Timelines — 12/29

Rockland officially overrides tax cap

Over 80 percent of the local governments in New York have submitted their budget plans for 2012 coming in under the 2 percent tax cap. About 19 percent have decided to override this cap including Rockland County (one of six counties), and the Town of Haverstraw. County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef claims the increases are necessary as the cuts needed would have been catastrophic. Instead, the property tax will see a 30 percent increase. This comes out to be about $175 a year for the average property owner.  Governor Cuomo instated this cap to help curb automatic tax hikes throughout the state. Many are interested to see how many schools will abide by the tax cap when the budgets go for public vote in May. Many local governments claim the cap is outrageous as it is not coupled with any major cuts to the large amount of unfunded mandates the state also requires these governments to abide by. According to the state Association of Counties, in the next eight years, the 57 counties, excluding NYC, of New York State, are looking at unfunded liabilities hitting $6 billion.

 

Train brings in record holiday riders

Metro North has reported record numbers of people using the weekend trains this past December. The “shoppers’ special” train, which ran on the New Haven Line and the Hudson Line during the weekend, carried more than 151,800 riders this past month each weekend. This is up 9.2 percent from last year and 12.1 percent from the previous high back in 2006 when the trains averaged at about 135,410 riders. This is also 28 percent higher than when the recession hit back in 2008. On the New Haven line, 38 shoppers’ special trains went in and out of the city compared to the 17 Metro North used back in 2000.

 

PBA Contract Agreement

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo and Manuel M. Vilar, president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, announced a contract agreement between the state and the labor union representing New York State’s University Police, Park Police, EnCon Officers and Forest Rangers. The agreement resolves outstanding wage and contractual issues dating back to 2005 and provides the officers with a retroactive wage increase adjustment, ensures protections against layoffs, and offers health benefits commensurate with other state bargaining units. The agreement provides for zero percent wage increases for 2011-2013, a 2 percent increase in 2014, 9 days of deficit reduction leave, and adjustments to the health insurance premium.

 

TOR and Tappan ZEExpress contract extension

The Transport of Rockland and Tappan ZEExpress bus contracts are expected to be finalized soon with Coach USA, who has run the lines since the 1970s, to continue to deliver services. This is only a six-month extension to the original contract, as county officials are continuing to search for a private bus company to run these services. Transport of Rockland and Tappan ZEExpress give over 3.5 million rides a year. Last month, a state Supreme Court judge made a ruling that the way the county went about trying to outsource for the two services was not done properly and the county would have to revaluate the process. The most recent contract allotted approximately $15 million to Coach USA, which has 11 routes, which run every day for 22 hours. They control and maintain 62 buses owned by the county and employ 125 full-time staff. Coach is looking to get another year contract as many of their employees worry about the future of their employment. This extension will likely carry through the end of June 2012.

 

Sketchy fire extinguisher service

Nyack Fire Inspector Vincent Fiorentino is investigating reports that a man has been entering local establishments offering to fix expired extinguishers for cash. Four of the five businesses in a Nyack village strip mall were entered by a man on December 15 who offered to service extinguishers. One store reported that the man pulled the valid tags off the extinguishers and then presented expired ones to the storeowner. He then offered to service the two extinguishers for $45. The owner, who was rightfully suspicious, refused. In another store, the suspect reportedly made the same offer of $45 for three extinguishers, and left his business card. The contact number, which has a Connecticut area code, led investigators to Christopher Pilberg, a fire technician for East End Fire. Pilberg has said that he has no knowledge of these events, as East End Fire does not do door-to-door sales. Fiorentino has contacted the Rockland County Office of Consumer Protection.

 

Local real-estate agent and former school board candidate charged with theft

Rhonda Weiss, 52, of Nanuet, who ran without success for the Nanuet school board twice and was the high school PTSA president as well as a local real estate agent, has been accused of stealing $600,000 from a trust fund that was set up following the death of her mother. She was arrested on one felony count of second-degree grand larceny last Wednesday following a six-month investigation conducted by the Rockland County Special Investigation Unit. If convicted, Weiss is looking at up to 15 years in prison. Reports indicate Weiss linked her personal account to the trust fund. When she wrote checks for more than she had in her own account, the money was then pulled from the trust. While Weiss was a beneficiary and a trustee of the fund, so were her siblings, and she did not receive any authorization from them before making withdrawals. The illegal withdrawals took place between 2009 and 2011. The trust originally contained around $1 million dollars. Weiss is due in court on February 12.

