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Another Questionable Donation by Judge Kettner Surfaces, Made Shortly Before 2010 Democratic Nominating Convention

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Another Questionable Donation by Judge Kettner Surfaces, Made Shortly Before 2010 Democratic Nominating Convention

October 28, 2011 - 15:00
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Kettner FertelTalk of the Sound has uncovered another campaign donation made by Judge Susan Kettner under a corporate name that raises new questions about her partisan political activity while a judge or judicial candidate. Talk of the Sound previously reported on an illegal $500 campaign contribution to Council Member Barry Fertel. Kettner made public an email requesting the return of the money but, so far, the Fertel campaign, has yet to issue a statement confirming the money has been returned.

Using the name of her law firm and a different address (Kettner & Kettner at 270 North Avenue) Susan Kettner made a $125.00 campaign contribution to Latimer for Assembly, the campaign fund for New York State Assemblyman George Latimer, on April 16, 2010. On June 27, 2011, Dorothy Kettner, Susan Kettner's mother, made a $300 contribution to Latimer for Assembly. There is no memo on either donation that explains the nature of the donation. Any donation other than the purchase of tickets to a fundraiser, are illegal under New York State Judicial Ethics laws.

As a judge, Kettner may not engage in partisan political activity. As a judicial candidate, within a specific window of time (in the months prior to her selection as a candidate and 6 months after election day) Kettner was allowed to work on her own came, with severe restrictions, and allowed to purchase tickets to political fundraisers, with additional restrictions.

The questions become, when did Kettner actually put herself forward as a candidate, what was the purpose of the $125, if that money was for a ticket or tickets to a fundraiser, was that the lowest priced amount of a ticket?

The Democratic Convention where Kettner was selected as the Democratic nominee for New Rochelle City Court Judge took place in May, 2010. However, Talk of the Sound has confirmed with the New York State Judicial Campaign Ethics Center that Kettner attended a mandatory course on Judicial Campaign Ethics Training and Guidance on April 26, 2010.

If Kettner was a judicial candidate or or before April 16, 2010 then the "Window Period" was in effect and any contribution or political activity other than attending a fundraiser would be prohibited under New York State Judicial Ethics.

Talk of the Sound has previously documented what may be three illegal campaign contributions by Susan Kettner made after Kettner was sworn in as New Rochelle City Judge on January 1, 2011. Kettner has already confirmed that one of the three was an illegal campaign contribution but has yet to explain the other two.

On January 11, 2011, Kettner contributed $125 to the Westchester County Democratic Committee.

On March 16, 2011, Kettner contributed $100 to the Democratic City Committee of New Rochelle.

On April 26, 2011, Kettner contributed $500 to the Friends of Barry Fertel Campaign Committee by purchasing tickets to a Fertel fundraiser on May 12, 2011. The "Window Period", 6 months after election day, closed on May 2, 2011. Had the event taken place before May 2nd, Kettner would have only permitted to purchase two tickets for $150 and so the extra $350 constitute impermissible political contributions. However, as the event took place after May 2nd, she was not allowed to attend. New York State law does not permit a judicial candidate to purchase tickets to a fundraiser and then not use the tickets. If she did not attend the event the entire amount of $500 constitutes an impermissible political contributions. If she did go to the event, that would constitute impermissible political activity because it was after the Window Period closed on May 2nd. All of these are violations of New York State law for Judicial Ethics.

In an email to the Fertel campaign requesting a return of the $500 contribution, Kettner implausibly states that she did not realize that judicial ethics laws applied to her in the months after she became a judge. This preposterous claim raises questions about all four of her political contributions in 2010 and 2011. Further, her mother's campaign contributions may also be ethics violations if Kettner failed to encourage her mother not to make the donations.

There are 17 Comments

Bary Fertel is without a doubt a Ferengi.

He runs his life by the Rules of Acquisition.

Rule #1

Once you have their money, NEVER give it back.

I don't know her well, but i do like her based on reports from a number of downtown, blue collar folks that found her to be genuine and approachable.

What I am about to say is that Bob has covered the ground pretty extensively and to her credit, she has stepped up and admitted some liability.

