Sunday, January 10, 2010
Bill Thompson's Campaign For Mayor Was Compromised By Bloomberg's Money, Says Village Voice Reporter Wayne Barrett
Barrett: It's no Mystery Why Bill Thompson Declared for 2013 So Early -- It's Our Fault!
By Wayne Barrett in Featured, Follow-up, Politics, Wayne Barrett
Friday, Jan. 8 2010 @ 9:28AM
Bill Thompson rushed to get the word out on Tuesday that he wasn't running for senate, and that he was running for mayor four years from now. His 2013 declaration
set such a record for premature expectation that NY1's Roma Torre looked confounded throughout her interview with him that night, which was one of two or three that he did just as this week's Voice cover story about him went up on our site. (The piece details just how beholden Thompson was to Bloomberg, who has funneled tens of millions of dollars to a questionable museum project by his wife, Elsie McCabe-Thompson. The story shows that, as Thompson moved closer to becoming Bloomberg's preferred opponent in the race, the mayor dumped more and more money into the project, which should end speculation about why Thompson ran such a lackluster campaign in a race that turned out to be much more winnable than anyone assumed.)
"The logistics," said the departing comptroller, "I haven't worked out yet." Was that ever an understatement! Like what will he do between now and his mayoral campaign? "Anything from, you know, private sector employment to things still staying in, being involved in the public sector, academia, as another, or as you point out, think tank, there are lots of options out there. Do I know which one? I don't." Or is he forming a campaign staff? "It's very early to do that." Or does he plan to try now to lock down endorsements? "I don't think anybody's gonna say, geez, let me endorse you right now, because everything, landscape changes and the future, who knows what the future holds?" Well said, so how does he know what the future holds for him?
Since Thompson's bizarre announcement is unprecedented in modern citywide electoral history, and inconsistent with his own history in 2008 (when he said he would run in 2009, a more respectable interval), it's safe to assume that some unusual event prompted it. Could it have been, we wonder, the imminent publication of our story, which literally happened while Thompson was jabbering away on NY1?
Having stirred the pot about a possible senate run in many media interviews since November, he obviously had to figure out when and where to withdraw from that race. First, he said he'd decide in December. Then he said January. All you have to do is look at the pushback in the last day or so about Harold Ford possibly entering the race to figure out that the Schumer/Gillibrand camp understood all along that Thompson wasn't ever going to run for senate. No Gillibrand ally ever said a word about Thompson throughout nearly two months of his supposed possible candidacy.
Having milked all that exposure, Thompson wanted to make sure he got out of the race ahead of the mountain of allegations about him in our story this week, so he did it just as the story appeared. His office, his operatives and his wife were given a virtual point-by-point outline of the story in a hundred detailed questions over a month-long period.
Elsie McCabe Thompson, the wife of City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. and president of the Museum for African Art.
Elsie McCabe-Thompson (pictured at left), whose museum is the focal point of the story, even answered some of the early questions, and said, through her spokeswoman, that she'd answer more if we delayed the story. Eddie Castell and Bill Lynch, two of Thompson's top political aides, promised at one point that the Voice would get responses. All we got from Thompson was a statement that he'd recused himself as comptroller on all matters involving the museum, a defense that hurt more than it helped, since it turned out he'd taken several actions on behalf of the museum after he'd recused himself. Once Thompson figured out that his answers were only digging a deeper hole for him, he clamed up.
Then he beat the clock--albeit with the oddest political prophecy of recent time, a candidacy revealed just three days after an inaugural!
Voters had no idea how much these two were intertwined.
Bloomberg and Thompson: The (Really) Odd Couple
Now it can be told: The surprising ties between the billionaire mayor and the poor slob who ran against him
By Wayne Barrett, January 05, 2010
With Special Reporting by Aaron Howell and L.C.E. Jordan
Research assistance by Steve P. Ercolani, T.J. Raphael, Kate Rose, Amanda Sakuma, and Grace Smith
This is an odd story about an even odder couple, and the surprising ties that bind them. It's a tale of intrigue about a mayoral contest that left New Yorkers feeling so cheated fewer of them voted than in any election since 1917. It also reveals how one of these odd partners compromised the other, subverting the independent checks and balances required of a mayor and comptroller by law.
As the curtain opens on 2010, the stars of the year in city politics, Mike Bloomberg and William Thompson, who were awkwardly allied since being inaugurated together eight years ago, are each moving on to new and uncertain phases of their public lives.
Bloomberg, who has suffered recent stunning setbacks in the City Council, has already discovered that third terms and narrow wins can diminish even mogul mayors. Thompson—entertained at Gracie Mansion at a post-election private breakfast and praised by Bloomberg as "a quality guy" who the mayor hopes "stays in public service"—is still considering a 2010 race against our unelected senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, or unelected state comptroller, Tom DiNapoli ("Go for it," cheers Bloomberg). Friends of Thompson expect him to try, like loser Rudy Giuliani did in 1989, to stay in play on the sidelines and run for mayor again in four years, when a departing Bloomberg might throw him an endorsement or some checks.
Thompson, who only promises he will run again sometime for something, has suddenly become a darling of the media, which are now overcompensating for relying too obsessively on inaccurate polls that failed to anticipate a four-point margin of victory. Thompson, it turns out, got virtually the same total vote Fernando Ferrer (pictured above) did in 2005, while Bloomberg pulled in 180,000 fewer votes than he received last time. Thompson's close margin was less a result of his underappreciated strengths—the Times' Mike Barbaro correctly reported two weeks before the election that his "biggest obstacle" was "his own undisciplined campaign"—than they were of a result of Bloomberg fatigue. Thompson, in fact, had an "oddly relaxed" campaign schedule, with a single event some days, observed Barbaro, and was "chronically late" and often failed to appear at all. He spent more than half his money before the mid-September nominal primary, forcing him to rely on blink-of-an-eye, 15-second TV commercials in November.
But that wasn't enough. Thompson's real role, for Bloomberg at least, was to help force the feared congressman, Anthony Weiner, out of the race, a goal that Bloomberg guru Howard Wolfson has openly acknowledged. Thompson obliged, giving up a sure third term as comptroller. Weiner himself explained in a Times op-ed when he withdrew in May that "running a primary against Thompson would only drain the ability of the winner to compete in the general election." Having lost to Ferrer in 2005 by 11 points, Weiner understood that minority candidates have won all but one of the Democratic mayoral primaries since 1985. So when the leading black politician in the city decided to make his improbable run, Weiner had nowhere to go but out. Thompson and Bloomberg might as well have had a first-round victory party together that night.
Like other powerful New York pols, Mike Bloomberg wanted to pick his own opponent. Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer spent a year setting the table for 2010, and, as one-time putative opponents Steve Israel and Carolyn Maloney can attest, the incumbent pair used every knife and fork available. Ed Koch picked his opponent when he derailed ex-congressman Herman Badillo and won a third term in 1985, and Giuliani did it when he submarined a possible challenge from Alan Hevesi in 1997. Faced with internal polls that we now know rarely put Bloomberg above 50 percent, he preferred an opponent whose vulnerabilities were well known to him, having already exploited them for years.
Thompson couldn't, for example, attack Bloomberg's development policies since, as a member of the city's Industrial Development Agency, he had voted 876 times in favor of the $9.6 billion in bonds that underwrite the projects, opposing them only five times. Charged under the city charter with assessing Bloomberg's budgets and auditing his agencies, Thompson had instead gushed about the mayor for most of his two terms, leaving him with virtually no viable way of distinguishing himself from his golf buddy when the two ended up on opposite sides of the ballot.
What Bloomberg got with Thompson was a made-to-order challenge, so tame at times that a reporter, frustrated by Thompson's unwillingness to say a single critical word about Bloomberg at one September press conference, asked why he'd called it, and so over-the-top at other times (as when he promised to fire Police Commissioner Ray Kelly), that he looked grotesquely out of touch. The Daily News' Adam Lisberg captured it in a classic headline: "Nice-guy Thompson can't find the jugular." Thompson curiously decided to make schools the core of his attack on Bloomberg even as his key campaign consultant, Roberto Ramirez, was lobbying in Albany on behalf of a Bloomberg-tied group championing mayoral control. Thompson often looked like a befuddled shadow-boxer, tied to Bloomberg at the hip while serving up obligatory campaign lip. As for Bloomberg, he'd contended in 2008 that all the term-limits extension did was give voters the additional choice of voting for him, a supposed "expansion" of the franchise even as he overrode the result of two referendums. Then he maneuvered successfully in 2009 to narrow that choice to the opponent he wanted to face.
