By Dr. Leon R. Koziol
Remember the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption? It was created by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013 to clean up government in Albany.
At least that was the case until investigations by that Commission began implicating the Governor himself along with legislative leaders like Sheldon Silver, convicted yesterday on all counts of a federal indictment.
The Moreland Commission was prematurely dissolved in March of last year despite testimony by federal prosecutor Preet Bharara who commended its existence. The dissolution moved him to seize commission files resulting in the criminal prosecutions we see today.
I was invited as well to give testimony before that Commission. But now serious questions linger. For example, what came of all the shocking testimony and petitions lodged by the general public, limited as it was, on Constitution Day, 2013 at Pace University?
What about the hundreds of speakers excluded from that hearing who were left outside protesting as a result? Why was the Commission prematurely disbanded, and why were so many citizens misled into believing they could be heard and answered?
Finally, how much corruption remains rampant here in New York State due to the utterly impotent nature of that Commission? It certainly cost our taxpayers substantial money to create this “dream team” of prosecutors and experts to root out corruption?
While we certainly commend U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for his follow-up investigations and prosecutions, a review of the public testimony raises far more concerns. It calls upon the Governor to revive his Commission if in fact the conviction of Silver is yet another wake-up call in state government.
The Moreland testimony is found on our site at Leon Koziol.com. As one of the few who were allowed to participate from the general public, I raised serious issues concerning documented retaliation for my public criticisms and my complaints of judicial misconduct. The retaliation has only escalated dramatically since that hearing.
My particular testimony can be viewed here at approximately the 2 hours, 31 minutes and 45 seconds mark:
If the Moreland Commission is not revived, Mr. Bharara should call for independent hearings. I am recommending the creation of a citizens Commission on Public Corruption headed by a “dream team” of good government advocates who can complete the work of the governor’s quickly dissolved entity.
Here are a number of observations from the Moreland proceedings which warrants such a public commission:
1) Ellen Oxman, of Women for Justice in New York Courts, provided compelling testimony of her abuse at the hands of a wealthy opponent with connections to the judges in her divorce and family proceedings. Where did her petition go, where is she today, and what came of the brazen level of injustice she carefully documented before the Moreland Commission?
2) Carl Lanzisera of Americans for Legal Reform and a co-member gave startling revelations regarding a 20 year history of court corruption including the similar impotent conclusion of the 2009 Senate hearings on judicial reform. The chair of that Senate Committee, John Sampson, was later indicted for official misconduct while in office. Among the recommendations made by this organization was the mandatory psychological testing of judges who take our children from us to bring them on par with other government officials.
3) Michael Kraveski, a regular citizen, provided a heart wrenching seven year ordeal in Kings County Family Court which has become all too commonplace in America today, one which led to an unarmed father shot to death in the back while fleeing a support warrant at a traffic stop in South Carolina less than two years later. He described himself as a victim of a “money extortion scheme” through impossible obligations, fraudulent tactical petitions and a “Star Chamber” court. He suffered a stroke in the end after losing his job and life savings.
4) Rich Velotti, an attorney for Act Now New York made an ominous prediction of sorts when he described how Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver, Senate Leader Dean Skelos and former leader Joe Bruno conspired to influence and limit the work of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, an entity comprised of members selected by them and the governor to investigate misconduct in Albany. All three were prosecuted criminally by federal authorities, none by the state. Attorney Velotti labeled the JCPE “a joke” with a strong recommendation that the Moreland Commission, with its independent investigatory powers, be made permanent.
5) Marie Tooker, a single mother of three, described a criminal enterprise in our courts which left her homeless with $12 in her bank account.
6) A Fordham law professor commended the Commission as an example of good government, never imagining that it would be dissolved in six months for doing the very work it was charged to perform. She emphasized the need for permanent “structural” changes to replace the “prophylactic” approach to public corruption which remains in place.
7) Elena Sassower was so emotional over the lack of judicial accountability over many years that she refused to yield to her allotted time as a speaker, even under threats of removal.
8) Katherine Wilson, a victim of divorce court, began her testimony with a request that certain Commission members cease their texting during the general public segment of the hearing. She also asked that one or more members who had left for the lobby during that segment return to their seats so that she could have the benefit of a full Commission. Needless to say, she elicited a resounding applause for her bold introductions after emphasizing her experience with “guns in her face” while living in Ireland. It left her without any fear of this Commission. When asked to conclude her remarks, she defended her few minutes of space with the one hour spent by the Commission chair lauding the credentials of members which were already found in the table brochures. She cited shocking examples of domestic violence victims who preferred to return to their abusive home environments than face the “battering” they sustained in New York’s matrimonial courts. You simply have to listen to her full presentation as I cannot do it justice here.
9) Marguerita Walter gave yet another heart wrenching ordeal at the hands of a corrupt divorce system with a “de facto termination of (her) parental rights,” some $150,000 spent on “supervised visits” and the ultimate permanent alienation of her children. She described 12 years of cruel and retaliatory acts for her exercise of fundamental rights after giving birth to children abandoned at an early age by their father. She was a Cuban refugee as a child herself fleeing from a corrupt communist regime headed by dictator Fidel Castro only to find far worse oppression here.
10) Not to be out done, Mr. Gallison, a reporter for secondary news sources, Truth-out and Black Star News, provided the Commission and its audience with a shocking rendition of corruption involving the selection of Jonathan Lippman to the highest judicial post of Chief Justice at New York’s Court of Appeals. He gave testimony before the 2009 Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, provided complaints before the state Judicial Conduct Commission and furnished reports in response to Preet Bharara’s request for input following the disbanding of the Moreland Commission, all of which went un-answered.
What happened to these speakers and their presentations? Where are they today? More to the point, what can we, the people, do to get the answers? What can we do to obtain follow-up on all the corruption which could have been heard from all those good citizens left out in the audience or in the streets?
Why is all this being swept under the carpet? If we do nothing, we guarantee more of the same or worse corruption in years to come, not a very good legacy for all the children and future generations harmed by the same corruption. It’s a trillion dollar “cottage industry” as one speaker plainly put it, and it shows no sign of correction.
Consequently I am asking our followers and advocates of good government everywhere to join my public requests. Contact your representatives and spread the word, make it viral as you are so good at doing, send me your credentials, suggestions and support, and let’s give this government something it never expected. An organized protest is long overdue on this critical subject.
Contact me at (315) 796-4000 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also mail your input to my attention at P.O. Box 8302; Utica, New York 13505.
Finally it must be emphasized that there are many court ordeals which warrant a book or documentary publication. As a publishing consultant, I can offer professional assistance to anyone interested in this powerful means of influencing justice and reform. You will find the details in my October 7, 2015 post here at Leon Koziol.com.
Leon R. Koziol, J.D.
Civil Rights Advocate