. This “no interview” limitation to the scope of the investigation– or political firewall if you will – seems to have fallen from the sky. Yet no council member has so far taken responsibility for blocking this testimony of prior senior management for which express subpoena power is granted by charter to the council.
Messrs. Otis, Plunkett and Shew were unmistakably our senior fiduciaries when the fraud was initiated – they were our protectors – and apparently they were the orphan Scotty Y’s staffing scheme’s “parents.”
Instead those among the council members who perpetually hide behind the false facades of THRIFT and disdain for council DISTRACTION on any matter involving evident corruption are once more being ceded the microphone. Their cry is always “too much money, too much time wasted, too much uncovering of nothing important, nobody cares.” To which I and many many others will reply: Not this time, nor from now on ever, will crimes be slid quietly under the rug at our city hall.
In the end, it should be noted; Mr. Madoff’s feeder funds were all deposed and discovered to death under oath. Mr. Madoff’s employees, outside auditor, and family members were interviewed repeatedly and rigorously. And it sure wasn’t pretty. But the reestablishment of systemic trust comes first from a public understanding of who did and approved what and to whom – which by definition requires disclosure and light and evidence as a foundation. Here another council shut-down charade accomplishes none of that. We will not and we cannot allow it to succeed.
Ted Carroll is a life long Rye resident, a frequent commenter on
MyRye.com and a partner at Noson Lawen Partners, a media industry
private equity firm.