If voters had a vague sense that this was a mirage of a mayoral election, what follows is a damning set of facts that shows that these two supposed opponents were actually far more connected than we ever knew. They shared a very personal and subterranean agenda, the funding of a project dear to Thompson's heart. Remarkably, Bloomberg continued pouring new money into a project that benefited Thompson even in the heat of the campaign. It is a connection begging for explanation, but Thompson would not answer virtually any of the post-election questions posed by the Voice.
Stranger still, Bloomberg's press managers refused to provide any public information about that project—a museum—in the lead-up to the election, prompting me to tell the mayor's press secretary, Stu Loeser, that he was more helpful when I was writing an exposé about the mayor than when I was reporting on the mayor's opponent. Since November, however, the city agencies that once stonewalled me have piled public papers on my desk.
Here, then, is the story about Bill Thompson that Mike Bloomberg didn't want you to know when he was running against him.
It starts with a single, unsettling fact: The mayor has directed or triggered between $43 million and $51 million in public and personal subsidies into a museum project led by Thompson's current wife and longtime companion, Elsie McCabe-Thompson, dumping $2 million of additional city funding into it as late as September 30, in the middle of the mayoral campaign.
Thompson was so involved with his wife's Museum for African Art that he may have violated the city charter by using his office to solicit state and city funding for its grand new home now under construction, with marble floors and walls, at the end of Museum Mile on Fifth Avenue and 109th Street. While the project sounds admirable, the museum has attracted this funding at a time when it is little more than an office in a warehouse in Long Island City, with no permanent art collection of its own, no gallery, no accreditation from the American Association of Museums or the Association of African American Museums, and no connection or history with Harlem. It is so out of compliance with state legal requirements for museums that the best it could do, after weeks of Voice questioning, was shake "a letter of existence" out of education department officials, which it misrepresented as a "letter of good standing." Other outstanding African-American museums in the city, like the fully accredited Studio Museum of Harlem, which has a 1,600-object permanent collection and, unlike McCabe-Thompson's, has trained 90 artists-in-residence, receive a fraction of the public assistance showered on this monument to political connections.
The Voice has identified four city and state sources who say Thompson spoke to them on behalf of the project, a potential violation of Conflict of Interest Board (COIB) decisions that have resulted in fines when low-level city officials use their position to benefit their girlfriends or wives. While Thompson declined to answer questions about these contacts, a museum spokeswoman, Jeanne Collins, e-mailed that McCabe-Thompson was "unaware of any conversations" her husband may have had on the museum's behalf with individuals with "whom Ms. McCabe-Thompson did not have prior contact." Thompson "did not introduce the museum or Ms. McCabe-Thompson to any new funders," Collins said, never denying that Thompson pushed for funding the museum had already sought, as the Voice confirmed. In addition to Thompson's contacts, McCabe-Thompson noted in an application for funding from Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer that she was "the fiancée" of the city comptroller, volunteering it as a form of disclosure. In fact, a Page Six item in the Post on June 6, 2006, announced that the "elegant" Elsie and the "smitten" Billy were dating, a story that Thompson advisers say they planted, making sure, not incidentally, that any possible funder out of the loop got the news.
Beyond Thompson's interventions on behalf of the museum, his office had to register its capital funding agreements and city contracts. Thompson's spokesman insisted that its contract unit only certified the project once, in March 2008, without any involvement at the top of the office. The spokesman insisted it was "approved as a matter of course," though the Bloomberg administration's Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which is shepherding the museum project and is convinced of its merits, says the comptroller "has sent back some funding agreement packages with questions or requests for more information." This project—which defaulted on or skirted several critical EDC deadlines, in addition to its questionable licensing status with the state—invited questions, but Thompson's office rubberstamped it. The city charter explicitly requires that capital projects receive the comptroller's approval, and he issues the directives that govern projects like this. His office even reviews the contracts for the museum's operating grants.
Thompson's explanation for how he handled this conflict raises as many thorny issues as it resolves. He supplied a previously undisclosed memo to the Voice dated March 14, 2005, indicating that he'd recused himself on "all matters" related to the museum. He asked his top deputy, Gayle Horwitz, who had worked with him since he became Board of Education president in 1996, to handle it. Since Thompson had only left his wife, Sylvia Kinard, in late 2004, his recusal just a few months after the break-up suggests what his friends say, but Thompson has never conceded—namely, that he left Kinard to move in with McCabe, who did not become McCabe-Thompson until September 2008. Thompson told the Post during the campaign that "there was nothing between us until I filed for divorce," which he did on April 26, 2005, a claim belied by his earlier recusal. Kinard called McCabe-Thompson "The Hoverer," telling the Post she was invited by Thompson to their 1999 wedding and was "always around" during their marriage. Others have said that even before McCabe-Thompson took over the museum in September 1997, she was actively lobbying then–Board of Education president Thompson on behalf of the technology-training company where she worked. She was one of the first to contribute to his comptroller campaign in 1999.
In one more strange twist, the mayoral wannabe remained registered at the Brooklyn home that Kinard lived in for years after he left, though McCabe-Thompson's neighbors on West 97th Street say that his city car and police vehicles were parked morning after morning outside her door since 2005. Mono Cleaners, around the corner from her condo building, gave us tickets for the suits and shirts on McCabe's account that he picked up and dropped off there for years.
Stranger still, the clearest examples of Thompson's efforts on behalf of the museum occur right after he recused himself from having anything to do with it. In early 2005, he asked Deputy Mayor Mark Shaw and Council Speaker Gifford Miller to fund it. Shaw recalled that the contact occurred while the administration was putting together the budget at the start of the year. Miller's appointment diaries indicate that Thompson talked with him on April 22, a month after he recused himself and four days before he filed for divorce. It was the only time Thompson ever asked the Council speaker to fund a group, a source close to the former speaker tells the Voice, and Miller did, putting $750,000 into the capital budget. Shaw recalls going to the budget office with the Thompson request. Though it was a year later that the Post reported he was smitten, the comptroller was recklessly proving it, despite his recusal, even before he sought a divorce.
The Bloomberg administration quickly got the message. Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff had been a critic of the project, according to a former EDC official who attended a meeting that included him and McCabe-Thompson. "Doctoroff didn't want to delay development of the site," recalled Barbara Resnicow, a senior vice president at the corporation who dealt with "the skepticism about it" at the top of the agency from 2002 through 2004. EDC had agreed in the late '90s, when Rudy Giuliani was mayor, to sell four city-owned parcels on the current site to the museum. But five or six years later, this prime property was still vacant and appeared to be going nowhere. "I have a clear memory," says Resnicow. "Doctoroff was very negative about the project." But, starting in 2005, the city's attitude suddenly shifted. It wasn't just that the McCabe/Thompson connection started to surface then, it was that Thompson's relationship with City Hall was simultaneously undergoing an overhaul.
In 2004, Thompson decided not to run against Bloomberg in the 2005 election, a race he had toyed with briefly. Instead, Thompson endorsed Democrat Fernando Ferrer, but became so helpful to Bloomberg that his foot-in-each-camp dexterity was mocked in news accounts. When Thompson made his endorsement that August, he was asked to name three specific things Ferrer would do as mayor that Bloomberg hadn't, and he demurred, forcing the reporter to see if he could name one or two. "You'd have to ask Freddy the question," said Thompson, who had gone out of his way to praise Bloomberg the day before the press conference and the day before that. Ferrer raised questions about the rising reading and math scores that Bloomberg was trumpeting, and Thompson told reporters he had no intention of auditing school achievement claims, saving that for his own campaign in 2009. In fact, during the 2005 campaign, Thompson did not host a single press conference revealing a critical audit of any Bloomberg agency. The Bloomberg camp understood that Democrat Thompson had no choice but to endorse Democrat Ferrer, especially since he was trying to build an alliance with Latinos for his own planned 2009 run, but a Thompson political adviser now acknowledges that the mayor "was quite happy" with Thompson's 2005 performance.
