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Public Housing Spotlight

Issue 64
Published on September 21, 2000

(Click Here for NYCHA "preliminary" Audit
by NYC Comptroller Alan Hevesi)

(Click Here for Directory of Issues)

We're flattered,
but not surprised!

We hear that someone put out a paper using the Spotlight name. The good news here is that people are expressing their frustration with NYCHA's mismanagement at the Department level. The bad news is that they've let some employees think that it was an issue of Spotty they were reading. It was not!

As we are proud of the NYCHA sources that trust us enough to risk being beheaded at the political guillotine, we want to make it clear that this other document was in no way connected to the Spotlight. (To this day, I can't even get a copy to see what the thing looked like.) Whenever there is confusion, just ask someone with Web access to check our site. If the paper issue you find at work is NOT posted on the Spotlight web site, it ain't the real Spotty.

Every issue we publish will always be found on the web site. The only difference in the paper and Web Spotlights is that the web issue will often contain more info, as there isn't the same space/time considerations that face us in attempting to fax out 500 copies of the Spotlight to both NYCHAland and various government and media people.

And, as we showed you in Issue 55, we were getting over 32,000 hits a month on the Public Housing Spotlight web site.

So we can't publish every story that comes over the transom. We can only pick ones we think will be relevant to a larger group than just the unit from which the story originates. (For example, the stories on Nora were deemed symptomatic of many units wherein ambition overcame good sense in a supervisor. When we printed how those thousands of Termination Notices were just thrown into boxes in a copy machine room, people who didn't know what a Termination Unit was were still shaking their heads in empathy as they read how all the hard work coordinated between office staff and field staff was just sitting in a room being ignored.

Though Nora and the Termination Unit were alien to those NYCHA employees, the same idiocy coming from other managers and wearing different designators was a common "touchstone of mismanagement" amongst disparate units and individuals.)

So, while we wish anyone and everyone good luck in getting changes made throughout the Authority, we must deny any knowledge of other newsletters. We have enough on our plate trying to manage this one rag!

(Click the hourglass to go to the Special NYCHA Corruption Issue.
It will further enlighten you as to how NYCHA
and the NYC Dept. of Investigation really work!)

Six years ago, this month, I sat at an Orientation at NYCHA and listened to a Rep from the NYCHA IG's office explain to us new employees that reporting on fraud, waste and corruption at NYCHA was a relatively easy process.
We call the IG's office, and they go after the bad guys.

This anniversary of a memorable, if flawed, speech caused some reflection. And your questions brought that speech, and what remained unsaid, back to mind.

Since the arrests of the 3 employees who had worked for the Contract Administration Department of NYCHA, the most popular question sent to us has changed. Prior to the arrests, it was "Do you think anything will ever be done about all the corruption?"
Since we reported on the arrests, the most popular question is: "What would you do differently, if you had it to do over again?"

Simple answer?
I'd take the money!

No, that's not a flippant answer or even just some wisecrack. It's a well considered answer that began pushing itself into my mind the day the NYCHA IG's office first hung Tony out to dry.

After promising both Tony and I that Tony would be supplied with either of two suggested (hidden) eavesdropping devices, Steve Gruberger and John Kilpatrick wired Tony into a body harness that had him strapped up with wires crisscrossing his entire upper body. Both Gruberger and Kilpatrick had told us that either a transmitting beeper or a pack of cigarettes would be used as the transmitter for electronic surveillance of Tony's meetings with contractors. They lied. (More unbelievable now: We were actually surprised they lied!)

So, on his first outing under NYCHA's IG, Tony was searched on a project roof by two underlings of a Contractor who, ironically, had already been barred from doing any work in which government funds were used!

As Tony told it, the incompetence of the IG's office put him in a situation wherein he might likely be throw off the roof, while the exact same incompetence saved him.

You see, the two goons doing the body search wound up only searching one side of Tony's upper chest. And, due to a faulty job by the IG investigators in the monitoring vehicle, the wiring on that side of the chest had come loose and had fallen away from the area that the goons did search.

Tony also didn't like the fact that this contractor (Singh from BQE), who was a long time contributor to Tony's (illegal) retirement fund, had NEVER searched Tony before. But here, only days after Tony agreed to work as an informant for the NYCHA IG (DOI), he is suddenly subjected to a full body search.
Later, within days of each inspector's agreeing to supply info to the IG, they also found that their identities became known to their bosses, the crooked inspectors and the crooked contractors. Eventually, we were told of a leak in NYCHA's IG's office. A few days after being informed of this, John Kilpatrick told us that they had isolated the person who was leaking the info, and that the IG's office would make sure that person never heard of our investigation again. That was just more BS, and that ain't my initials!

