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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Public Teat Drying Up; Another Clown Arrested for Corruption

Ex-Health Commissioner Novello charged with theft, fraud
The Albany Times Union by ROBERT GAVIN - May 12, 2009

ALBANY, NEW YORK - Former state Health Commissioner Antonia Novello faces up to 12 years in prison on charges she illegally ordered state workers to chauffeur her around on shopping sprees, pick up her dry cleaning and water her plants over a two-year period. A 20-count criminal indictment unsealed in Albany County Court this morning alleged Novello used her staff employees, including a security assistant, to do "personal services for her." It also said she filed false information on a state comptroller's office form, failing to list the "chauffeur amount" that benefitted her. The one-time U.S. surgeon general pleaded not guilty to one count of defrauding the government and three counts of filing a false instrument, both low-level felonies. She entered the same plea to 16 counts of theft of government services, a misdemeanor. The indictment listed the amount of money involved as in "excess of $1,000," though she had been alleged to cost taxpayers $50,000. The typically outspoken Novello, 64, appeared somber as she entered the second-floor courtroom of Judge Stephen Herrick, joined by attorney E. Stewart Jones. She answered no questions from reporters as she awaited Herrick. "Are you Antonia Novello?" the judge asked. "Yes, sir," the former commissioner replied. "Is that your signature," he later asked after Novello signed a procedural document.  "Yes it is,'" Novello said quietly. "Yes, your, honor," Herrick released Novello without any bail, but not before asking her to surrender her passport. She exited with Jones to face cameras. Novello remained silent. Jones did not.

The high-profile attorney blasted state Inspector General Joseph Fisch's office, which referred the case to Albany County District Attorney David Soares' office. Jones called her prosecution a "selective process" that should have been handled in civil court. He said the inspector general's office "discriminatory criminalized, politicized and distorted" the case. "It never should have reached this point," Jones said. " (That) one of our nations's great public servants stands here today is a shame. And the shame is on the inspector's office for putting her in this position." He said Novello would have paid back the state had she been asked. He said she was never given notice and called the case unfair. He said members of Congress, as well as the Obama and Paterson administrations, have done "far worse" than Novello and not been criminally charged. "Why is she here?" a visibly irked Jones told reporters. "She's here because she has a bull's-eye on her back. Because politics is a contact sport. Because there are people who are vindictive and who have wanted to get her ever since she left the state."

Soares said Novello's status as a once top state and national official was "irrelevant" in his decision making about the prosecution of the case. Asked about Jones' contention no one ever explained Novello the problem, Soares said, "I think as time goes on and the facts of this case come out, you will see that statement is not necessary correct." He said it was a similar case to his office's prosecution of former Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who used state employees to chauffeur his wife, "in the sense that there's a misappropriation of state resources." He bemoaned that state law does not allow a more serious charges for the amount of money involved. Had Novello taken thousands in paper clips, he noted, she could have been charged with a more serious felony.

The charge of defrauding the government, according to the indictment, alleged Novello used employees under her supervision "for her personal purposes while such state employees were being paid by the state of New York for regular and overtime hours during the time they were directed by the defendant to perform such personal services for her." Heather Orth, a spokeswoman for Soares, said the allegations mirrors accusations detailed in a January state Inspector General's Office report about of her conduct as commissioner. In a strongly worded report, Fisch said Novello shamelessly and blatantly exploited and abused her staff by requiring guards to chauffeur her to malls and stores and required staffers to rack up 2,540 hours of overtime at a cost of $50,000 to taxpayers. Besides ferrying her to Colonie Center and Crossgates Mall, staffers were ordered to water her house plants, buy her groceries, handle her dry cleaning and be "on call" nights, weekends and holidays. The acts drew the concern of Novello's top deputy, Dennis Whalen, now Gov. David Paterson's director of operations. He wrote in 2003 that she should not be using staff for non-state services, Fisch found. In recent weeks, several state officials have testified in front of an Albany County grand jury investigating Novello's conduct during her 1999-to-2006 tenure as commissioner, people familiar with the investigation told the Times Union.