So, no doubt, was Elsie. The city increased its annual operating grant for the museum from $62,700 to $417,800 in the budget adopted that June. The Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) says the hike was a "one-time commitment from the mayor and the City Council," coinciding with the calls to Shaw and Miller (Miller's father was a Thompson appointee on the New York Public Library board). In fact, although the 2005 grant was the museum's largest ever, its operating subsidy remained at $192,000 the next year and continues at roughly that level, three times its pre-2005 average.
The day after Thompson's lukewarm endorsement of Ferrer, EDC's executive committee approved the discounted sale of the four city-owned parcels to the museum. Thompson joined Bloomberg at a press conference announcing a minority-hiring program shortly before the election, and two days after Bloomberg crushed Ferrer, the full EDC board approved the property sale to the museum for $200,000 less than the appraised price. The ultimate discount was far greater since EDC stuck with its 2005 appraisal when the sale finally closed in 2007, though it had the legal right to update it, a substantial potential savings for the museum and its condo partners, who are building lavish apartments overlooking the park 14 stories above the three-story museum.
The lovefest between Bloomberg and Thompson was at its peak in 2007, when Bloomberg announced at a Guggenheim press event in February that the city would put $12 million into the project. It was a stunning reversal. A week before, Thompson said he was "delighted" about Bloomberg's budget, expressing none of a comptroller's traditional caveats of concern. By April, Thompson declared that the mayor's budget was "fiscal integrity at its best." And in May, Thompson invited Bloomberg to speak at Tufts, where Thompson is a trustee, and the mayor declared: "I think Bill will go down in history as maybe the best comptroller the city has ever had." That November, the New York Empowerment Zone board approved the final $2 million of a $2.5 million grant for the project. Doctoroff was a member of the board, and if Congressman Charles Rangel, the state board member, or the city board member objects to a project, it isn't funded. When Wall Street started unraveling, Thompson installed a Bloomberg terminal in his office, just like the mayor has in his City Hall bullpen.
While the mayor's office will not say what Bloomberg knew about the ties between McCabe-Thompson and Thompson during these years (and neither will Thompson), McCabe-Thompson's spokeswoman did. "She has dined at the mayor's house and interacted with him at countless political functions at Gracie Mansion and elsewhere," said Collins's e-mail. "She has also attended occasional events (e.g., a ball game) with him, first as Mr. Thompson's date and later as his wife." Asked if the museum came up at any of these get-togethers, Collins reported: "In fact, Ms. McCabe-Thompson has few casual or professional conversations in which she does not bring up the subject of the museum." Stu Loeser says that Thompson never asked Bloomberg or any of the current deputies or top EDC officials to help the museum, but Doctoroff and the ex-EDC heads, Andrew Alper and Josh Sirefman, did not reply to Voice e-mails asking about Thompson contacts. McCabe-Thompson hailed Sirefman as a former consultant to the museum in a submission she made to Stringer's office while he was EDC president.
The level of Bloomberg support kept growing even in 2009. On June 25, the city announced the award of New Market Tax Credits for the museum, valued at nearly $4 million, one of only five capital projects to be selected for this new program encouraging private investment. On September 30, the EDC board added another $2 million in direct construction financing, bringing the total to $16 million, including grants added by the City Council and Stringer, who is a friend and political ally of Thompson's. Stringer and Council Speaker Christine Quinn acknowledged in interviews that the administration's support of the project was, as Quinn put it, "a positive" and "a relevant fact" when they decided to add millions from their own, limited pools of capital funding. McCabe-Thompson put $3 million more of expected city funding into the package that was voted on by the state's Public Authorities Control Board (PACB) on September 16. She also listed $8 million in federal grants on the PACB submission, some of which remains unspecified. In addition to the $2.5 million in federal funds that flows through the empowerment zone, she says she's received $1 million in construction commitments from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that are only awarded to nonprofits that can prove they've received three times that much in other public funding, suggesting again the triggering effect of the Bloomberg grants. NEH is also providing $717,000 to finance the first exhibits at the new location, and Rangel is seeking another $450,000 earmark for a storage vault on site (he previously earmarked $250,000, but would not answer questions about any role Thompson might have played).
Beyond the $1.4 million in city operating aid that the museum has received in the Bloomberg years, the mayor has also put $700,000 of his own money into it, steered through the Carnegie Corporation. McCabe-Thompson and Bloomberg LP refused to say if the company has given it anything else. Ironically, Thompson had the nerve in both debates to charge that Bloomberg was engaging in "pay to endorse" politics, alleging that the mayor was giving to groups "with the expectation of something in return." Thompson might have been projecting, but Bloomberg blowback could certainly have turned the allegation on its head. "Is that what I was doing when I gave hundreds of thousands to your wife's museum?" would have become every station's crushing debate sound bite.
Instead, Bloomberg just took the hit (by way of disclosure, my wife's nonprofit has also received Bloomberg grants, unsolicited and unaffected by my battering of him). Like Loeser's refusal to answer any of my museum questions before the election, Bloomberg's debate dodge on his supposed political philanthropy indicated that he, too, might have been pulling punches.
Thompson's quiet help for the museum did not, however, stop with city officials. A high state official in the Spitzer administration who asked not to be identified said that Thompson called him pursuing aid from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC). Though Thompson did not reveal his ties to McCabe-Thompson, "anyone who was involved knew what was going on," said the official. The state has either awarded or is poised to award $17 million in construction support for the new site. McCabe-Thompson, who was Eliot Spitzer's moot court partner at Harvard Law School, got Spitzer to agree to equal the city's initial $12 million capital contribution, and he and then–Lieutenant Governor David Paterson attended a groundbreaking ceremony in September 2007 announcing the match.
But it took a jolt from Paterson, after Spitzer's resignation in March 2008, to actually get the state money flowing. Four months after Paterson became governor, he directed ESDC to begin processing the first $6 million in funding for the museum. Paterson declined to answer Voice questions about any contacts he might be aware of that Thompson had with him or other state officials, but he did tell a source that discussed this story with him that "Billy called everyone." ESDC chief Avi Schick wrote McCabe-Thompson on July 2, 2008, saying he was "pleased to inform her" that Paterson had "recommended" a $12 million Art & Culture grant for the museum. "To commence processing of this grant," Schick urged her to apply, putting a very loaded cart before the horse.
An ESDC vice president wrote her again in April 2009 "to invite her to apply," and ESDC officials then guided the museum step by step through a long application process. When the agency tried to calendar the first $6 million grant for a board meeting, an official had to ask McCabe-Thompson twice for a memo explaining why it was "urgent" that the funding be approved. When the agency questioned why McCabe-Thompson had only accounted for $66 million of the $113 million pricetag on the project (both numbers were grossly inflated), she simply said that the museum could cut $30 million in costs mostly associated with the Nelson Mandela Center, a historical feature of the museum that she had used to appeal to private funders and the Mandela Foundation in South Africa. An assistant secretary to the governor, Arana Hankin, repeatedly and atypically contacted ESDC about the project, and Paterson personally attended the August 2009 board meeting when the grant was approved, a rare occurrence for any governor. After the grant was approved, the museum inquired about the second $6 million, and an ESDC e-mail suggested: "Maybe you should inquire directly with the Governor's office." ESDC says that the museum has also applied for a $5 million Downstate Revitalization grant, which would come atop the $12 million, and that funding decision is pending. Though there has been much media speculation about Thompson running with Paterson's likely opponent, Andrew Cuomo, Thompson has been publicly urging Democrats to get behind Paterson.
