- 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.”