Winners & Losers 3/10/17
Getting arrested is the worst. Except for when it’s not. On International Women’s Day Wednesday, rabble-rousing rising star Linda Sarsour and some of her fellow Women’s March on Washington founders were arrested protesting outside a Trump hotel. The women tweeted the moment, with Sarsour in particular grinning at the camera. The photo went viral, calling attention to “A Day Without a Woman” and turning a relatively modest rally into a media coup de grace. Of course, the social media savants knew that, in New York City, getting arrested can either make you a loser, or a real winner. And now, for some more arresting Winners & Losers.
Robert Capers – The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York may not get the high-profile prosecutions of his peer Preet, but he got a big win late last week when he arrested more than a dozen members of the MS-13 gang that was allegedly terrorizing the town of Brentwood – including four charged with murder. The arrests could even convince “tough on crime” President Donald Trump to let Obama-appointee Capers stay on … if he caught the story on Fox News.
Debborah Casais – Training your successor can pay dividends – just ask Debborah Casais, a recently retired state information technician who racked up 3,000 hours of overtime last year. At the time, the state was transitioning its 24/7 computer help desk to a private call center, which created ample overtime opportunities. Union benefits gave Casais about five weeks of vacation and counted this time off toward the 40-hour threshold at which overtime is triggered.
James O’Neill – There’s nothing like a $1.25 billion windfall to bring out the benevolence of our public servants. Such was the case with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, who made it rain on the NYPD thanks to a major settlement from a money laundering case that his office helped investigate. For their troubles, Brown gave James O’Neill and his 16 Queens precincts a very early (late?) Christmas present – more than $20 million for new equipment to enhance the department’s neighborhood policing program. Crime pays.
Paul Pearlman – De Blasio is delaying payments to the lawyers at Kramer Levin representing him amid investigations into his fundraising, but managing partner Pearlman’s firm is getting generously compensated in other ways, jumping into the top 10 lobbying firms for the first time in three years. Could it have something to do with the firm’s new relationship with the mayor? De Blasio’s playing it cool, but some of his agents and allies may be sweating.
William Vazquez and Amaury Villalobos – Amaury Villalobos and William Vazquez spent 33 years in prison for crimes that they didn’t commit, one of the worst things that could happen to somebody. Given those circumstances, Villalobos and Vazquez winning a combined $31 million from New York City and state for their wrongful conviction is one of the best possible outcomes. That hefty sum won’t make up for three decades lost to the criminal justice system, but it should make the rest of their days more comfortable.
Michael Green – The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Michael Green, the head of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, is surely grimacing because he appears to know the adage all too well. His division released a report showing more than half of the state’s police agencies and prosecutors missed a deadline for disclosing how many untested sexual assault evidence kits they had. This slows state efforts to send old kits to labs and more promptly process them in the future.
Terry Leonard – While it’s arguably not his fault, the mayor of Ilion was dealt a blow this week when Herkimer County’s largest employer Remington Arms announced that it will lay off 122 employees, or a little less than 10 percent of its workforce. This won’t endear local employees to the SAFE Act, Cuomo’s landmark gun-control law which Remington Arms cited as one of the reasons for the layoffs.
Michael Norris – While it’s important to note the Western New York assemblyman has not been accused of any wrongdoing, it’s never a good week for a politician to be connected to a corruption probe. In Norris’ case, he has been directed to appear before a grand jury as part of the corruption probe into former state Sen. George Maziarz’s campaign finances. Just another day in New York politics.
Shola Olatoye – As if running NYCHA wasn't hard enough, here comes Donald Trump and neurosurgeon-cum-housing-expert Ben Carson with a $35 million cut in funding. Olatoye's public housing agency faced a $60 million deficit last year, and it will probably be even worse this year as more federal cuts to public housing are expected. But Olatoye's problems are bigger than Trump: A 2014 report found NYCHA would need $18 BILLION to fully repair its aged buildings.
Mary Bassett – Any health commissioner would be concerned about babies contracting herpes, but one new case is particularly disconcerting, as the circumstances surrounding it are all too familiar. Back in 2013, then-mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio did not object to an influential ultra-Orthodox rabbi claiming that de Blasio would ease regulations related to a circumcision ritual known to have caused neonatal herpes. His administration negotiated a compromise, but this case is a reminder of the downside of the political deal.