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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Paybacks and Kickbacks via Foundations

Foundation under scrutiny
Discrepancies in resume for Bruno's daughter at nonprofit
The Albany Times Union by JAMES M. ODATO AND BRENDAN J. LYONS - January 4, 2009

ALBANY — The FBI's investigation of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno has expanded to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York, according to sources familiar with the probe. In particular, a knowledgeable source said, the FBI is probing the work activities of Susan M. Bruno, the elder daughter of the former Senate leader. The recent FBI inquiry at the Research Foundation — a private arm of SUNY that handles about $1 billion a year in grants and other funds for the SUNY campuses and employs more than 17,000 people — is tied to the ongoing federal grand jury investigation of Joseph Bruno's political activities and private business dealings. In recent weeks, federal agents questioned top SUNY official John J. O'Connor, according to two people familiar with the matter. O'Connor, president of the Research Foundation since 2000, last month was named interim chancellor of the 64-campus SUNY system. He has been SUNY's vice chancellor since 1997.

A knowledgeable source said the FBI inquired about Susan Bruno's fundraising activities on behalf of SUNY's Maritime College in New York City, including donations to the college made by political acquaintances of the former senator. Joseph Bruno, 79, resigned his Senate seat in July after 32 years in the chamber, the last 14 as its leader. He is the subject of a three-year federal criminal investigation. In recent months, the federal probe has intensified. Numerous people who have had business dealings with Joseph Bruno — including some who hired him as a private consultant during his public career, served with him in the Senate, represented labor unions or were linked to his thoroughbred horse-breeding interests — have been summoned before a grand jury in Albany.

Susan Bruno, 47, was hired by the Research Foundation in 2003. She currently serves as a special assistant to O'Connor and is paid $84,120 a year. According to material supplied by SUNY, some of her duties involve trying to develop academic bridges to England, an area of special interest to O'Connor. "We are declining comment," SUNY spokesman David Henahan said on behalf of both SUNY and O'Connor in response to the Times Union's questions about the federal probe. Associates of Susan Bruno say privately that during the past five years, she seldom appeared at the office — perhaps once a month, according to one person — and that she was allowed the unusual arrangement of working from her home. Her long absences from foundation offices at the corner of State Street and Broadway led staffers to use her private office for meetings, according to those who have worked with her. Susan Bruno did not respond to requests for comment made through the foundation.

The Times Union found several discrepancies on the one-page resume Bruno provided the Research Foundation around the time she was hired in May 2003 as an assistant director of foundation relations for legislation. The position requires a "bachelor's degree or equivalent," according to a job description provided by the Research Foundation. Bruno's resume, turned over to the Times Union under a Freedom of Information Law request, states she attended SUNY Cobleskill for "two full years of college courses" and also holds an "NYS Real Estate License." There are no dates listed for either entry in the document. There are unanswered questions, however, about each of those entries. "We do not have a Susan Bruno on record, and we've checked all of our records," said Kate Birchenough, a spokeswoman for SUNY Cobleskill. She added that the college's records system would show enrollment and attendance for any student by that name going back to 1916.

Mary Jo Moore, a spokeswoman for the New York Department of State, which licenses real estate professionals, said their records go back to 2002; the agency has no record of a professional real estate license under the name Susan Bruno. Moore, at the newspaper's request, checked the files for appraisers, brokers and salespersons, which all are licensed professions. "She's not licensed as a real estate broker or salesperson," Moore said, later adding that there was nothing on file for an appraisal license. Bruno's resume is spotted with typographical errors and misspellings. It indicates she took a "design course" at the "Ritner School of Design" in Boston. Steve Rittner, head of Rittners School of Floral Design, confirmed last week that Bruno attended and completed a floral design course there in the summer of 1981, when she was 20. "She successfully completed the course and she left a very positive record here," Rittner said. "It was a summer program. ... She took an accelerated version." The floral design course is a postsecondary course that does not yield a degree, Rittner said. Her resume also includes work experience from 1985 to 1991 as a customer service representative at her father's former telecommunications company, Coradian.

Her resume states that while at Coradian, Bruno handled client relations with two large companies: Einhorn Yaffee Prescott, an architecture and engineering firm that has an office in Albany, and Finch Pruyn & Co. Inc., a paper company in Glens Falls. The names of both companies are misspelled on Bruno's resume. From 1991 to 2003, Bruno's resume indicates she was a legislative assistant in the state Assembly. Records on file with the state comptroller place Bruno's pay at $44, 563 annually at the time she left the post with the Assembly Republicans. A former GOP Assembly staff official said Bruno was "autonomous," meaning no one seemed to supervise her during her legislative career, and that she was highly paid for the post she held. Former Assemblywoman Maureen O'Connell recalled Bruno as providing "excellent" support.

