Sunday, December 21, 2008

Andrew Cuomo works his ass off for New Yorkers

While Caroline Kennedy went on her show-tour last week, New York's Attorney General was hard at work. Andrew Cuomo, a person who holds elected office.

Andrew Cuomo

Cuomo seeks justification for the enrollment of 102 doctors in taxpayer-funded retirement plan
BUFFALO, N.Y. (December 18, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that he has ended the abuse of the public pension system by four Western New York physicians and that he has sent letters to employers of more than 100 other physicians seeking information to determine whether they improperly received taxpayer-funded benefits ordinarily reserved for public employees.
Four physicians from Lancaster Depew Pediatrics have agreed to pay the state a total of $50,000 and forfeit state pension credits and benefits for being improperly listed as employees of the Lancaster Central School District. All four provided services to the district as outside contractors and thus were ineligible for pension credits reserved for public employees.
Cuomo’s office also sent letters to school districts and other public employers across the state seeking information on and justification for the listing of 102 other physicians as payroll employees earning credits in the taxpayer-funded public pension system.
The settlement and letters announced today represent a new phase of Cuomo’s ongoing investigation into waste and abuse of the public pension systems. The four Lancaster physicians are the first non-attorneys to settle pension abuse cases against them.
“New Yorkers are fed up with the systemic corruption constantly hitting them in their wallets,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “This is yet another example of taxpayer dollars too easily slipping through the cracks and into the hands of those not entitled to them.”
At various times between 1985 and 2006, Michael D. Terranova, M.D., Mark D. Bezbatchenko, M.D., Elizabeth Davis, M.D., and Michael Rabice, M.D. – all physicians at Lancaster Depew Pediatrics – were listed as “employees” of the Lancaster Central School District and received employee benefits, such as health insurance and pension credits, that are ordinarily reserved for legitimate public employees. Under the settlement announced today, the four physicians will collectively pay the State of New York $50,000 and forfeit any pension system credits accrued as well as any employee contributions made into the pension system.
Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation into the Lancaster physicians determined that Terranova began providing services to the Lancaster Central School district in 1985. Through 2006, Terranova was listed as an employee of the district, receiving an annual salary, health insurance benefits and pension credits. At Terranova’s request, the Lancaster Central School District added Bezbatchenko to the payroll as an employee in 1991, Davis in 1995 and Rabice in 1998. During that entire time the “salary” from the district, which grew from $14,000 to $30,000, was split evenly between the physicians but all received health insurance and credits in the state pension system. In 2006, the school district increased compensation for the doctors to $42,000 and removed all of them from the payroll, ceased providing health insurance and ended the reporting to the retirement system of the doctors as “employees.”
At all times, the four Lancaster physicians were working as independent contractors and not employees and therefore should not have received credits in the taxpayer-funded public pension system. The school district did not supervise, control or direct the manner in which any of the physicians performed their duties, and did not provide any sort of office or staffing for the doctors.
Cuomo, meanwhile, is also expanding the investigation into specific physician-employee arrangements in other school districts and public employers in Western New York, Long Island, Central New York, the Southern Tier, Capital Region, the North County, Catskills and Hudson Valley. The Attorney General’s office sent document request letters to public employers in those regions seeking information regarding the placement of 102 physicians on their employee payrolls, which allowed the physicians to accumulate credits in the public pension system. Among other things, the letters seek documents including personnel files on each physician, time and attendance records, records regarding their “employment” or financial arrangements with the district and any materials forwarded to the state Comptroller regarding pension system eligibility.
Attorney General Cuomo’s ongoing statewide investigation of pension abuse includes more than 4,000 local governments and special districts across New York State, all school districts and the 37 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (“BOCES”). The investigation has already revealed that many lawyers had improperly remained on public payrolls for such extended periods of time, or were included on the payrolls of so many public sector employers simultaneously, that they accumulated substantial credits in the New York State pension system. To date, Attorney General Cuomo’s investigation into fraud and abuse in the public pension systems has resulted in settlements of more than $1.5 million being returned to taxpayers based on actions involving the conduct of more than 70 attorneys and other professionals.
The Attorney General’s Office urges individuals with knowledge of any questionable arrangements between any BOCES, local governments, or school districts and their outside professionals to contact the Public Integrity Bureau by telephone at 212-416-8090 or by e-mail at
The settlement announced today was handled by Assistant Attorney General Darcy M. Goddard and Assistant Attorney General Lauren Popper Ellis.

And what, pray tell, does Caroline Kennedy know about employment or, for that matter, unemployment.

