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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Getnick Queried in Bruno Probe

- The New York Times reported on Sunday that Neil Getnick, he of the highly controversial $125,000-a-yearmonth consulting deal with NYRA, has been interviewed in connection with the federal investigation into Senator Joe Bruno.

Mr. Getnick said the prosecutors interviewed him this year seeking his knowledge on a variety of topics, including Mr. Bruno and Friends of New York Racing, a group with ties to the senator that was seeking to privatize the racing franchise.
Though Mr. Getnick declined to elaborate on the content of his discussion with federal investigators, he confirmed the inspector general report's characterization of his 2004 meeting with Tim Smith, asking: “How do you connect those dots?....Well, let me just say those are really big dots requiring an awfully small line.”

The Times has, from time to time, discussed the details of the suspicions about Friends, and here, the paper's Albany reporter Nicholas Confessore connects those big dots - Getnick's and the Thacher report's contention that Smith told Getnick of an organizational meeting of Friends at which investors such as Churchill Downs and Woodbine discussed their plans to ultimately operate the franchise after it was privatized.
Mr. Smith also suggested that such an arrangement could be beneficial to Mr. Getnick, saying that he had recently played golf with Mr. Bruno, and that he and Mr. Bruno believed Mr. Getnick should continue as the association’s monitor past 2005.
Confessore also notes the fact that several Friends investors indeed went on to form Empire and formulate a bid along the lines of what Friends' recommended in their final report.

And here we hear from Tim Smith, the first comments I've seen from him since the issuance of the inspector general's report. Smith characterized the meeting with Getnick as a "conceptual" discussion, and denied any ulterior motive with respect to his golf game with Bruno. “To say that from Day 1 that [Friends] was a stalking horse for Empire Racing — that’s just not true" (a statement that certainly leaves quite a lot of leeway for the truth).

Whatever Smith said, it apparently seemed suspicious enough to Getnick that he reported it to Steve Duncker, thus dooming Smiths' chances of becoming the head of NYRA. The Thacher report claims that, according to Charles Hayward, Smith said that he "underestimated the federal monitor." That's one of those uncorroborated statements from an Empire competitor that the report's critics have pointed to in declaring it biased.

Now, I'm not exactly objective as you know; I'm highly skeptical of Smith's and Friend's motives. And who knows, perhaps I'm wrong. But there's a couple of things that I find difficult to believe. For one thing, am I really to think that the presence of one Thacher investigator, out of a reported 30 who worked on this report, who worked for Getnick during their monitorship, really tainted the report in a significant way? And, should I believe that, back in 2004, Getnick was already plotting to clear NYRA in return for a future consulting deal (the fees for which, by the way, while seeming outrageous to us, are likely merely a fraction of the firm's total revenue?) And that he would thus make up his account of his meeting with Smith?

This isn't to say that I think the Getnick deal is free from stench. But, strictly my opinion, given the subsequent events, I find Getnick's version of the meeting to be far more believable than Smith's.

- The Times reported last week that Glenn T. Suddaby, the US Attorney who has been leading the Bruno investigation for more than a year now, is being considered for a federal judgeship. A spokesperson for Suddaby said that: “Any turnover in the U.S. attorney should not have any impact on any ongoing investigation.”

8 Comments:

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

I don't think anyone has clean hands in this mess. It certainly looks to me like Getnick was "paid" to give a glowing review of NYRA in a "wink-wink-nudge-nudge" kind of way. Know what I mean? Say no more...

Anonymous said...

have to agree with Michael on this. Plus, this explains why Getnick got written into the MOU --he's a twofer -- good for NYRA and Spitzer. getnick gets a $7.5 million minimum 5 year deal. Plus, he had to be part of the planning for a couple of years because this is too much of a coincidence with Charlie Haywood supposedly outing Smith at last years Saratoga institute. It's pretty bad that we have to choose between NYRA and Empire -- both have questionable integrity. I woudl have picked Excelsior even without the Yankees on board and with Steve Wynn and Dalai Lama.

jk said...

NYRA had the trump card--the land claim. The Getnick deal is window dressing.

Bruno might have to complete his Spitzer probe from federal prison. Hopefully Spitzer figured out he should be quiet and Bruno will sink all by himself.

Anonymous said...

The NYT article is the latest in a number of pro-Spitzer pieces, I assume because their man has been taking such a bashing in the Post and in the DN. Spitzer the steamroller plays dirty politics, he picked the wrong horse in NYRA and Bruno wants to stop him and finally get rid of NYRA.
I agree with Bruno. Alan, you were there for Rags last race, tell me you don't think another entity can do a 100% better job.
It was disgusting, a few thousand buttons? Give me a break.
NYRA HIT THE ROAD.

Anonymous said...

There may have been nothing legally improper with NYRA’s retention of Getnick & Getnick. Legally improper. A shade of gray. The term “appearance of impropriety” should have governed. Getnick should not have taken a contract that could remotely been perceived as improper. Anyone with an iota of impartiality can see the potential issue: that Getnick purposefully shaded his monitorship report in an effort to obtain future business from NYRA. Couple this with Getnick’s cooperation with the New York State Inspector General despite his apparently undisclosed negotiation with NYRA to be retained as “integrity” counsel and there are evident concerns.

It matters none whether he actually did something improper; all that matters is whether it could be objectively perceived as improper. Given the rather unilateral criticism of the Getnick hire by bloggers, media and elected officials, its plain there was such a perception.

The Preamble of the Code of Ethics for the International Association of Independent Private Sector Inspectors General states that they strive to prevent implicit or actual bargains between IPSIGs and monitored entities that would undermine the credibility of the IPSIG profession. Review of the actual Code of Ethics, however, finds that there is nothing addressing future employment by members with entities they monitored; it is wholly concerned with issues related during the pendency of the monitorship. A rather curious and gaping hole.

Either way, Mr. Getnick should have declined the position of “integrity counsel” and NYRA should have been capable of objectively identifying the proposed retention as an issue. People should be concerned with an integrity counsel that apparently can’t see potential conflicts and be concerned with the reformed NYRA not seeing the patently obvious - something they’ve certainly been accused of in the past.

By the way, the Chairman and President of the International Association of Independent Private Sector Inspectors General is none other than ... Neil V. Getnick, Esq.

Rob said...

Getnick's and NYRA's hands are among the cleanest. From the start, the whole NYRA franchise bid process smelled just like the early 1990s Russian privitization schemes. A couple of well-connected wannabe oligarchs were looking to loot some state assets with handshake deals made behind closed doors (or out on the golf course), and then flip it or control the slots for some vulgar profits. I'm glad they didn't get away with it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Rob, while I am not thrilled with the GNG situation, compared to what could have been this agreement smells like roses.