When the Research Foundation hired Susan Bruno five years ago as an assistant director for foundation relations, she was paid a salary of $70,000. Cathy Kaszluga, a foundation spokeswoman, confirmed Bruno's salary but declined to say whether she was officially allowed to work from home. Kaszluga also declined to answer questions about the apparent discrepancies in Bruno's resume — including whether her qualifications met the requirements for the job. ''I do not think I'll be able to give you anything beyond what we've already provided, given that she is a private citizen working for a private company,'' Kaszluga said in an e-mail last week. The foundation had turned over some of Bruno's personnel information to the Times Union, but declined to provide copies of her time and attendance records. The foundation maintains it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Law and is allowed to choose what it discloses. However, Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the State Committee on Open Government, an arm of the Secretary of State's office, said a recent decision by an Albany-based state Supreme Court justice ruled the foundation is subject to New York's FOI law.

General information provided by the Research Foundation indicates Bruno's duties involve four areas: an effort to accumulate grants for young SUNY faculty researchers; two annual dinners to recognize faculty researchers and those who have patented or licensed inventions; a U.S./Britain community college information exchange; and encouraging SUNY participation in a scholarship program for study in Britain. A person who spoke on condition of anonymity said the FBI's inquiry reached out to Matthew P. Behrmann, a former vice president for foundation relations, about Susan Bruno. When contacted by a reporter, Behrmann said, "I don't think I can help you out," and declined further comment. Behrmann no longer works for the foundation.

The FBI's inquiry has been broad. Recently, investigators have displayed an interest in CMA Consulting in Latham, the company Joseph Bruno joined as CEO after quitting the Senate, according to a grand jury witness. CMA, with tens of millions of dollars in state contracts, has had a long-standing business relationship with the Research Foundation, which has paid the firm more than $1.5 million. Brendan J. Lyons can be reached at 454-5547 or by e-mail at blyons@timesunion.com; James M. Odato can be reached at 454-5083 or by e-mail at jodato@timesunion.com.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

looks like more of the same; the "inside" few using the State resources like a personal ATM machine while average folks struggle to pay bills, keep jobs, pay taxes.

would be very interesting if the public gets to see how the "inside few" have maintained so much control over important state jobs like positions that should be watchdogs and for accountability.

the Pam Carvel link is interesting too. anyone know what happened to that Assistant AG Laura Werner mentioned in the Carvel story?

i think i heard the Carvel case went to now retired NDNY Judge Kahn.

Kahn seems to be the common name as Judge when there is an "inside" connection to a federal civil case like a few out of an upstate county just across the hudson river and a bit south of albany and another that started in the sdny and was transferred up north.

the results all appear common too such as outright dismissal when in at least a few mere partial dismissal at best was appropriate.

maybe that is something for the judiciary committees in dc? or that public integrity out of albany?

Anonymous said...

in the old days, brown bags full of cash did the trick.... now, because so much money is involved, the thugs have to be a bit more creative: loans they get from banks (but don't have to pay back) and relatives "businesses" being paid for b.s. type of work, etc. very creative, i'd say.

Anonymous said...

that Kahn Decision dismissing Pamela Carvel's suit is amazing. Could parts of the Complaint have been converted by Kahn so Pam Carvel would be acting as a Private Attorney General when the state govt AG is not acting?

must have been something to get those brown bags I bet. i guess now it is more like pay for the Country Club Dues and items like that too?

Anonymous said...

For more on Kickbacks and falsifying information, here is a NY Post story from today showing how Hospitals in Upstate Counties, being Columbia Memorial in Hudson, NY of Columbia County and Benedictine Hospital in Kingston, NY of Ulster County are tied in with alleged medicaid Fraud in excess of $50 Million Dollars.

http://www.nypost.com/seven/01052009/news/regionalnews/hosp_drug_abue_147254.htm

A father who served his Country for 10 years in the US Navy and 10 years in the US Coast Guard receiving a Merit Commendation Award while in service has been fighting in the New York Courts for over 8 years to regain custody of his sons taken in to the Foster Care program 8 years ago even though a Cour Ordered Pyschological report from 8 years ago said the father was not a threat to his sons and the process of reunification should have begun 8 years ago.

The father, now residing in Arkansas originally with permission and approval of a Renss County Judge, has also been fighting just to get Access to his Records for a proper Appeal while attorneys from Ulster County, Columbia County, Renss. County and more have failed to get basic records despite being paid by the public for their work. These records include Hospital and Treatment records and more.

While the case was in Renss. County, a Director of Unified Services of Renss. County said the process of reunification for the father and sons should not be too difficult however there were "long arms and tentacles" impacting the case from behind the scenes.

Blog Archive

See Video of Senator John L. Sampson's 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption

The first hearing, held in Albany on June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:


               Video of 1st Hearing on Court 'Ethics' Corruption
               The June 8, 2009 hearing is on two videos:
         
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 1
               CLICK HERE TO SEE Part 2