There are others in the woods that are more carnivorous and I would let her make her amends and move on to more dangerous folks like Korostoff and others in the school district.

Treat this only as a personal opinion; I think she will grow from this and my only real issue is not one of judicial temperment or skill, but of bad taste.

Let me quickly go to a related issue suggested by a poster's comment about an IDA appointment. I cannot think off hand of anyone south, west, or east of Huguenot (unless you mean the Calabrian boys) who has been apppointed to anything substantial by the City.

Got to be disappointed; for example, MOI, I am highly proficient and experienced in many areas, but likely lack the cache or the flavah of those on the North end. Probably my opioonated self. Then there are others, I will just mention John D for one, who should be appointed to just about any open seat available in the City.

Yes, I am sure it has contributed to my unrest and i frrely admit so.

but then, if Richard got elected, I would stand even less of a chance and so would John D.

Sorry Bob Cox, your prospects dim by the day, but no one knows the school district, warts, trolls and all, like you do.

Keep up the pressure on the district.

Mr. Gross, admittedly you don't know Judge Kettner well so your hope that she will grow from this is well intentioned. As zoning board chair, Ms. Kettner was a stickler for doing things by the book and researching the book for answers to gray areas. In reading Cox's timeline, Judge candidate Kettner took the required course which defined in detail what conduct is appropriate. There is no way she made an "honest mistake". She made contributions to the City Democratic committee and Assemblyman Latimer all democratic powerhouses. this is about power and as we know absolute power corrupts absolutely. The democrats in this city feel they are above the rules and have done what they wish for nearly 20-years. They are currently running a my way or the highway campaign with Bramson on every democratic candidate's lawn sign. The message here is clear, the democratic candidates are not independent individuals and the democratic party is not open to working with others to achieve compromise when deciding New Rochelle's future.

maybe you are 100% correct, but Tim, somewhere and for some people, I need to draw the line. Everyone has a down side and if the GOP comes into power, you will see it. I think this is a good woman on balance and Tim, my thesis is that power corrupts like sin corrupts and that is why we have mortal and venial sins, confession, etc...

I can only speak for myself. If I truly believed that the next administration, GOP or Democrat, would be unsullied by error, abuse of power, honest or other mistakes, I would be a fool.

So, I really do appreciate your viewpoint and it is spoken like a gentleman. I hope however any of this turns out, you are not so disappointed that it makes you crazy. I mean that in the best way; I think we need to look at ourselves before we look at others.

So Susan gets a pass from me and Barry, not a chance as he has literally done nothing. Bob Cox and I are in many ways the opposite sides of a coin, and he gets more than a pass because he had enormous courage and this today, is a rare quality. But if Bob thinks that a change in party will mean anything of substance for all, he is wrong. It may benefit him, but I even doubt that. Politics sucks the life out of people and it almost cries out for term limits.

In all candor Tim, the closest veteran pol I see who inevitably shows a clean sheet is Louis Trangucci. Jared Rice will follow and of course, the opponents are sharpening their pencils now to combat this.

But, aside from people committed to his opponent at his last election ( a good man I think), all I see is opposition from people who have literally mislead us such as McLean who supposedly headed up a "community" opposition to the redistricting effort which was a total sham. All members were hand picked and no one else could join without a "I hate Noam" or administration.

I am only saying this to point out that we are all part of an ugly political process and i honestly try to look compassionately at people and pick out those who both share a fair amount of what I believe in economically and socially coupled with what I sense to be a fair level of elemental decency.

Keep posting brother.

Warren, maybe the reason all were hand picked Noam haters is because the African American community was screwed for a second time by the Noam walks on water mindless democratic followers who, like the Pied Pipers mice don't realize their fate is doomed. Noam is revising a comprehensive plan that has not been updated in 16-years. Isn't that the same timeframe as the number of years Noam has been on council? I guess Noam wants another 16 years to do what he failed to do in his first 16 years.

I think I will stay with being as compassonate and postive as I can during these times. I have not seen anyone, myself included, on TOTS who is remotely close to being this. Thanks for the feedback and stay well.