ESDC e-mails also raised questions about the museum's charter with the Board of Regents, which lapsed two months after McCabe-Thompson became president in 1997 (she had her title immediately changed from executive director). The five-year charter has never been renewed. The charter itself said it would become "void" unless the museum applied for another provisional or absolute charter before the expiration date. The museum finally sought an absolute charter in 2004, but it did not file its annual reports, which are required by the Regents, until the end of 2008, when it retroactively made submissions for 2004 through 2006. Despite 12 years of derelict filings, the Board has never formally acted against it, in large part because it rarely takes action against institutions out of compliance. After Voice inquiries, the museum sought this December to renew its provisional charter, but was too late to get on the board's agenda. The museum acknowledged its "discrepancies in status" with state chartering officials in 2009 e-mails with ESDC but said they usually resolved questions "by providing a certificate of good standing issued by Kirti Gotswani," a lawyer at the State Education Department. But Gotswani tells the Voice: "We can't say they're in good standing," insisting that all he has done is provide a letter confirming that the museum "can do business in the state." The Bloomberg administration questioned the museum's status in 2005, forcing it to write the Regents seeking an immediate absolute charter. But when that couldn't be done, the city apparently backed off from the demand.When the Voice asked the city's cultural affairs department if it was aware that the museum's charter had not been renewed since 1997, the agency said simply that it was.
By every standard other than its grand new home, the museum has declined dramatically under McCabe-Thompson, who relocated it from Soho to Queens. It reported earning $326,217 in fees for the exhibits it organized and showed at other venues in its 1998–1999 filings—McCabe-Thompson's first full year. By its most recent filing in 2007–2008, exhibit fees had plummeted to $102,500. It published and sold so many catalogs associated with its exhibits that it reported a $121,153 profit in its 1999–2000 annual filings; now that number is blank on the filings. It ran a store that sold $331,831 worth of African art and other objects in its peak year. That's down to $13,225. Its educational programs dropped from $421,161 to $143,063. Its membership, once lofty, fell to 130 members by 2006, according to its latest filing with the Regents. The more the museum declined, the greater government support it drew. Its gross receipts bottomed out in 2005 at a quarter of what they were when McCabe-Thompson took over, and that's precisely when the city started the ball rolling in its direction. That's also when it closed its gallery to cut its rent in half.
What did go up were its management and general expenses, tripling under McCabe-Thompson. Her salary went from $102,000 to $184,069 by 2003–2004. The museum declined to say what it is now, what her other benefits are, or whether the personal loans listed on its financial records involve her. She took out a mortgage on her West Side apartment with the same bank that she simultaneously secured an annual $150,000 credit line for the museum. She told friends that she was trying to get one or two condo apartments for the museum from the developer. The museum's travel expenses, which were zero in 2001–2002, hit a high of $516,813 in 2004–2005. Much of that is associated with what it cost to move exhibits, but the travel amount billed to management and fundraising (her two functions) hit nearly $100,000 a year later, almost as much as the amount billed to the program services tied to the exhibits. The more the museum depended on connections, the less it did for its African art constituents, the more it spent on itself, and the better it fared as a magnet for public funding.
"I hated the project from the beginning. I really disliked it," says East Harlem City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, who represents the area, conceding that when it became a fait accompli, she allocated $250,000 in capital funds to it, a fraction of the millions Quinn and the Council leadership delivered. State Senator Bill Perkins, who lives across the street from the site and has long opposed it, wasn't informed when the PACB voted for it in the fall. Even the city conceded in legal documents that it wasn't the "highest best use" of the city-owned land, and Community Board 11 at one point voted against it.
Controlled by the Housing Preservation and Development agency until it was transferred to EDC for sale to the project, the site was seen by Viverito, Perkins, and Stringer's predecessor, Virginia Fields, as a natural for affordable housing. The museum, which owned the parcel fronting Fifth Avenue, insisted instead on partnering with Brickman Associates, the developer that is now building multimillion-dollar condos. The company, whose owner, Bruce Brickman, has reportedly boasted about his longstanding ties to Thompson, won McCabe-Thompson's favor by offering to build the core museum at cost, cover the land price, and donate $5 million to it, a total value of $20 million, according to estimates in city filings. Ironically, there may be no better example of the Bloomberg administration championing projects for the rich, the theme of the Thompson campaign.
When the deal was initially approved at the end of the Giuliani administration and the beginning of Bloomberg's, the rationale was 450 permanent new jobs. The museum was then partnered with Edison Schools, the controversial for-profit public company that planned to build its national headquarters and a charter school there. Edison collapsed and sold its site to the museum in 2003, reducing the museum's estimate of new full-time employees to 16, a threshold it says it will not reach for eight years. Then the justification for re-approving the project shifted to its marvels as a tourist attraction and economic development engine. A recent Times front-page story ("In the Arts, Bigger Buildings May Not Be Better") reported that across the country and in New York, major arts projects were being "delayed, scaled back, put into question or abandoned altogether," concluding that planners of these "ambitious" projects had "succumbed to an irrational exuberance that rivaled the stock market's in the boom years." Thompson tried to make Bloomberg's Yankee Stadium boondoggle an issue in the campaign, contrasting the jobs created with the public investment, but he'd voted for most of it, and, as it turned out, he'd pushed for his own miniature facsimile, with its own elaborate theater.
The city charter was rewritten in 1989 to enhance mayoral power. It is the soul of the city and depends upon an independent comptroller and Council as the constitutional counterpoints to mayoral excess. Yet that is hardly what we've had in Bloomberg's first two terms. He has driven this project so far that the public funding, including the state grants he sparked, exceed by far the $38 million cost of the museum's core construction. There is no way for us to know if the city's museum largesse was a motive for Thompson's obsequious oversight of the Bloomberg era, or simply a consequence of the intertwine between them. He was no doubt more mayoral understudy than overseer. There is also no way to know if the Council's museum generosity had anything to do with why Thompson never noticed its bogus slush-fund budget documents, or even audited its discretionary expenditures after the scandal blew. Bloomberg can smell an edge on the ground from the private plane he used to fly Thompson to ball games in, and he's milked this one for years, perhaps all the way to re-election. Quinn might have exploited it, too, though she says she's usually "the last to know" gossip like who Thompson was dating.
Bill Thompson, the city's newly discovered media hero, seems so understated and reassuring that he deflects attention from the mess his private life has always been. He took a favorable mortgage and credit line in 2008 from a bank his office had done billions in business with, getting a letter from the bank saying the transaction was proper rather than doing what thousands of low-level city employees do every year, seek an opinion from the Conflict of Interest Board. When he worked as an investment banker in the '90s, he failed to take key securities tests six times in three years, operated without a license, and broke a half-dozen securities regulations. No one has noticed, amid Andrew Cuomo's pension fund prosecutions, that Thompson was functioning in the '90s as an unlicensed placement agent, before anyone knew what that was and before comptrollers like him started banning them from their offices.
In addition to his clear-cut efforts to benefit the museum with public funders, there are several disturbing indications that he may have used his muscle with private backers as well. The largest single corporate donation to the museum comes all the way from Los Angeles, a million-dollar check from Disney. Thompson's pension funds held at least 7.6 million shares of Disney stock throughout this period. In 2004 and 2005, Thompson switched from opposing Michael Eisner as the company's chair and CEO to supporting him, abandoning a coalition with seven other large funds. Disney even hired mega-lobbyist Patricia Lynch to push him, and she did, also contributing to him at the same time.
It's unclear when the decision was made to bankroll the museum, though Disney's spokesman connects it to a decision Eisner made shortly before he left in 2005, when he donated the company-owned Tishman collection of African art to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art. The Disney check wasn't written until McCabe-Thompson organized that phony 2007 groundbreaking ceremony with Spitzer, which preceded actual construction by two years but ostensibly did generate donations tied to an ongoing project. Disney fits a pattern, with JP Morgan Chase and others bringing wheelbarrows of money to the museum just as they steered them out of Thompson's office.
Good things can come from bad, and perhaps the Museum for African Art astride Museum Mile will prove to be that. Elsie and Bill Thompson, as well as Mike Bloomberg and David Paterson, will certainly celebrate it when the grand opening occurs late next year. So will many New Yorkers, especially African-Americans. The museum has put on hailed exhibits in the past, and is even beginning to assemble the first collection of its own. And if it inspires and informs up the road, it may transcend the stain of its origins. The price we have paid as a city is not visible, while its art will pack school and charter buses.