Novello served in the office under Gov. George Pataki following her service as surgeon general under President George H.W. Bush from 1990 to 1993. She would be the latest of a series of state officials investigated and prosecuted for the way they conducted themselves as a public servant. Accusations of misuse of state employees and a warped sense of privilege arose frequently during the 64-year-old doctor's run in charge of the state's multibillion-dollar health program. She was known to spend extravagantly on her large office in the Corning Tower. According to the inspector general's report, security guards repeatedly transported Novello's mother to the Newark, N.J., airport to catch flights to Puerto Rico. He noted that Novello failed to fully declare the perks on her tax returns and turned the case over to the Albany County district attorney. She is employed now as an executive with Disney Children's Hospital in Orlando, Fla. Capitol Reporter James M. Odato contributed to this report.


Anonymous said...

the corrupt rats have chewed on everything until it's almost gone. and our courts do nothing. and our officers of the courts are assisting in the cover ups. and who are the only people that benefit: the lawyers and lawyer/judges. something is really wrong....

Spelling Bee said...

that's t-e-a-t

Anonymous said...

The Time to pay the "PIPER" has come!!!! Smells like "JAIL" to me for all of these thugs!!!

Anonymous said...

I never read such horse manure in my life. first question that should have been addressed is: why does the state health commissioner even need a chauffer? Is the Health commissioner scooting off to hospitals or meetings, or hearings on a non -stop basis.

What is the public integrity commissioner doing to earn his upkeep? his biggest contribution in his entire history of government 'service' was to give a young man named David Paterson a job.

Need to go 'on the sheet' ? look for a public official abusing their perks is always an easy one.

why do you think these people are given perks, e.g., a chauffer.

public officials such as fisch and the bozos that put him in office should stop abusing their made up authority by selective prosecutions.

I know one thing that JOE FISCH doesn't do : He doesn't return letters that citizens write to him making legitimate complaints.

Joe, do you have a chauffer? And what does he/she do after you get dropped off at the office?

WOW, Joe fisch, with all those years it public service you woke up one day and figured out ONE health commissioner was misusing her staff.

No Fan of Pataki said...

So one of King George's men fall, it's about time. When will King George get nabbed? What's the morning line (odds) on that one?

Anonymous said...

The state's Inspector Generals usually hold corruption at bay...they don't pursue things that will stir up the "sitting" status quo.

This was a woman number 1..and a former employee..gone about 3 yrs...perfect target for the OIG's of this pitiful state to start looking for meat to sustain their reputations and salaries!

Women in NY state government are only as good as the active political party that supports them at the time they are in employment...otherwise they are tossed the minute someone complains about they age or enter into retirement.

Watch out ladies who are flexing their sexual muscles you get become state bate for scandal and removal! It can happen to female judges...too.... then who would we have to sit over these sensitive courts of family and domestic violence?

The OIG'S are a bizzare official sounding title of an ORGANIZATION that exploits innocent or removed employees that have done nothing but upset the politicians and hacks related, or performed in situations that many in government are still doing today.

Who do you OIG'S think you are fooling with that title and abuse of power?

Maybe I will print the garbage scenario and paperwork...which you (OIG-OCA) redacted to a disturbing alteration of THE REAL issues regarding political officials in he courts performing illegal activities....and the withholding of said corrupt documents and false reports for 4 yrs, so the truth could hopefully be forgotten and somehow destroyed by you.

You did not believe that I could maintain the facts, and have the ability to show our state citizens.... how you go after the innocent in preparing documents littered with perjury and hearsay....while using the HOLY OCA tape recorder..which you tamper with whenever you can?

The revelation is Going to happen "OIG" someday.... and you have no way to filter that truth, because you cannot terrorize the "real" truth from an already state designated truth teller,(you forgot you did that). So carefully wait for that event and most certainly...enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know of this Fax #? 212-809-3664


Anonymous said...

Att: Margaret Corchado

Anonymous said...

Hello Margaret.. What ever happened to my complaint? and why did it need to be faxed directly to you?

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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:

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