Robert Cox's picture

Warren,

You wrote:

"Bob has covered the ground pretty extensively and to her credit, she has stepped up and admitted some liability."

Kettner has decidedly NOT stepped up, admitted anything or taken on some liability. I remain mystified how an idea like this can form in your mind.

I have met many, many judges, I worked on two judicial campaigns in New York State, I have read the ethics laws for judges. This is not a discussion item.

It is impossible that a sentient human being could be a candidate for judge or be a judge and think that there is some period during which they are allowed to engage in partisan political activity like any other private citizen. Kettner broke the law and then lied about it. That an elected official might do this is hardly uncommon but Kettner is an elected judge.

If you do not understand why judges are held to a higher standard then I really cannot help you here but that you say you bumped into a few people on the street who told you Kettner is "approachable" and that this somehow makes it OK for her to break the law, then lie about it when caught, I can only note that these are not the words of someone who expects me to take them seriously.

I could understand her support of George Latimer. But anyone who supports Barry Fertel needs their head examined.

As far as her campaign contributions, this is a perfect example of why we need campaign finance reform. Everybody is out to buy a politician through campaign contributions so they can push their agendas.

John, well said. Perhaps supporting Barry Fertel requires some form reorientation into society that service men got after visiting bad places. Barry biggest contribution seems to be having conversations with Marianne Sussman while citizens are trying to squeeze in their thoughts during the 3 miutues allotted during the citizens forum during council meeting breaks.

But, I think your most important point is the campaign contribution point. It was bad enough, but now with the "corporations are people" Supreme Court ruling, it is beyond all belief.

The Who have a classic line in Baba O'Reilly, "meet the new boss,same as the old boss." My point was and is that it really doesn't matter too much who is in office nowadays, it revolves around power, influence, running for re-election, and MONEY.

As likely the only one on this site who supports the current administration then criticizes many of their actions and decisions, I think these influences are a preoccupation that we cannot afford. This is why it pains me when there is so little understanding of the need for positive change. You cannot make a dent in things with constant criticism, because someday, the worm turns and you are forced to criticize those you supported for years.

A very bright guy, Deepak Chopra was debating an equally bright astrophysicist named Leonard Mlodinow last year. He summarized his views with something I remember pretty close to word for word. He said, "a rigid, hostile skepticism does no one any favors. Skeptics squat by the road like the guardians of truth, letting no one pass who doesn't come up to scratch. They never realize tht they can only see what their paradigm tells them to look for".

So goes my rant in support of Susan Kettner --- not for her stain or sin, but for her person which seems on balance, to be fine. I support Bramson, simply based on his high intellect, his promise, and on the fact that I have, unlike some bloggers, no personal history to indicate otherwise. I rarely argue "facts" knowing that they are transient, often subjective, and always open to interpretation. So if Bramson hangs up the phone on a caller, that is simply wrong and he should be held accountable for it. But, then, John, it seems that no politician, regardless of party, follows the law of the City and frankly, I don't know why.

Someone told me in a blog that someone I gave some praise to, Ron Tocci, caused the school board to be separated from City control. I did not say anything, but that would be impossible given Tocci's elective office. But, why argue. It gets you nowhere.

I think this blog is full of very decent, good people who have not been properly nourished by City management. Maybe it is because they live on the wrong side of the tracks, perhaps they are deemed as "lumpenprolatariats", or perhaps things have been so nice and comfortable up North that there was little interest in investing in even a cursory understanding of the dynamic growth of downtown and further south New Rochelle. But, the times are changing. I think Maisano is correct when he stated that the current slate of GOP office aspirants is stronger than ever. I even had my moment of being pissed when I thought that people who I know are no where as together as I, are being appointed to committees, offices, etc. while I sit here seething and whining.

John, that moment has passed. I like where I am, a different voice on TOTS, and someone who is determined to make a positive change and commitment to New Rochelle and how it is managed.

The elections are coming up. Let me close with a few remarks, but no endorsements as you know where I stand.

1. TOTS is very necessary to this community even though I could be the only administration supporter, not advocate, on the site. I think it is a mark of cowardice on the part of people who read it up north or elsewhere but do not comment and join in the debate.