We do know, though, regardless of what the museum becomes, that this is not the way it should have been built, one compromise atop another, a memorial to machination. The sheer size of the Bloomberg subsidies, as well as his eagerness to add to them right into October, has cast a cloud over an election already darkened by the unprecedented end-run around two popular referendums. The bizarre specter of a mayor unloading public funding on a project so tied to his public bookkeeper and eventual opponent has distorted democracy, both in the years before this election, and in the only moment when New Yorkers, at least theoretically, had their say. If legitimacy is necessary to govern, even for the richest man in New York, he cannot rig consent.
Ex-Files: Thompson's 2nd Ex Talks To Andrea Peyser
After talking to the victim of the "skank blogger" last week, the Post's Andrea Peyser features a different kind of New York woman in her column today: The second ex-wife of City Comptroller—and mayoral candidate—Bill Thompson. Sylvia Kinard-Thompson, who married Thompson in 1999, says their relationship started to go south in 2002, when he was elected Comptroller, "I wasn't sure if he was going through a midlife crisis, stress of a new job. I was willing to work on it. You hit a bump in the road, you don't just bail out... [But by 2004,] he was starting to stay out. He was on trips longer than he should have... I asked him if he was having an affair. He never acknowledged that he was; he never acknowledged that he wasn't."
Kinard-Thompson says he told her he wanted to date other women (turning down her suggestion of marital therapy) and informed her that he wanted a divorce by asking her to meet him at his lawyer's office—the same lawyer who said, during divorce proceedings, that Thompson wasn't too smart. Additionally, "As the couple hit divorce court in 2006, Bill moved his first wife, Angela Jeter, into the house in which Sylvia still lived, creating what one friend described as a bizarre 'Three's Company' situation. Angela, who was ill at the time, lived in an apartment upstairs, she said." Kinard-Thompson also pointed out that Thompson invited his future third wife, Elsie McCabe-Thompson, to their wedding, "She was always hovering. She was always around."
Thompson denied most of his ex's version of events (though admitted the "Three's Company" part was true), but Kinard-Thompson showed Peyser the signature of an "Elsie McCabe" in her wedding guest book: "This is why the divorce was pressed so much. There was another agenda growing." As for her ex-husband's mayoral chances, "He's done a lot of good things but there are some issues in his personal life that any that any casual eye would say—he has problems there. That's one of his weak areas."
Mayor's Committee on City Marshals
About the Committee
The Mayor's Committee on City Marshals is established by State law, Section 1601 of the New York City Civil Court Act. The Committee’s four functions are to (1) establish and publish qualifying criteria for appointment to the office of City marshal, (2) recruit and receive names of candidates for that office, (3) determine which of the qualified candidates are best qualified to serve as City marshals, and (4) recommend to the Mayor up to three qualified persons for appointment to the office of City marshal upon the occurrence of a vacancy. Mayoral Executive Order No. 44, February 13, 1980. By law, the Committee’s proceedings, records, and communications, including all applications submitted to it, are confidential and exempt from public disclosure.
The Committee consists of fifteen members, all appointed by the Mayor. The Mayor appoints six of the members directly, three after selection by Presiding Justice of the Appellate Division, First Judicial Department, three after selection by the Presiding Justice of the Second Judicial Department, and three after selection by the deans of three New York City Law Schools, who each select one member for appointment. The Committee members serve without compensation.
In September 2003, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed fifteen new members to the Mayor’s Committee on City Marshals. Previously, the Committee had last met in November 1995.
For more information on Section 1601 of the New York City Civil Court Act:
Visit New York State Assembly
Visit New York State Senate
NYC Marshal's Handbook of Regulations
New York City Marshal Application
Message from Chair
Mayor Bloomberg has charged our Committee with the responsibility of finding and recommending to him, from a broad array of men and women reflecting the diversity of New York City, the best-qualified candidates to serve the public as City marshals.
The position of City marshal is unique and demanding. City marshals are called upon to enforce the most sensitive court orders, such as evictions, car seizures, and wage garnishments, with careful regard for the safety and rights of all concerned. City marshals work independently and must support themselves and their offices without public salaries or funding. But they are also public servants who must follow detailed laws and rules and cooperate fully with the Commissioner of the Department of Investigation, who oversees them for the Mayor and the State Supreme Court's Appellate Division.
The Committee therefore seeks candidates with proven qualities of honesty, integrity, maturity of judgment, courtesy, and respect for the law and public service. Candidates must also be able to manage an office, operate a business, and meet their financial obligations.
As of September 2006, State law allows retired New York City Police Officers, Correction Officers, Deputy Sheriffs, Fire Marshals, and others to serve as City marshals while receiving their pensions. The Mayor and the City Council supported the new law because it opens up the challenges and opportunities of a City marshal's appointment to a large and diverse pool of mature applicants, experienced in law enforcement and capable of managing difficult and dangerous situations.
The Committee welcomes qualified applicants who have taken the time to familiarize themselves with the responsibilities and challenges of City marshals. We thank Mayor Bloomberg for giving us this opportunity to serve our City.
Peter J. Madonia
Chair, Mayor's Committee on City Marshals
City Marshals Committee Members
Selections of the Mayor
Peter J. Madonia
Barbara T. Barrantes
Barry R. Clarke
Thomas H. Roche
Selections of the Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, 1st Department
Jonathan L. Kimmel
Justice Bentley Kassal
Selections of the Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, 2nd Department
Leardo Luis Lopez
Marisa Megur Seifan
Justice Daniel Joy
Selections of Law School Deans
Columbia: Richard Briffault
Fordham: Edgar De Leon
St. John’s: Jonathan Kingston
Peter J. Madonia is Chair of the Committee. Mr. Madonia is the Chief Operating Officer of the Rockefeller Foundation, established in 1913 by John D. Rockefeller, Sr., to "promote the well-being" of humanity by addressing the root causes of serious problems. Before joining the Rockefeller Foundation in February 2006, Mr. Madonia served as Chief of Staff to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a position he was appointed to after serving as Senior Advisor to the Bloomberg for Mayor campaign. His previous experience in New York City government included serving as Chief of Staff to the Deputy Mayor for Operations, Deputy Commissioner for Budget and Operations at the Department of Buildings, and First Deputy Commissioner of the Fire Department. Mr. Madonia also owns and for twelve years operated a successful family business. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fordham University, where he has taught urban studies as an adjunct professor. He also has a Master in Urban Studies degree from the University of Chicago.
April 16, 2002
PUBLIC LIVES; Away From the Ovens to a Hot Spot at City Hall
By ROBIN FINN, NY TIMES
WHEN he's not doing due diligence as chief executive of an 84-year-old Italian bakery created by his grandfather, he is a cutting-edge Democrat and chief of staff for a four-month-old mayoralty headed by a Republican political neophyte. He doesn't sweat the contrasts.
''I remember somebody telling me once that the best way to live is to figure out what kind of work you'd do for free and then go get paid for it,'' says Peter J. Madonia.
Urban government is his passion. The Madonia Brothers Bakery was the passion of his grandfather, father and older brother, Mario. When Mario died in a car accident in 1988, Mr. Madonia, 10 years into an upwardly mobile career in city government, quit living his dream and took over the family business in the Bronx to prevent it from going out of business. ''It was the right thing to do. I never put a time frame on it, but the general plan was that I had a third career in me somewhere.''
Somewhere is finally here; his third act, like his first, led straight to City Hall.
It is hard to picture Mr. Madonia, a confirmed nonbaker but heir nonetheless to the family bakery, studying recipes for jalapeño bread and wrapped in an apron, when he's sitting on a tapestry chair at City Hall wearing the urbane accouterments appropriate to his role as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's chief of staff: starched white shirt, silk scrollwork tie, buffed shoes. And there's a faint tan, courtesy of a weekend in Florida visiting Mom and Dad; unlike Mr. Bloomberg's, Mr. Madonia's weekends are an open book.
