How Common Council Members and Their Supporters Smear the Corporation Counsel

First, let’s establish the meaning of ‘smear’: damage the reputation of (someone) by false accusations; slander.

Next, let’s look at how Council members and their supporters consistently level false accusations against the Corporation Counsel

Smear 1: The Corporation Counsel uses city resources for personal business.

Here is an exchange between Ms. Hatzenbuhler and Tim Becker on this blog :

Diane Hatzenbuhler:
“There is not enough city work to justify a full time secretary, so therefore, the secretary is sitting there playing solitaire or on FB or doing work for GD’s private practice or as GD said, twiddling his thumbs.”

Tim Becker:
“Please state for the record, Diane, do you have any evidence whatsoever that DeCusatis has utilized his assistant for personal business?”

Diane Hatzenbuhler:
“Let us just take his personal business out of the equation since I have no proof. There is no proof since there is no accountability. ” [snip]

Tim Becker:
“Let us just take his personal business out of the equation since I have no proof.” – Un-real. I have no words. You are essentially admitting to slander here.

By her own admission, Ms. Hatzenbuhler has no facts supporting this claim. And neither does anyone else on this bandwagon but it does not stop the accusation from being leveled.

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Smear 2: The Corporation Counsel has never brought a codes case to court in X years.

Here is an accusation by Ms. Hatzenbuhler:

As for codes. GD did nothing with codes in the first 3 and a half years in office. Nothing was sent to court as he found nothing but problems with the accusatory statements.

Fact:

From 2008 through 2011 (Ms. Hatzenbuhler’s time period for her accusation), a total of $11,850 was collected through codes for housing related fines. In 2009 and 2011, a total of 54 housing cases were brought to court (according to NY State Court Records).

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Here is an accusation by poster ‘Luis’:

I suppose no one sees something wrong within the city law dept.? It’s not the work load because we have never heard of a city code enforcement case settlement with a landlord in Amsterdam now in 7 years.

Here is an accusation by ‘Rogo’:

when is last case corp council went to court. I might be wrong but let me no answer

Fact:

From 2008 through 2014, a total of $119,342.10 have been collected through codes from a total of 474 codes cases. Of the $119,342.10 , $60,850 are housing related fines. (Figures from NY State Court Records and City of Amsterdam public documents)

Apparently 474 codes cases and more than $119 thousand in fines is equivalent to zero.

What’s even better is that Ms. Hatzenbuhler and other critics claim Counsel brings no cases to court. Here is Ms. Hatzenbuhler in her own words:

“GD has also personally insulted and belittled the codes officer in the court, which I do attend and have witnessed.”

So Ms. Hatzenbuhler verifies Corp Counsel is physically present in court but, per Luis and others,  he never brings court cases to court. Houdini would blush at this feat of illusion.

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Smear 3: Corporation Counsel will not prosecute cases due to slumlord clients.

Yet another accusation by Ms. Hatzenbuhler:

Current corp counsel has shown no interest for the past 3 and a half years, but now he is going to change?? I do not think so. He represents two of the city’s biggest slumlords, one of which is on Forest Ave. (Although I am sure he will say he does not represent them at the current time)

Luis:

Has anyone seen his client on Forest Ave. make it’s way to court for the exterior junk and removed sprinkler system? Of course not, look who’s in charge.

Yes the Corp. Counsel determines which cases proceed to court by approving their submission. Has anyone seen his client on Forest Ave. make it’s way to court for the exterior junk and removed sprinkler system? Of course not, look who’s in charge.

Fact:

Corporation Counsel has publicly recused himself from the case due to an attorney-client relationship. As is ethically and professionally proper conduct, Corporation CoOunsel has rightfully removed himself from the case. Therefore, it falls upon the Common Council to bring any case forward through an outside attorney in this case.

Here is the very public statement on the matter from Corp Counsel (Recorder August 28, 2014):

The city wants to enforce a code violation against a current client of mine, and also a former client with regard to defending code violations before I was the city attorney,” Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis said. “So I can’t be involved because it’s a conflict of interest, so they need to hire outside counsel for that.”

Attorney Ronald Schur, of Mayfield-based Schur and Rose PLLC, was authorized in the council’s resolution to represent the city in a legal case, which involves alleged city code violations against an unnamed resident.

Schur’s payment for the representation will not exceed $2,500. City Controller Matthew Agresta said he was worried Schur would “go through $2,500 quickly” and there would still be more work to do on the case.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said she’s going to visit Schur at his office and talk about the city’s financial issues regarding this case so that the city doesn’t spend too much money on outside counsel. She said action has to be taken against the alleged code violator. “We cannot let them stay there and destroy that neighborhood anymore — it’s been going on for 15 years,” she said. “We’ve got to start somewhere and [the Codes Department] has done everything they possibly can.”

Remember, the above quote from Corp Counsel is from August 2014, 8 months ago. Now Ms Hatzenbuhler claims , falsely again, that Corp Counsel will not admit to clients as former or current even though the public record makes quite clear that that is precisely what Corporation Counsel said. Furthermore, Corporation Counsel specifically advised the Council to proceed with an outside attorney due to this conflict of interest.

Now that it is 8 months later and the Council has not taken any action, Ms Hatzenbuhler levels the accountability at the Corp Counsel when it is more than clear that accountability lies squarely at the feet of the Common Council. Why has the Council failed to support codes and pursue the case? Why is the Council not subject to the same accountability they seemingly expect of everyone but themselves?

What Ms. Hatzenbuhler, her fellow Common Council members, and their supporters seek is to question the Corp Counsel’s competence so they can deflect attention from their very own incompetence: by failing to properly staff codes, by cutting resources to the Corporation Counsel and by advancing their political agenda above the public interest.

It’s that simple.

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