MillerCoors Will Pull Popular “Sparks” Drinks Off New York Shelves
Cuomo Calls on Other Manufacturers to Stop Production of these Dangerous Products
New York, NY (December 18, 2008)--Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today joined Attorneys General from 13 other jurisdictions in announcing an agreement reached with MillerCoors that will result in the nationwide discontinuance of the best-selling, pre-mixed alcoholic energy drink, Sparks. As part of the agreement, MillerCoors has also agreed not to produce any caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future. Today’s agreement comes after months of negotiations between Attorney General Cuomo’s Office and MillerCoors, where Cuomo urged the manufacturer to pull these dangerous drinks off New York shelves and stop aggressively marketing the alcoholic beverage to a young audience.
“Drinks like Sparks encourage the polar opposite of responsible drinking habits,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Besides being aggressively marketed to a younger crowd, they are fundamentally dangerous and put drinkers of all ages at risk. Today’s agreement will ensure that from here on out, these drinks are kept off New York shelves and away from New York consumers.”
In early 2008, published research about the dangers of alcoholic energy drinks and concerns about the way the products were being marketed, led Attorney General Cuomo and several other Attorneys General across the country to initiate an investigation into the safety and marketing of MillerCoors Sparks brand products, which include Sparks Original, Sparks Light, Sparks Plus and an unreleased higher alcohol product called Sparks Red.
Attorney General Cuomo issued an investigative subpoena to MillerCoors in early January pursuant to New York’s consumer protection statutes. The investigation focused on false and misleading health-related statements about the energizing effects of Sparks brand products and on allegations that MillerCoors was marketing the products to an underage audience.
In addition to providing that MillerCoors will eliminate caffeine and other stimulants from its Sparks brand products, the settlement announced today addresses concerns about the marketing of Sparks. MillerCoors has agreed to stop using images in its marketing that imply energy or power, like the battery-themed +/- symbols on the can. MillerCoors has also agreed to cease particular marketing themes that appeal to underage youth, eliminating advertisements that feature a bright orange-stained tongue and not renewing its contract with William Ocean, an air guitar champion who does a back flip onto an opened can of Sparks at all of his shows. MillerCoors will also immediately discontinue the Sparks website.
A recently published Wake Forest University study found that college students who mix alcohol and energy drinks were more likely to be hurt, sexually assaulted or drive drunk than those who only drank alcohol.
In May, Attorney General Cuomo announced that Anheuser-Busch would stop producing alcoholic energy drinks, including Tilt and Bud Extra. With the elimination of Sparks from the market, nearly 85% of all alcoholic energy drinks that were available at the start of this year will be eliminated from the market. Attorney General Cuomo is continuing to work with other jurisdictions to investigate alcoholic energy drinks manufactured by other companies.
The investigation and settlement were handled by Assistant Attorney General Melvin Goldberg under the supervision of Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau Chief Joy Feigenbaum.

No, it's not all glamour. It's rolling up your sleeves and addressing the issues that effect all of the people, not just the country-club set.

David W. Tomasello banned from garbage business after DEC found more than 31K tons of construction debris, lumber and other solid waste at illegal dump he was operating
BUFFALO, N.Y. (December 17, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the owner of an illegal dump in Western New York has been ordered to pay $2.7 million in penalties and has been banned from the garbage business for dumping thousands of tons of waste without a permit.
Erie County Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek ordered David W. Tomasello to pay $2,712,950 in penalties to the state for operating an illegal dump in the city of Lackawanna. Tomasello is also barred from being involved in the solid waste business in New York state.
“This individual’s callous and brazen disregard for both the law and the environment is an absolute affront to all New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “He is paying a heavy and justified price for his actions. My office will continue to aggressively pursue justice against anyone who breaks New York’s environmental laws.”
Tomasello, owner of Tomasello Contracting Corporation and Lake Front Recycling, Inc., purchased the 15.8 acre site on North Steelawanna Ave. in 1997 and began dumping solid waste at the location without a permit.
According to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), since 2002 more than 31,200 tons of solid waste has accumulated illegally at the site. In addition to violating multiple solid waste laws, the site poses a fire hazard (evidence of several fires was noticed upon state inspection), provides a breeding area for mosquitoes from stagnant waters in containers and debris, shelters public health nuisances such as mice and rats, represents a potential pollution threat to ground and surface water from runoff, and is an eyesore that generates frequent complaints. He also repeatedly failed to properly store the waste and control odors, and neglected to remove unauthorized waste in a timely manner.
Debris mounds on the site reached 22-feet tall and are easily visible from surrounding properties.
“Violating environmental conservation laws, neglecting cleanup obligations, creating a 22-foot high pile of debris and then fleeing the state to avoid responsibility is not acceptable,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “DEC staff and the Attorney General’s Office have worked doggedly on this case and their persistence has enabled an appropriate and final resolution to the long history of violations generated by this site’s owner.”
Tomasello was arraigned in local court in 2003 for operating a solid waste management facility without a permit and in violation of Environmental Conservation Laws and regulations. He then fled New York State to avoid legal jurisdiction, abandoning the Lakefront Recycling site. The property was eventually foreclosed for failure to pay property taxes.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Joseph Koczaja under the supervision of Environmental Protection Bureau Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek and Special Deputy Attorney General Katherine Kennedy. DEC Region 9, based in Buffalo, assisted in the case.
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