Want to see his résumé? Look quick; it's a paragraph-length understatement. Mr. Madonia, now 48 but an ambitious 25 when he scored his first city job during the Koch administration, likes to ''keep a low profile.'' Friends say he has the soul of a surfer; he admits that beach bum (Negril, Jamaica, is his favorite vacation destination) might be an alternate career choice had City Hall not smitten him first.
''If you're going to be in this business, you have to believe there is such a thing as good government,'' says Mr. Madonia. ''I have my cynical moments, but I'm not what you could call a real cynic.''
Want to see his office? ''I don't have an office.'' That's his cynical way of saying we won't be peeking at his cubicle upstairs in the bullpen, where he runs a $26 million department -- ask him how big a staff he's chief of and ''big'' is the best he comes up with -- at elbow's length from the boss who brought him back to politics after his forced hiatus.
Mr. Madonia was in his 13th year as owner-manager of the bakery when Patricia E. Harris, a Koch-era colleague who is now deputy mayor for administration, suggested he have lunch with Mr. Bloomberg and help the magnate mull a mayoral campaign.
''I probably exhibited so much passion about government that I left him with the impression that of course he should run,'' says Mr. Madonia. Soon he was spending half his week at the bakery, the other half on what he calls ''a low-key policy role'' in the campaign, the first political campaign he'd ever worked on (though he has been a Clinton supporter since Hillary Rodham Clinton turned up at the bakery 10 years ago campaigning for her husband and, despite her anti-cookie-baking manifesto, put on an apron).
When Mr. Bloomberg won and offered him work, Mr. Madonia hesitated just long enough to clear ''a 24/7 job'' with his wife and daughter; then he asked his father, Pete, to come back to the bakery, freeing him to return to City Hall.
HIS initial marching order, besides providing agenda advice (past deputy commissionerships in the Department of Buildings and the Fire Department make him a qualified source), was to set a good example, and precedent, for other city agencies by cutting the budget for the mayor's office by 20 percent. He also culled 25 cars from the mayoral fleet, but not his: he says the subway trip from his home in the northeast Bronx to City Hall is too time-consuming to be cost-effective. He made his cuts within a month. Savings to the city: $7 million.
Always a man with a plan, Mr. Madonia latched onto his life's blueprint without knowing it. He was 16, the city was decomposing its way through a sanitation strike, and there on television was the city sanitation commissioner, irate but authoritative, locked in debate with a union leader. The commissioner had the last word.
''I said, 'Man, I'd love that job,' '' says Mr. Madonia, ''and it wasn't about the garbage.'' It was about the responsibility of making the city run right. ''It got my blood going. From the time I was a kid, my mother would say, 'Go work for the city.' '' She knew her second son preferred the fairy dust of politics to the flour dust of the family business.
Mr. Madonia attended Fordham University, received a master's in urban studies from the University of Chicago, returned to New York and found a pivotal mentor in Dan Wolf, former owner/publisher of The Village Voice. Through him, Mr. Madonia signed on at City Hall as executive assistant to Deputy Mayor Nat Leventhal, learning the business end of politics from Mr. Leventhal and Mr. Koch. At 32, he was appointed first deputy commissioner of the Fire Department, a significant posting for a relative youngster. ''I've got ties that are older than you,'' one borough commander told Mr. Madonia in lieu of a welcome. He laughed it off and got back to work.
From Betsy Combier: Mr. Madonia was also an Alternate City Member at the Office of Collective Bargaining, and is on the Board of Trustees of the "new" Randall's Island, with Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (didn't he protest the Mayor's private school initiative on Randall's Island???)
Barbara Barrantes is Executive Director and Bank Compliance Officer at WestLB AG, New York Branch.
Westlb AG New York Branch provides financial products and services in United States. It offers lending, structured finance, capital market and private equity products, asset management, transaction services, and real estate finance. The company is based in New York, New York. Westlb AG New York Branch operates as a subsidiary of WestLB AG.
1211, Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Ms. Barrantes previously served as Special Counsel in the Banking and Finance Department of Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft. Her other professional experience includes service as Senior Vice President and Chief Regulatory Counsel at IBJ Schroder Bank & Trust Company, Staff Attorney in the New York Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Deputy Superintendent and Counsel in the New York State Banking Department. Ms. Barrantes is a graduate of the New York University School of Law.
In 1997 she was involved with Adelphi University when the Trustees were thrown out:
February 11, 1997
NEW YORK REGENTS OUST 18 TRUSTEES FROM ADELPHI U.
By BRUCE LAMBERT
The New York State Board of Regents removed 18 of Adelphi University's 19 trustees yesterday, saying they had paid the university's president too much, did not keep track of his compensation and failed to review his job performance.
The Regents, who immediately appointed 18 new trustees, said that two of the ousted board members had improperly profited by doing business with the university and that they had failed to disclose details of their dealings.
The action, which is authorized under state education law, has been taken against three other institutions in the last 80 years, but never against a university as big as Adelphi, which has 4,300 students.
The Regents also said that the trustees failed to abide by Adelphi bylaws giving the faculty a say in how the university is governed. ''Indeed,'' they wrote in a 49-page report, ''in our view there has been a complete breakdown of the principles of governance, which the board of trustees seems to countenance.''
For a year and a half, Adelphi's president, Dr. Peter Diamandopoulos, has been attacked by faculty members and others who criticized what they said were his dictatorial management style; his cutbacks in programs; his salary and benefits package, which reached $523,000 in 1994-95, and his close relationship with the trustees, many of whom he had helped select.
He was among the trustees who were removed yesterday, but he remains president and had no comment. Under state law, the Regents can remove trustees who misuse their power but can take no action against administrators.
The one trustee who was not ousted, Donald Kagan, a Yale University professor of history and classics, was appointed late in 1995 and was not deemed to have played a role in the improper actions of the board.
Lawyers for the ousted trustees announced plans to appeal to the courts within 48 hours and seek a stay to restore their clients to office.
The ousted Adelphi board chairwoman, Ernesta G. Procope, denounced the Regents' ruling as ''a direct threat to the continued independence of every private nonprofit college and university in the State of New York.''
Reading a statement issued by the university, she added: ''There were no legal, educational, ethical or any other grounds to warrant the removal of any members of Adelphi's board of trustees. Therefore we deplore this disgraceful, irresponsible and totally unwarranted decision by the New York State Board of Regents.
''We will go to the ends of the earth to rectify this gross injustice,'' she said.
A spokesman for Adelphi, Vincent Passaro, said that Dr. Diamandopoulos did not have a separate comment beyond the statement issued by Mrs. Procope on behalf of all the ousted trustees.
To replace Mrs. Procope, the Regents appointed an interim chairman, Steven L. Isenberg, the former publisher of New York Newsday, who recently completed a teaching appointment in California.
The Regents' vote was 14 in favor of removing the trustees and 1 opposed, Robert Johnson, a former publisher of Newsday. Mr. Johnson voted for the installation of the new trustees.
Mr. Isenberg, the new board's chairman, said he hoped the trustees would meet soon. He declined to comment about Dr. Diamandopoulos's future and said he had not had a chance to speak with the president.
The Regents' presiding officer, Chancellor Carl T. Hayden, said he had asked the State Education Commissioner, Richard P. Mills, to recruit potential new trustees in case the old board was removed. Mr. Hayden said the recruitment and the Regents' deliberations on removing Adelphi's trustees operated simultaneously but independently.
After more than a year of chaos at Adelphi, the prospect of the court appeal casts a note of uncertainty on who is in charge and when the power struggle will be finally adjudicated. Arthur J. Kremer, a lawyer for the trustees, said the appeal would be filed in the state courts in Albany. Prior appeals to block or halt the Regents proceedings all failed.
Officials of the Committee to Save Adelphi, a coalition of Dr. Diamandopoulos's critics led by faculty members and including former trustees, former administrators, alumni, students and parents, were jubilant at the votes, taken at the New York Bar Association in Manhattan.
''You couldn't find anyone happier than we are now,'' said Catherine Cleaver, a co-chairwoman of the committee. Gayle Insler, another leader, expressed hope that the new trustees would quickly remove Dr. Diamandopoulos as president.
