Friday, July 13, 2012
Yess Says No to Republican Mockers
I submitted this piece for the August issue of The Lincoln Eagle. Corruption in New York State is nothing new, of course.
Yess Says No to Republican Mockers
Mitchell Langbert, Ph.D.
Over the past few months internecine GOP warfare has turned into an intense Internet battle between former GOP chair Robin Yess and an anonymous group of GOP regulars who support Terry Bernardo, chair of the county legislature. The GOP regulars' website, Mocking Robin (http://mockingrobin.blogspot.com), takes aim at allegations Yess has made on her New York Liberty Coalition website (http://nylibertycoalition.com).
The Internet is a new front in an ongoing war that is tearing the Ulster County GOP apart. Back in January Yess objected to second-term Town of Rochester legislator Bernardo's election to legislative chair. At the time, The Kingston Freeman noted that Yess had questioned Bernardo's legislative track record; as well, GOP Majority Leader Kenneth Ronk accused Yess of smearing Bernardo. Yess had raised questions about the election of the wife of the head of Ulster County's Independence Party, Len Bernardo, to chair the legislature.
There are more important issues than political smears and name calling. Yess had resigned her position as chair of the Ulster County Republican Party last year when it became evident that Ulster County's Republicans could not muster enough votes to divest the county's Golden Hill nursing home.
This year Ulster County paid a $4.3 million subsidy, slightly less than in prior years, to Golden Hill. About one percent of Ulster County's senior citizens reside at Golden Hill, but many seniors (as well as other taxpayers) pay higher property taxes to subsidize it, making it difficult for some seniors to make ends meet. Critics have charged that beds at Golden Hill have been reserved for political insiders' relatives who are at the higher end of the county's wealth distribution. Golden Hill is one of seven senior facilities in Ulster County; the other six receive no county subsidy, but they are profitable.
Yess has been concerned that the GOP has become big-government party number two and that it is not the party it claimed to be in Reagan's days. She is particularly concerned that here in Ulster County the GOP has pandered to boondoggles like the low-income project in Saugerties, which Senator John J. Bonacic (R, C, IP) has supported. Last year virtually the entire county GOP leadership stood up and applauded the radical environmentalist U.S. Green Building Council when its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design group gave a building award to a corrupt local real estate developer.
Yess has observed that New York has more government than any other state, and its economy is among the worst of all the states. Privileged insiders, friends of politicians, corrupt real estate developers, and public-private partnerships receive subsidies. Real jobs and real innovation have left, in her view.
The Mocking Robin site offers a political response to the rivalry between Yess and Bernardo. The site relies on phrases like these: "Robin…doesn't even understand how democracy works"; "the list of people who Robin owes an apology to is growing by the day. And it is getting really, really long"; "Is the Kerhonkson Kook really this dumb?"; "nutjobs like the Liberty Coalition," and so on.
A better debate would involve mustering facts to define efficient and effective policies. The tradition of buying votes through special interest pandering has failed--millions have fled this state specifically because of the kind of political atmosphere defended through smear tactics typified by Mocking Robin, The New York Times, and similar defenders of the status quo.
On her site, Yess makes the following allegations:
1 (1) Bernardo, backed by Ulster County GOP Chair Roger Rascoe, has appointed a non-Ulster County based attorney (and non-Ulster County resident), Langdon Chapman, to be counsel to the Ulster County legislature over alternative qualified choices who reside in Ulster County.
(2) Chapman is an attorney at the law firm of Bonacic, Krahulik, Cuddeback, McMahon & Brady in Middletown. J. Scott Bonacic is Senator Bonacic’s son. Rascoe’s wife is a paid employee of Senator Bonacic. In an e-mail Yess adds that Chapman is on the New York State Senate payroll for $96,000 and makes $50,000 from Ulster County's tax coffers. In addition, Chapman represents "numerous municipalities (all in Bonacic's Senate district) as a senate staffer."
3 (3) Bernardo hired Sandy Mathes, a former Greene County IDA leader, to fill a deputy clerk position for $37,500. At the same time, Mathes has been calling on businesses in Ulster County for businesses he has been promoting, namely, United Realty Management Group and Mathes Public Affairs. He is rarely seen in the legislative office.
4 (4) Bernardo hired Lisa Mance, an inexperienced employee, to replace Nettie Tomshaw, an experienced employee with competent ratings, whom Bernardo fired without cause.
5 (5) Bernardo hired Frank Reggero as a budget analyst, a job for which he has no relevant experience. Yess indicates that Reggero’s role is not budgeting, but rather driving Bernardo to political meetings.
(6) While Karen Binder, the legislative clerk, was being treated for stage four cancer, Bernardo harassed her and questioned her use of comp time, to which she was entitled under the terms of her employment agreement, to visit doctors. Binder died recently.
7 (7) Because of the unproductive atmosphere in the GOP county legislature staff offices, another experienced legislative employee, Tammy Wilson, found an alternative job within the county. Legislative Clerk Karen Spinozzi retired; when Bernardi realized that she couldn't function without Spinozzi, she asked her to return, but Spinozzi refused.
I e-mailed Bernardo, Rascoe, and Chapman these allegations and asked for an interview or a written response. I also asked the Mocking Robin site (via the vetted comments board on their site) to do so. None has responded.
Mitchell Langbert is associate professor at Brooklyn College and political editor of The Lincoln Eagle.