Not only did more leaks occur from their office, within weeks they suddenly denied that there was EVER a leak. Again, having someone who quite literally holds your fate in their hands changing from "We're watching the culprit" to "it never happened" is NOT the best confidence booster.

In another event that points to the IG leak, when the IG's office finally advanced beyond putting someone in a parachute like harness that you hope isn't found in a body search, they chose a smaller, more easily hidden location. Within a week or so, another inspector from our honest group met with a contractor on one of his jobs. As soon as the contractor approached the inspector, the contractor grabbed for the spot where the IG now hid the taping device. Luckily, the inspector wasn't wired that day. So he lived long enough to quickly quit NYCHA. (He was one of 6, from 12 of us, who had to leave NYCHA after helping the IG. Half of the innocent people gone!!!)

(take the money . . . take the money . . .)

Three CAD employees are in the news. The story tells of how they were caught in a DOI sting. Well, as each was charged with taking less than $10,000 in the sting, and we have Tony telling of bribes of up to $30,000 for a single job, these 3 were bought on the cheap. Especially when you add to the equation that the IG's office had been told of MUCH larger amounts of ill-gotten money associated with at least 2 of those 3 felons, the small amount of these supposed bribes looks funny already. But then, note the most interesting difference in the DOI arrest and the earlier tales by Tony. Tony named contractors and DOI dropped the investigation. DOI does their own sting and inspectors receive smaller bribes AND NO CONTRACTORS ARE EVEN TESTED!!!

( . . . take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . .)

Later, we watched as those we had garnered evidence against were given promotions, raises and requested transfers. And we saw those who helped the IG get berated, have their reputations slurred and even be set-up for theft and other charges. And no, the IG's office DID NOT back those who had come forward.

Instead, we heard them justify every act of harassment that was heaped on those who followed NYCHA's rules.

( . . . take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . .)

Let's look at what happens
when you trust the DOI/IG,
by the numbers:

  • 1) You should expect your bosses and everyone else will know you're working with DOI within minutes of your decision.
  • 2) You can expect harassment and intimidation. (And when the DOI/IG people are finished, you can expect harassment and intimidation from the "bad guys" too!)
  • 3) You should watch your own back, as DOI can't be trusted to do so. (Tony was so worried that we had to arrange for other inspectors to back him up when he was working an IG sting. Even when we still thought the IG was REALLY trying to catch the bad guys, we firmly believed that they were just not very good at this stuff.) So, without DOI/IG knowledge, I arranged for inspectors to shadow Tony but stay out of sight of the IG monitoring vehicle.)
  • 4) If the IG people ask you to go along with your bosses suggestion that you should rewrite an official report on a huge oil spill, make sure a) you keep copies of the original report and b) tape all conversations between yourself and your boss AND yourself and the IG investigators!
  • 5) If you find your tires slashed after someone like Richie (the Collector) Panese calls you "CAD's Sammy the Bull", call the cops. Do NOT tell the IG's office, as they will do nothing and you'll see more flat tires in your future! Same goes for other harassment, whether it be an assault on your vehicle or an assault on your person.
  • 6) Don't expect help from politicians, local law enforcement or the Feds. You are on your own!

( . . . take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . . .)

  • 7) If you uncover a deal wherein the taxpayer is being fleeced for millions of dollars, figure on having the IRS call and set up an audit. (If you're Director has a brother who is a big shot with the IRS, this audit may come within a very short time of your finding problems with taxpayer's funds being "diverted", shall we say.) When you report this to your IG investigator, instead of surprise, expect him to say "you're not the first one that's told us of this."
  • 8) When you get real close to bagging the ONLY contractor they allowed you to tape, expect that the DOI/IG will suddenly command that the "dirty" contractors are off-limits, and that you (Tony) can only try to entice contractors that have never done government work before to bribe you. You can tell them that your wife was real sick, your insurance doesn't cover her private doctor, that she refuses to accept a doctor covered by our insurance plans, and other personal info. Then you can grab the "new" contractor if he offers to help with your medical expenses. BUT, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES can you allow one of the "good old boy" contractors to get caught in your web. (And it can be hard to avoid them, as they had bribed Tony so much in the past!)
  • 9) Arrests will always begin, and end, on a level below that of Asst. Director. No matter that ANY payments that Emmanuel Lawrence, John Honohan and Chris Bamberger finagled for a crooked contractor, the Asst. Director (Jim Gleba), the Deputy Director/Field Operations(Anthony "Kenny" LaBarca) and the Director (William "Little Billy" Russo) had to read, sign and approve them. And believe me, when it came to the "clean" inspectors, their work was checked with a fine tooth comb!
  • 10) When arrests are announced, funny things will happen. The day that the arrest of the CAD 3 was announced, you might expect that DOI would seal the offices of the 3 confessed extorters. Nope! The Deputy Director (Anthony LaBarca) over the 3 quickly ran to the Strauss Field Office and ordered everybody to leave for the field immediately. That left nobody at the Field Office, and the Deputy Director with the key. Any incriminating files were left in the Deputy Director's care!

Sure makes helping DOI sound rewarding, huh?

( . . . take the money . . take the money . . take the money . .take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . .take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . .take the money . . . take the money . . . take the money . . . take the . . )

So, "What would I do differently, if I had it to do again?" Simple. I'd take the money. My family wouldn't be made to suffer through the incompetence, or corruptibility of the NYC Dept. of Investigation or their subsidiary in incompetence, the NYCHA IG. My family would not suffer at all, they would prosper! I'd say that I'd still be doing my job at NYCHA, but that would be untrue. If we had taken the money, all of us that were involved would now have better jobs. Instead of shaking my head at the foolish attempts of a Jim Gleba or Bill Russo to maintain a veneer of innocence while at work, I'd be golfing with Gleba and the corrupt contractors and following Russo's lead in having someone working below me at NYCHA depositing my cash in special accounts for me. I could be one of those who just sign-off on a few Change Orders that, while the work was actually covered in the contract and was therefore already paid for, would allow a very grateful contractor to collect tens-of-thousands of dollars for which the taxpayer should have never been charged. Maybe I'd be the one that the Deputy Director/Field Ops would assign to "walk" payments for "special contractors" through the system, so that the "special contractors" wouldn't need to wait for their payments like everyone else.
These contractors can also be generous to a fault!

Or, if I were female, I'd have smiled at Franco, Gatewood and their ilk and be set for much bigger things at 250 Broadway. More recently, instead of being shocked at the arrogance of Finkel and his friend's when they conspire to get $100,000,000 leases on property they had recently purchased for less than 10% of that figure, I'd have complimented Finkel on the astute way he quickly gave up his kid in order to hide behind him. (To paraphrase Mr. Finkel, "The property owners include friend's of my son, not me! Only my son's friend's benefit, not my friends!")

My kids wouldn't be saddled with their huge student loans, as Dad would have plenty of $'s to spread around.

Who knows, I might be sitting next to Richie "the Collector" Panese on a NYCHA rooftop catching a tan and checking my NYCHA pay stubs!

So, no! If it happened again I wouldn't report anything to the IG's office, or to anyone that would take the info to any branch of the NYC Dept. of Investigation (DOI).

I'd join the wealthy few working at NYCHA.

I'd straighten out their data keeping to where a single spreadsheet of Security Contracts wouldn't scream out "fraud!" so loudly that even a former construction worker couldn't help but hear it! I'd have a Director of CAD that earned the respect of the employees, so that everyone from secretary on up to the Exec levels weren't so eager to part with information hazardous to that Director's corrupt schemes. And I would begin every speech to new NYCHA employees by warning them of the consequences that will befall them if they don't bring forward all info on corruption immediately!

And I would make doubly certain that they understood that such evidence is brought ONLY TO THE (DOI) IG's OFFICE!

Yeah, that's the ticket! Make sure corruption is NOT reported to anyone but DOI! Then the excuse "It's under active investigation!", can be used to keep other investigations from finding the truth.

But if there were a Spotlight then . . . well . . I'd like to think I just might have passed the information to that smiling "Spotty" idiot in the cowboy hat.

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Thus far, the Spotlight hasn't leaked any source's identity; hasn't denied mistakes when they've been made but printed apologies instead; and has done everything possible to keep the source's safety as the paramount concern.

Hmm? The Spotlight, huh?

Well, just how much attention have the politicians/officials paid to all the stuff that appears in the corruption issue of Spotty thus far?

Has Spotty done anything that caused anyone in Authority to listen?


I guess I still might have to just . .

take the money!

© MM Public Housing Spotlight and John Ballinger. All rights reserved.
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Contact Jack Ballinger at nychaspotlight@netscape.net
for a Real Audio sound clip containing a
conversation wherein DOI Investigator
John Kilpatrick discusses how he learned
that 2 NYCHA execs attended
a Mafia connected contractor's funeral .

Contact Jack Ballinger at nychaspotlight@netscape.net
for a Real Audio sound clip containing
the (3 Meg) confession of Tony DiAlto.
Tony was a member of a group of
corrupt Contract Inspectors working at NYCHA.
Neither Tony nor the person he confessed to
sharing his bribes with (Richard Penesi)
were ever charged, let alone prosecuted, by DOI.

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