The Regents found that two trustees had improperly done business with the university: Mrs. Procope, the board's chairwoman, and George Lois, an advertising executive.
Dr. Diamandopoulos designated E. G. Bowman, a firm owned by Mrs. Procope, as Adelphi's insurance consultant and broker, and most of its policies were issued by Chubb, a company on whose board she served. Mr. Lois's advertising agency, Lois/ U.S.A., created an ad campaign for Adelphi. Neither Mrs. Procope nor Mr. Lois disclosed that their companies were receiving income from their dealings with Adelphi. In fact, the Regents said, the other trustees were told they were working for free.
The Regents were especially harsh on Dr. Diamandopoulos and Mrs. Procope, whose firm received more than $1.2 million in commissions.
Mrs. Procope ''acted in self-interest,'' the Regents said. ''Because of her conflicted roles, we will never know whether or not Adelphi obtained the lowest-cost coverage best suited to its needs, or whether another broker would have been a better choice.''
And the report said of the president: ''Under the circumstances, Diamandopoulos's actions can reasonably be interpreted as intended to curry favor with Procope -- who has played a key role in setting his compensation every year since 1986 -- by guaranteeing the Adelphi account to her company for at least as long as she remained a trustee.''
Adelphi's ousted trustees complained that the Regents' intervention posed a threat to the independence of all colleges and universities and discouraged people from serving as trustees. They also said the entire investigation was part of an effort by the faculty union to gain power.
''For the past year and a half,'' the university said in a statement, ''Adelphi has been subjected to a well-financed 'corporate campaign' by a small group of dissidents, mainly the directorate of the faculty union, who have long been seeking to gain control of campus policy. Through negative publicity, based on lies, distortion and disinformation, they were able to pressure the Board of Regents to hold public hearings, and then to conduct those hearings in an atmosphere utterly indifferent to both due process and basic fairness.''
The broader implications of Adelphi's case may be to underscore the cautions that nonprofit organizations should exercise in the oversight of their boards and executives.
''Individuals serving on any type of nonprofit board can learn several important lessons from this,'' said Judith O'Connor, president of the National Center for Nonprofit Boards. ''Executive compensation is a potentially explosive issue. Conflict-of-interest policies are essential, since even the appearance of impropriety can be extremely damaging. And board members should be informed, engaged and not afraid to ask tough questions.''
Since Dr. Diamandopoulos took office over 12 years ago, supporters have praised him as a visionary who transformed the commuter school's academic standards with a new core curriculum and a small honors college. They said he had reversed Adelphi's troubled finances by expanding its endowment and reserves from $4 million when he took over to nearly $48 million today. His administration also made about $50 million in improvements to the campus.
But his critics said they were moved to act because, in their view, his tenure had been ruinous to Adelphi, where enrollment has dropped about 40 percent since his arrival. Its tuition fees now rank second highest on Long Island, average class size has ballooned, admissions are less selective and Adelphi's rankings in Barron's and other college guides have fallen over the years.
In the decision, based on 27 days of hearings, the Regents said that even as Dr. Diamandopoulos's initial pay of $95,000 and his benefits steadily rose, ''there is no evidence'' that the trustees ''actually evaluated Diamandopoulos's performance against articulated goals or benchmarks.''
Dr. Diamandopoulos's raises and expanded benefits, including use of a $1.3 million apartment in Manhattan, were granted by a small subcommittee of trustees who did not tell the full board the basic details of the compensation, the Regents said.
According to the report, the trustees repeatedly violated both their own bylaws and state statutes in failing to review Dr. Diamandopoulos's performance and to vote on his pay and benefits.
''A prudent board of trustees should have taken a hard look at Diamandopoulos's entire record and carefully measured it against the compensation awarded,'' the Regents said. ''The board of trustees never did so, and the result was a compensation without a rational basis and far in excess of the value of services performed.''
The report singled out the condominium as ''the most egregious example'' of imprudent benefits. The trustees allowed Dr. Diamandopoulos to select, buy, renovate and furnish the condo at Adelphi's expense without inspecting it, having it appraised or studying the possibility of a rental. Then they granted him the right to buy it at any time for $905,000.
''The totality of the record before us today demonstrates that in setting Diamandopoulos's compensation, the trustees failed to exercise the degree of care and skill that ordinarily prudent persons would have exercised,'' the Regents said. ''They must therefore be removed from office.''
The trustees' failures ''amounted to a neglect of the board's fiduciary duty of care,'' the Regents added.
Photo: Opponents of Adelphi's president celebrated the removal of most of the university's trustees yesterday at the New York Bar Association in Manhattan, where the State Board of Regents had voted. The critics included, from left, Devin Thornburg, his wife, Iris Gersten, Gayle Insler and Catherine Cleaver. (Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times); Peter Diamandopoulos. (pg. B6) ''CHRONOLOGY: Shakeup at Adelphi: A Board Falls'' The New York State Board of Regents voted yesterday to remove 18 of the 19 trustees of Adelphi University in Garden City, L.I. JUNE 1985 -- Peter Diamandopoulos, the former president of Sonoma State University in California, is named president of Adelphi University. SEPTEMBER 1995 -- A survey in The Chronicle of Higher Education identifies Dr. Diamandopoulos as the second highest paid university president in the nation, after Boston University's president John R. Silber. His compensation for 1993-94 totals $523,636. OCT. 5, 1995 -- Adelphi's faculty votes 131 to 14 to urge the dismissal of Dr. Diamandopoulos. APRIL 17, 1996 -- In court papers, the State Attorney General's office says Adelphi's trustees may have violated several state laws by financing ''extraordinary personal spending'' by Dr. Diamandopoulos. APRIL 25, 1996 -- Faculty members and alumni petition the state to remove the university's trustees, charging that their ''divisive, destructive and costly actions'' threatened Adelphi's survival. JULY 31, 1996 -- The State Board of Regents opens hearings on Adelphi. As the first witness, Dr. Diamandopoulos says he never asked for a raise, even as the trustees more than tripled his salary. FEB. 10, 1997 -- The Regents vote to oust 18 of Adelphi's 19 trustees. (pg. B6) ''The Changing of the Guard'' The New York State Board of Regents dismissed 18 of Adelphi's 19 trustees, including the college's president, Dr. Peter Diamandopoulos. The only trustee who was not ousted was Donald Kagan, a Yale professor. IN WILLIAM A. ACKERMAN, partner, law firm of Ackerman, Levine & Cullen, Great Neck, L.I. BERNARD F. ASHE, former general counsel, New York State United Teachers BARBARA T. BARRANTES, vice president, IBJ Schroder Bank & Trust JOHN C. BIERWIRTH, former chief executive, Grumman Corporation RICHARD C. CAHN, partner, law firm of Cahn, Wishod & Lamb JILL CONWAY, former president, Smith College. VERA KING FARRIS, president, Richard Stockton College MICHAEL FINNERTY, chief financial officer, The Edison Project STEVEN N. FISCHER, C.P.A., president, Urbach Kahn & Werlin HAROLD S. GELB, chairman, the United Industrial Corporation PAM R. GRELLA, Comptroller, Glen Cove, L.I. STEVEN L. ISENBERG, former publisher, New York Newsday PHILIP H. JORDAN, JR., former president, Kenyon College JOHN D. MACOMBER, principal, JDM Investment Group DR. SHIRLEY M. MALCOM, administrator, American Association for the Advancement of Science S. BRUCE PANTANO, chief executive, Publishers Clearing House PHILIP S. WINTERER, former partner, Debevoise & Plimpton BARRY ZEMAN, president, St. Charles Hospital, Long Island OUT DR. KAREN ELIZABETH BURKE, dermatologist and surgeon JAMES T. BYRNE JR., vice president of Bankers Trust THOMAS J. CALABRESE JR., vice president of human resources, Nynex JOSEPH F. CARLINO, lawyer and former Assembly Speaker DIMITRI CONTOMINAS, chairman and chief executive of Interamerican Life Insurance RAYMOND V. DAMADIAN, one of the inventors of the magnetic resonance imaging ROBERT B. FRIEDMAN, businessman and investor, Long Island PETER J. GOULANDRIS, private investor HILTON KRAMER, publisher, The New Criterion and columnist for The New York Post ABRAHAM KRASNOFF, retired chairman of the Pall Corporation ELIAS J. KULUKUNDIS, president of the Midas Holding Corporation GEORGE LOIS, chairman of the Lois/USA advertising agency ERNESTA G. PROCOPE, chief executive, the E. G. Bowman insurance company LEONARD RIGGIO, president and chief executive of Barnes & Noble Bookstores NICHOLAS P. SAMIOS, director of Brookhaven National Laboratory JOHN R. SILBER, president, Boston University ANGELO SILVERI, president and chief executive of the Silverite Construction Company (pg. B6)
Barry R. Clarke is the Special Counsel to the Executive Office of the New York State Office of Court Administration. Prior to joining the New York court system in 1986, he served for eight years as an officer with the Triboro Bridge and Tunnel Authority. He is an active member of the Flatbush-Tompkins Congregationalist Church. Mr. Clarke earned his JD from New York Law School.