2. I have substantive disagreements with Bob Cox on many of the conclusions he draws but none, repeat none on his energy, courage and willingness to bring difficult and problematic issues to the community. Sure he is an avowed conservative and has not really spent much time reporting on any GOP pecadillos. But, so what! People can get on the blog easily enough and do that. If you understand me and what I stand for, it is really not necessary to become self-righteous and dismiss him either as being one-sided or even crude. Again, so what. This blog has many people who share his views that will happily debate you on issues.

3. I am going to work my tail off in 2012 to get answers to certain issues that to me are critical in the growth and development of this City.I will be relentless and do this in a non-personal, totally issue driven way. They include: (1) why is the City not managed by the City Code or at least, why isn't the City Code changed to reflect how it is managed, (2) why is the school district allowed to run independent of City management and oversight, when the tax burden, the benchmark of an attractive investment and residential community for newcomers, etc... again, the tax base, etc. escaped the notice of serious men and women of both parties in office, (3) why is the downtown business district in such disarray, so badly managed, so unattached to basic urban planning, so unsafe, and so bereft of City services occupying space. This goes against sheer logic and there has to be more to this than meets the eye.

No politician talks about this forthrightly, bogus claims are made for insights, I do not read about any of this in TOTS or Pulse, Journal News or anywhere else.

This is my present to myself next year. I don't make it a habit to lose so I will give this the most energy I can muster. The flesh will have to keep up with the mind and spirit.

Finally, let me tell you and others that the people who post here are not inconsequential trolls or knuckleheads. We are better off with a half dozen of you than a dozen of fat, uninvolved, checkwriting, apathetic people who really don't give a rat's rectum for this great City.

Jim Killoran, a dear, dear friend feels the wheel is turning in the right direction and he is right. but he is only right if some of you are still optimistic and strong enough to understand that it is often not the office holder, it is the policy, process, campaign pledges, and other forms of influence paybacks that define the character of a community. Vote next month and best to all of you.

warren gross

Robert Cox's picture

Warren,

The word "avowed" means to "state positively", to "acknowledge openly, boldly, and unashamedly" or to "confess".

I do not recall every "avowing" to be a conservative.

Let me educate you if you are interested.

When I was 18 and first registered to vote I registered as a Democrat. My parents were both Democrats. My father worked on John Kennedy's campaign in Washington DC. My mother was twice elected to the village council in Irvington, NY as a Democrat. Most of the people in my family are Democrats. I voted in Democratic primaries. For President I voted for Mondale, Dukakis and Bill Clinton. I lived in Chicago twice so I got to vote many times (snark). When I first lived there I was a registered Democrat.

In 1991, I voted for Carol Mosley-Braun in the Democratic primary for Senate and again in the general election which she won, become the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

In 1994, I was in graduate school at the University of Chicago. I became increasingly disenchanted with what I perceived as a feckless foreign policy in the Middle East, and in particular Clinton's shameful (in my view) withdrawal from Somalia. It was my view at the time that Clinton and the Democrats were invited more of the same by not standing there ground and not fighting back. We know now that al Qaeda was behind the attack against U.S. forces dramatized in the book and film Black Hawk Down. When I moved back to New York, I had to change my voter registration. Out of disgust with the Democrats I changed my registration to Republican as a sort of "protest vote" (not that anyone cared). I later learned there was an option to not register for a party at all and I changed my registration to "non-registered" which I have remained until this day.

I am not a member of any party but I will support candidates of any party who I believe are doing a good job. One man that has my support right now (and I did not expect it at all) is Andrew Cuomo. I can site others that I do support. In New Rochelle it means getting rid of the malignant political machine that is sucking our City try for their own narrow interests.

I do not disapprove of Noam Bramson because he is a Democrat.

I disapprove of the North End political machine of which he is the de facto leader. I will support anyone who will help to break the stranglehold that Noam and his little machine have on New Rochelle in which they divert school resources (brain power and money) to "their" schools and raise campaign cash by tapping into companies and individuals with business before the City government. Noam is all about the interest of the few over the interest of the many; all while cynically seeking to exploit minority voters who, if they ever got organized, would control the entire City. Instead, few of our eligible hispanics bother to vote and many African-Americans mindlessly vote the Democratic line which explains in large part how an area encompassing 16,000 registered voters dictates terms to the other 60,000.

I have an eclectic set of political views on various issues that do not fit neatly into any particular block and I am certainly not an "avowed conservative" because if I were I would simply say so. I would also be a member of the Conservative Party. If you can point where I have ever declared myself to be a conservative I will take a look but until that day, you might want to choose your words more carefully. You are confusing my poor opinion of liberal democrats like Noam as being a conservative. That is simplistic, naive and, worse, incorrect.

I am curious to know what "GOP peccadilloes" you imagine have not been reported on Talk of the Sound? If you could list a few actually examples rather than making an unfounded charge like that I would appreciate it.

In short, neither description you have given is accurate and I would encourage not to give short shrift to facts which, for reasons I cannot imagine, view as transitory and thus somehow unreal.

In the meantime, I would point you the conclusion of my serial account of the Nightmare on Stephenson Boulevard in which I identify quite a few "peccadillos" by Republicans including the most senior Republican in government office in New Rochelle (New Rochelle Court Clerk Jimmy Generoso). And there are others. If you are to care to look up the party affiliation of many of the folks on my "naughty list" you will see that I do not spare anyone including Republicans. If you knew what you were talking about you would know that quite a few prominent Republicans are very angry with me over stories I have written over the past year. Some of them are the organizers of the "boycott" against this site over the photos from a motorcycle accident on Fifth Avenue in September.

I am not a member of a political party for good reasons, some of which should be obvious from my articles over the past 3+ years. I have no doubt that if Republicans were in power for 16 years they would become as corrupt as the Democrats have become.

Two oft used quotes to sum up, the first from Lord Acton and the second from Thomas Jefferson.

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

And then a thought of my own.

The best hope for good government at any level is, from time to time, to upend the established political order, send the fully-matured scoundrels back to private life and bring in newborn scoundrels who will only gradually achieve the levels of mendacity and self-dealing achieved by their predecessors. And then off with their heads too. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I cannot believe this is the only media covering the issue. Is the The Journal News, NR Sound Report & WVOX scared of confronting unethical judges? I just went to website that contains the judicial ethics rules: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/ip/jcec/index.shtml and this is not even a close call - Judge Kettner clearly violated judicial ethics. The site even says that you must attend a class before you run to learn the rules, and they even allow you to send emails if you have questions before taking an action that could be deemed unethical. It appears this judge was reckless and was more obsessed with transferring the leftover money in her campaign account to Democrat buddies, instead of following ethics rules. What aren't people and the media more concerned about this?

I'm with you.. Not sure its a big issue.
But I am sure Judicial Review Board will decided one way or another.
However the one thing missing in our fair City is Ethical Behavior on the part of many charged with spending and protecting our tax dollars. The bigger issue is what New Rochelle is. A cronied consortium of Democrats scratching each others backs. This is only a small symptom of the extent of the scratchings. Without some review of this matter its business as usual here in the Queen City.
The task for us is to point to Boss Tweeds town antics every step of the way.

Robert Cox's picture

Any time a sitting judge breaks the law it is a big deal. End of story.

I was being a bit tongue in Cheeky.
I would like to see the whole lot of them cuffed, shackled with coats over their heads being walked into a Federal Court house by US Marshals.
I believe they have all crossed the line of Ethics.
You could throw in many at NRED along with the City.
They may need a school bus for the transport.

I am not sure whether your response to Bob Cox's question to you concerning the severity of the issue is a full capitulation or a tongue in cheek reminder of one or more of your original points about severity of the isse and ethics committee.

If I recall correctly, Political Force is a sensible contributor and someone with a decent perspective. So, perhaps either description of subsequent actions are valid.

Of course Bob Cox has covered the territory adequately and has answered perhaps the most fundamental question; that being whether Susan Kettner attended the training or orientation offered by the judicial powers in the State. Her subsequent actions seem to be on the face of them in violation of judicial ethics. The salient point is one you mentioned, Political Force, and that is we all will know soon enough about what the Judicial Committee reads into this.

I still hope that justice is tempered with mercy especially for a new justice. My limited experience with her coupled with the opinion of people I respect, tell me she is a very good woman. She possibly is a fine attorney although in my jaded views, fine attorney is an oxymoron.

So I have to weigh Bob's strong expostulation of facts along with her reputation in most quarters as an fine human being. However the scales are balanced for me, I am not going to judge her (pardon the unintended reference); she does not generate anywhere near the same heat as a Richard Organisciak would in my psyche. I am more than willing to hope that we can move on to more pressing needs and of course this is subjective but much of what we talk about is shaded by that guiding perpective.

I wish Susan would have been more energetic in ensuring that she followed the letter and the spirit of the ethics committee. The letter is clear and the spirit is likely applicable to her mom's donation. I wish she would have checked with colleagues on the bench. Perhaps she did all of this; I think, she will profit from this experience and based on what I anticipate to be some form of censure from the Judicial Committee, she will become the fine justice some of us think she will be. God knows we can use another one in New Rochelle. I also hope that she understands the false syllogistic effect of misguided logic. For example, if I contributed x dollars to her even as a resident democrat (which I am not), this does not mean I would a prior support her making a subsequent contribution in kind to say, a Barry Fertel. She could have return the unused funds or likely placed them in some account to pay expenses or fund a future election campaign.

Ok, what I think follows from a lot of this is a linking to Bramson. This always disturbs me; partly because of the inferential nature of the linkage, but also from the fact that too much concentration of Bramson as representing the "human stain" causes real problems in community dialogue and subsequent community improvement. It is elemental human nature and we should not expect him or many of his supporters to become emboldened enough to face up to the requirements of engaging all voices in the community in both debate and in filling administration roles. Actually, we should expect this of him, but very few politicians are that courageous or broad minded. Abraham Lincoln, President not poster, was one of the few who built an administration around opposition, and Noam Bramson is not Abraham Lincoln.

But he is also not the anti-Christ, Lucy the first human-like biped to emigrate from the Kalahari and occupy our genetic make-up, and he is not without fault. Everything does not trace back to him and if it does, it reinforces my point that the process of this government, as reflected by all participants regardless of political party, is in violation of our own "political ethics code" expressed clearly enough by the City Charter.

I have high hopes for TOT. Some of these hopes are as yet not close to being realized. I do believe the readership numbers are impressive; I do not believe the contribution level, as represented by a variety of posters with competing viewpoints, approaches that standard. You cannot force people to engage especially in an age where we find too often that people are apathetic, or prefer inactive rationalization to positive and strong dialogue and debate. Posters can help by being more open to new thoughts and ideas by welcoming those who are opposed. You can lead both a horse and an ass to water but neither will drink if not thirsty. But, if the water seems unsullied and open to both, they will know it is there and eventually other voices will be heard.

Bob Cox has really done his job by establishing this blog. He may not be popular in some quarters o the city, but lets see if we can help change that by converting the non-involved ass to the more ameniable horse.

I am a bit torn as questioning the Ethical nature of a Sitting Judge maybe above my pay grade. And I still am optimistic that some integrity prevails.
I am dying to hear the results of the Judicial committee as I am sure Bob Cox already sent the FOIL request.
That said I have questioned over and over the eithical nature of Mayor Bramson, Fertel, Sussman and the head Lacky Chuck Strome. In defense of Chuck he is looking to preserve his employment but you certainly wish some ethics will prevail over his desire to preserve his position as City Manager.
If I seem to waffle it is only out of respect to her robes and I certainly would love to learn more.

Either way, not a very good choice as a judge. It is unfathomable to think someone sitting as a judge could be so ignorant of the law. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse", how many judges have uttered that very same phrase to defendants? She is so beholding to the machine that maneuvered her into p[osition, she was blinded to the very law she is supposed to uphold. Keep this in mind if you come before her in court. Just by doing her a favor, you can get her to throw out the rule of law. Case dismissed.

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