 

Attacks on Connecticut alpacas gruesome

Four alpacas were stabbed to death on a Connecticut farm on Friday, bringing the total to six in the past four months. The alpaca attacks occurred at Applesauce Acres Farm around four months ago, says owner George MacLachlan. MacLachlan says he has no enemies and cannot imagine who would do such a thing, as the animals are peaceful and would never hurt anyone. State police are investigating the killings, but no arrests have been made. Police were able to rule out animal attacks, as it was clear the animals had suffered stab wounds. This summer, an unknown trespasser opened the farm gate and three alpacas went missing, while another was found with his throat slit with an ax. Another one was found shot death, and yet another bludgeoned with a rock. Including the missing alpacas, nine have been lost. Unfortunately the alpacas were not insured.  MacLachlan paid $156,000 for six of these expensive animals back in 2006, but stopped payments and owes more than $109,000 to a company called Northwest Alpacas.

 

Robert Morvillo dies at 73

Famous New York trial lawyer, Robert Guy Morvillo, died on Saturday at his home in Rockville Centre, Long Island, at age 73, while recovering from a recent operation. Morvillo was known for his white-collar criminal defense cases of celebrities. His clients included Martha Stewart in her obstruction of justice case in relation to illegal stock trading; Jon A. Zaccaro, the real-estate developer; the briberies involving vice-presidential candidate Geraldine R. Ferraro’s husband; and Maurice R. Greenberg, the former executive of American International Group. Friends say he was always ahead of the game, and had a courtroom brilliance that was like no other. Moville was born in Brooklyn on January 22, 1938. He grew up in Rockville center. His mother was a pharmacist and his father was an insurance administrator and later a lawyer. He was a Columbia Law School graduate as well as the editor of the Law Review there. He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Catherine, his brother Richard, four sons, and 10 grandchildren.

 

East Ramapo faces ire of Ira Oustatcher

East Ramapo’s former superintendent and principal of Pomona Middle School, Ira E. Oustatcher is suing the district, the Board of Education, and the current superintendent, claiming that his contract entitles him to $256,600 a year, even though he is now serving at the lower-ranking principal position which pays $154,248 annually. The board voted to demote Oustatcher from the position last March, choosing to appoint Joel Klein, director of special student services. Oustatcher’s contract runs through 2012 and is written with the same salary as he held as superintendent. In September, the district began withholding part of Oustatcher’s pay and has said he will not be paid at times to make up for over-pay. Oustatcher is claiming to have lost $97,752 from the district not honoring the contract. Oustatcher was an educator in New Jersey but came back to New York in 2008. When he moved, he had to pay almost $500,000 back to the state for the pension he earned serving the years he was retired in New York.

 

Intelligence company hacked

Stratfor, a global intelligence company, was hacked on Christmas Eve, many believe by the infamous activist hacking group, “Anonymous.” The information-sharing website Pastebin, however, has posted a news release disputing this, saying that Anonymous was not behind the cyber attack, while twitter claims that they were. On Twitter, Anonymous said they have “enough targets lined up to extend the fun fun fun of LulzXmas throughout the entire next week.” “Lulz” is in reference to Lulz Security, another internet hacking group. The information of 4,000 credit cards was breached. Stratfor sent out an email Sunday to subscribers saying, “On December 24 an unauthorized party disclosed personally identifiable information and related credit card data of some of our members…We have reason to believe that your personal and credit card data could have been included in the information that was illegally obtained and disclosed.” Stratfor continues to work with law enforcement to get to the bottom of the situation. On Monday their website read, “Site is currently undergoing maintenance. Please check back soon.”

Comedian for South Carolina GOP primary

Stephen Colbert has announced that he is willing to pay half a million dollars to help pay for the first GOP presidential primary in his home state of South Carolina. The South Carolina GOP has not shown interest. The South Carolina Election Commission said that it might not be legal for the GOP group to accept the money and they would need to consult South Carolina Attorney General, Alan Wilson. Colbert is looking for two things in return for his offer. The first is that they adopt his referendum that asks voters whether corporations are people or only people are people in relation to the issue of corporate personhood, while the second would be “pre-negotiated naming rights.” This means that the primary’s official name would be ‘The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary.’

 

French breast implants raise rupture concerns

French heath officials in Paris are urging 30,000 French women to have their breast implants removed if they received a defective implant. They also tell woman not to panic as there is no link to any kind of cancer and the removal procedure was a nonemergency measure. Poly Implants Prothéses, which closed its doors last year, reportedly used an inferior industrial-grade silicone which has been shown to rupture and ooze. This can cause damaging irritation and inflammation of body tissues. Thankfully, no implants from Poly Implants Prothéses have knowingly been used in the United States, but women who traveled to other countries for cheaper surgeries are cautioned. France will be providing the implant removals at no cost, but will only pay for new implants in women who have them as a result of reconstructive surgery following breast cancer. Women who decide to keep their implants should have an ultrasound of their implants performed every six months to insure a rupture has not taken place.