Monte Kurs is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of BTQ Financial which provides financial management and consulting services to not for profit organizations. Mr. Kurs is also an Adjunct Professor of Management at New York University. Previously, Mr. Kurs has served as Chief of Staff to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, President of Alliance Funding, a division of Superior Bank, FSB, and Chief Operating Officer of the ADCO Group, a national real estate development company. From 1978 to 1987 he served in several positions in NYC municipal government, including Deputy Commissioner of the Department of General Services, Counsel to the Deputy Mayor and Deputy Criminal Justice Coordinator. He received his JD from Hofstra University Law School.
Betty Lugo is a partner in the firm of Pacheco & Lugo, the first Hispanic women-owned law firm in New York. From 1984 to 1987 she served as an Assistant District Attorney in Nassau County. She then joined the law firm of Jacobson & Schwartz as a litigation associate. She has been active in politics, and in 1997 she ran as a Republican and Independence Party candidate for the New York City Council. Ms. Lugo is an instructor with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. She earned her JD from Albany Law School of Union University.
Thomas H. Roche is Deputy General Counsel and Senior Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. From 1980 to 1996 he served in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, becoming Senior Litigation Counsel. Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mr. Roche served the City of New York for nine years in the Department of Investigation as Assistant Commissioner, General Counsel and Examining Attorney. His other professional experience includes: Deputy General Counsel for the New York City Special Commission of Inquiry into Energy Failures, Research Consultant at the Stanford Research Institute, and Special Assistant District Attorney for Kings County. He served in the United States Army for two years as a Captain and General Staff Officer. Mr. Roche is a graduate of Bowdoin College and the Temple University School of Law.
Selections of the Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, 1st Department
Thomas Curran is a partner with the law firm of Ganfer & Shore, LLP. Previously, he served in the New York County District Attorney's Office as Assistant District Attorney in the Major Offense /Career Criminal Program and the Frauds Bureau. Mr. Curran has also served as an instructor in the New York County District Attorney's Trial Advocacy Program, the New York City Police Academy, and the New York State Court Officers Academy. Mr. Curran started his legal career as a litigation associate at Lord Day & Lord, Barret Smith and later practiced law at the firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart. He received his J.D. from Fordham University Law School.
Jonathan L. Kimmel is an attorney who specializes in pension-related matters. Mr. Kimmel previously had a 20-year career as an attorney and executive with the City of New York, retiring in 2004. He represented former Mayor Koch on legislative issues and in intergovernmental relations and later became the Director for legal matters of the Teachers' Retirement System of the City of New York. Mr. Kimmel also serves as a public member of the City's Rent Guidelines Board. Mr. Kimmel received his bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, his master's degree from New York University, and his J.D. from New York Law School. Before attending law school, Mr. Kimmel taught for more than eight years in Intermediate School 78 in Brooklyn.
Justice Bentley Kassal is a retired judge who has served at every level of the New York State Court System, including Civil Court, Supreme Court, the Appellate Division and Court of Appeals. Justice Kassal, who is currently counsel at the law firm of Skadden Arps, also served as a member of the New York State Assembly from 1957 to 1962. He also has served his country with distinction in the United States Army, and he is a retired major in the Air Force Reserves. Justice Kassal received his JD from Harvard Law School, which designated him as a Distinguished Alumnus in February 2002.
Selections of the Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, 2nd Department
Leardo Luis Lopez is an attorney in private practice, practicing in the area of Immigration Law. Between 1993 and 2001, Mr. Lopez worked for Victim Services/Safe Horizon Immigration Law Project, providing immigration legal services to low income clients, concentrating in political asylum representation and legal assistance for victims of domestic violence and abuse. Mr. Lopez has represented clients before the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now called Citizenship and Immigration Services), the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Asylum Office. Mr. Lopez is a 1992 graduate of Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and earned his undergraduate degree from CUNY/John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Marisa Megur Seifan is an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York. She previously was an Associate at Cooley Godward Kronish LLP, where she practiced in the areas of white collar criminal defense, securities litigation, and complex commercial litigation. Marisa served as her law firm's pro bono liaison to The Legal Aid Society and received the Society's 2005 and 2006 Pro Bono Awards for outstanding service. Marisa also serves as a board member of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families. Marisa received a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 2001, where she was a member of the law review. She received her B.A. from Duke University.
Justice Daniel Joy retired from the bench in 2000 after serving 42 years in government. He spent 25 years specializing in housing matters, administering and enforcing housing laws of both the State and City of New York, and he served as the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Rent and Housing Maintenance. In 1983 he was elected to the Civil Court of the City of New York and two years later he was elected to the Supreme Court of the State of New York where he handled both civil and criminal matters. In 1993, he was appointed to the Appellate Division Second Department and that same year Governor Pataki appointed him to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. Justice Joy received his LLB from Brooklyn Law School.
Selections of Law School Deans
Columbia: Richard Briffault is the Vice Dean & Joseph Chamberlain Professor of Legislation at Columbia Law School. Before joining the faculty at Columbia in 1983, he was an Associate at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and then Assistant Counsel to the Governor of the State of New York. He served as a Member of Mayor Koch’s Early Childhood Education Commission, counsel on Governor Cuomo’s Advisory Commission on Liability Insurance, and as a consultant to the New York City Charter Revision Commission. He also served as the Executive Director on the Special Commission on Campaign Finance Reform of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He earned his JD from Harvard University.
Fordham: Edgar De Leon is a partner in the firm of De Leon & Martin, PLLC [NY-NJ]. The firm specializes in criminal defense, matrimonial/family law, and real estate transactions and serves as Impartial Hearing Officers for the New York State Department of Education. Mr. De Leon is a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law and Hunter College. He retired from New York City Police Department with the rank Detective-Sergeant. Mr. De Leon has served on the advisory boards of the Advanced Systems Technology Co. in Lawton, Oklahoma and Instructional Systems Inc. in Hackensack, New Jersey. He also served on the Board of Directors of Loisaida, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation in New York City. Mr. De Leon is the current President-Elect of the Puerto Rican Bar Association. He is a recipient of the Network for Woman’s Services Commitment to Justice Award (2000) and the Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Latino Honor Society Award (2001).
St. John’s: Jonathan Kingston is an attorney in private practice, providing pro bono counseling for consumer-fraud victims and specializing in civil litigation, particularly commercial collections. Before practicing law, Mr. Kingston was a spokesman for NY State Assemblyman Douglas Prescott in Queens. He later served as a Student Legal Specialist at the New York City Corporation Counsel’s Queens Tort Division. Mr. Kingston has defended general and product liability lawsuits for AIG as both staff counsel (Jacobowitz, Garfinkel & Lesman) and outside counsel (Cooper, Kardaras & Sharf, LLP). Mr. Kingston is a 1997 graduate of St. John's University School of Law, which he attended on full university scholarship. Mr. Kingston is a New York State-licensed Emergency Medical Technician and currently serves as Corporation Counsel to Oceanside Rescue Company #1 and South Communities EMS and is a member and benefactor of Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps.