Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ra, Ra For The Lighthouse Project

Hempstead Town Attorney And His Local Republican Club Reap Contributions from Consultant Hired By Town To Study Environmental Impact of Lighthouse Project

If isn't all in the family for Town of Hempstead officials, then, certainly, its "pay it close to the vest," with contributors to the GOP cause -- and the local Republican Club -- securing lucrative town contracts.

Hasn't that always been the case? A Quid Pro Quo, of sorts? You scratch my back, and.... Well, you get the picture.

And so it is with the consultant hired to review the environmental impact of the proposed Lighthouse project, F.P. Clark, which firm, just coincidentally, is a regular contributor to Hempstead Town Attorney, Joe Ra, as well at the Franklin Square Republican Club, of which Ra is leader.

Ah, keep your friends close, and your contributors even closer!

Not that there's anything illegal in these shenanigans -- although Ra is said to be returning monies received from Clark, post-Lighthouse project retention -- but the appearance of impropriety alone emits a stench that makes the effluent flowing from the Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant smell like roses.

The Town Attorney tells Newsday that Clark has been doing consulting work for the Republican-controlled Town of Hempstead for the past 25 years.

No doubt. And for how many years has the consulting firm been a donor to Joe Ra and his Republican Club?

And why is the Town Attorney, who should, at least in theory, be above the political fray, leading a local GOP Club? [A rhetorical question. We suppose it is much for the same reason that said Town Attorney had been, for many years, simultaneously on the payroll of the Town of Hempstead and the Town's Sanitary District 6, wearing the hat of Counsel. Does that mean two pensions, Joe? Hmmm.]

Okay. One hand washes the other. We understand that.

But whatever happened to competitive bidding and independent review? And where's the transparency we, the people, have been promised, from the State Capitol to Hempstead Town Hall?

When will the residents of Hempstead Town, particularly those who bother to vote, finally say, "no more"?
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From Newsday:
Consultant fee complaints prompt focus on GOP donations

When Lighthouse president Michael Picker complained to Hempstead Town officials last May that the environmental consulting firm's bills for the proposed Nassau Coliseum project were "unfair," Town Attorney Joseph Ra responded that the fees were "reasonable and necessary in all respects."

In his letter, Ra did not tell Picker he was a longtime friend of the president of the consulting firm, David Stolman, or that Stolman's firm, F.P. Clark, had made thousands of dollars in contributions to Ra's Republican Club in Franklin Square.

Under state environmental law, all land-use applications must be reviewed for their environmental impact. The local municipality selects the consultant who does it, while the developer pays the bills. The Lighthouse group has deposited more than $550,000 in an escrow account held by the town for those bills.

State campaign filings show that Westchester-based F.P. Clark, selected by the town board in April 2008 as its consultant on the Lighthouse project, has donated $2,420 to the Franklin Square Republican Club, of which Ra is leader, since April 2006.

In an interview, Ra defended the contributions as "perfectly legal," but later said he would refund some of them and stop accepting them from the firm in the future.

Although there is no law barring such contributions, "There should be a rule that the town attorney is not involved in political clubs," said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Group, a nonprofit organization that monitors campaign activities.

Picker first complained to Ra - who is the town's point person on the Lighthouse project - about at least $350,000 in bills May 12, calling them "inequitable and unfair."

Two weeks after Picker's complaint, Stolman contributed $455 to Ra's Republican club. A little more than a month later, on July 1, Ra defended Stolman's bills in a letter to Picker.

In an interview, both Stolman and Ra said they had been close friends for more than 30 years. Ra said he was not involved in selecting Stolman's firm for the work and that Stolman's political contributions were "not unlike anything that doesn't happen anywhere else in the state."

Ra said Town Supervisor Kate Murray, also a Republican, and town board members were not aware of the relationship, and that the firm had done consulting work for the town on other projects for 25 years.

In a later interview, Ra said that the relationship might have the appearance of impropriety and said he would refund all contributions, or a total of $910, made after he took over the project for the town in September 2008. According to a letter Ra sent to Stolman on Sept. 8, he did so.



  1. Another question to ask in this context is why couldn't this work have been awarded to a Hempstead firm? It's pretty tough for me to believe that there aren't local firms that could have handled this work. Where's the loyalty to the town that Ra, Murray and the rest of that crew are actually sworn to serve? The obvious answer is that their ultimate loyalty resides with their party and their political benefactors, even when this is in conflict with their obligations to the taxpaying public. Not a big suprise. Still, it sure would be nice to see just a little integrity when it comes to the way these guys conduct the town's business.

  2. Where's Kristen Mcelroy? We know she has no money, but she can at least comment on this nonsense going on at Hempstead Town Hall.