Noam, Chuck, and the NRPD leadership are angry with me. They are taking that out on me by cutting off Talk of the Sound. Welcome to North Korea on the Sound.
It had been my hope that wiser heads would prevail but that is clearly not the case so we are proceeding on the basis that we are permanently barred from getting access to news and information from City and NRPD officials and will proceed accordingly. As a practical matter what that means is that we will not be running press releases from the City (because they will not provide them), we will not be covering events (because they will not tell us when they are and will bar our entry where possible).
Talk of the Sound readers will want to know that over the past six months there has been a systemic effort to deny me access to information, public records, press releases and media availability announcements and all other news and information that I have received from the City of New Rochelle in the normal course of business over the past few years.
I have raised questions about this for many months and been provided vague assurances that this is not the case but there can be no doubt at this point.
The delays in getting information began in December, coinciding with Mayor Bramson's announcement that he would seek the Democratic nomination for Westchester County Executive, when I sought information about Resolution 205 and Heritage Homes (these are stories that Bramson definitely does not want the public to know about).
Those delays turned into a stone wall in February at the time of my reporting on the two city employees sleeping in a garbage truck and the attempt to create the position of Assistant Police Commissioner. Chuck was particularly angry because he believes I accused his staff of lying to me (which I did, because they did lie). Commissioner Carroll was angry because he believed that his attempt to sneak through major changes in the NRPD Command Structure was a "done deal". He was so confident that Chuck and Noam would jam the APC position through that he had already purchased the new Assistant Police Commissioner Shields. They are presumably gathering dust in some drawer in his office.
Since then I have not been provided press releases, gotten responses to requests for statements on news items, media availability announcements and so forth. My requests for public records which I was directed by Chuck Strome to make through Kathy Gilwit have been ignored or, in the rare instances where I get a response, delayed or incomplete. For example, when I sought evidence to support the City's claim that they had applied Resolution 205 to Heritage Homes I was sent documents that had nothing to do with Resolution 205 and told that they were the documents submitted by the developer to comply with the Resolution 205, the City's non-discrimination policy for public development projects. The City lied about complying with Resolution 205 (Chuck later admitted as much in a closed door meeting after my story ran) and then engaged in fraud by claiming documents filed with the State of New York were filed with the City of New Rochelle. The documents were not marked as "received" or time stamped.
I have been denied access to the normal press briefings held by Captain Schaller. He is angry with me because I disclosed that he runs a private law practice out of his office at NRPD headquarters. He is also angry because I reported that the retirement age for police officers in New Rochelle is 62 and Schaller is over 62 and should have been forced to retire last summer. Chuck has repeatedly lied to Council, claiming that the police retirement age in New Rochelle is determined by the New York State pension system. Not only is this absurd, but in three separate conversations with officials at the New York State pension system they all stated the rather obvious point that the state does not determine the retirement age for police (or anyone else) in a municipality. The City Code in New Rochelle states the retirement age for police to be 62. This has always been understood to be the case.
In a recent interview, Carroll defended Schaller excluding Talk of the Sound from press briefing on the ground that if you write something critical of a public official you cannot expect to be welcome with open arms.
What I expect is that police commanders, in particular departmental Public Information Officers, would be professional, set aside their personal feelings about a particular individual and do their job. For Carroll, personal pique trumps professionalism not only in how he conducts himself but in what he demands from his commanders.
I have communicated my views on this to Chuck, Carroll and Noam along with the rest of the City Council -- that it is view that Chuck, Noam and leadership at the NRPD are angry with me, primarily but not exclusively over the Assistant Police Commissioner issue and have chosen to express that by cutting off my access to information from the City.
In short, because they are angry with me for personal reasons they are using their public positions to deny access to public information or otherwise suppress ideas and information, basically a form of censorship and an attempt by government officials to suppress the free expressions of ideas.
Further, the Strome has actively engaged in an effort to discourage representatives of organizations that do business with the City such as unions and the BID from speaking to me.
The Mayor has admonished members of City Council not to speak with me. He did this in February after the APC vote went against him. Noam was furious. After the vote the Council went into executive session to discuss Chuck's annual review. After Chuck left the room, Noam then continued in "Super" Executive Session with just the members of City Council.
This session was illegal because the public was not notified of the purpose of this Super Executive Session. It was also illegal because the subject of the conversation was Noam's anger of the 5-2 vote in which three Democrats voted with the two Republicans to reject the APC plan.
Noam's celebrated notions of bi-partisanship apparently only extends to when Republicans vote with Democrats to support the Mayor's position and not when Democrats join with Republicans to oppose the Mayor's position. Noam used the illegal executive session to bully and threaten his fellow Democrats because by voting "no" to what amounted to what was, at heart, a pension padding scheme
Noam's particular focus was me.
Noam asked "how could you do this to me?", chastising Democrats on Council for talking to me.
Noam pointed out (correctly) that three years ago I had run a photoshopped image of Noam against the backdrop of a Japanese battle flag. Noam forget to mention why -- his cowardly attempt to sneak through a home rule bill with George Latimer by asserting a false claim that New Rochelle veterans supported the move. The purpose of the bill was to tear down the armory.
Noam claimed (falsely) that I had run a story accusing him of being unfaithful to his wife. I addressed in this in an email to Noam several months ago and published it yesterday.
There are no heroes here.
Republicans and Democrats alike once again sat through an illegal executive session and did nothing about it.
Republicans and Democrats are all aware that I have been cut off from news and information from the City and NRPD and done nothing about it.
All of this strikes me as especially pernicious behavior -- fundamentally un-democratic and contrary to our ideals as a society.
Up until now I have not made a public issue of all of this as it has been my hope that given some time to cool down, the individuals involved would re-think their decision to cut me off.
It has become clear that this is a forlorn hope and that neither the City Manager, the Mayor or the Police Commissioner intend to alter their decision in this regard.
I sent them an email two weeks ago, informing all of those involved that I am resigned to the decision of City officials to deny me access to information, that I have nothing to lose here, and to provide a heads up that I will proceed on that basis from this point forward.
By that I mean that I will not concern myself with seeking comment from Chuck or Schaller or anyone else in the City government when I am running a story or not unless I feel like it.
This is the same policy I have with Mayor Bramson who has not responded to any of my emails seeking comment for about 4 years, since I wrote a story that he was lying about being a "full-time Mayor" when the City Charter and his own employment application form clearly stated his job is a "part-time" position.
This is the same policy I have with the school district which has never included Talk of the Sound on it is press release distribution list and has been for many years illegally denying FOIL requests by me.
My default position is that I will not get a response so there is no point in waiting for one; if they ultimately decide to respond or provide information I might then update the story but, again, it will not be a priority.
Talk of the Sound has become the dominant news and information outlet in spite of, not because of, cooperating with the City government, the NRPD or the New Rochelle Board of Education. In the case of Chuck, Noam, Carroll, Schaller, Organisciak, we want wait.
They along with much of the leadership of the City government the NRPD command and the Board of Education will be gone by 2015.
We can wait.
From: Robert Cox
Sent: Friday, April 26, 2013 9:45 AM
To: Gilwit, Kathy
Subject: Secondary street-naming honors late councilwoman | Hometown Media Group
This is a very nice story below, I am sure.
Strangely, however, I did not receive any media availability notice for this event. I did not receive any thing from you on the State of the City address. Nothing on the Ray Rice event, etc. In fact, checking my emails I see none over the past few months other than replies to my direct requests for information and even those have been sparing. Several weeks ago I was banned from a press conference held by Capt. Schaller on the Iona College bombing case. Not along ago the Mayor used an executive session to chastise every elected official in New Rochelle government for speaking with me or proving me with information. The City Manager went around the State of the City event at the Davenport to tell a number of important people who do business with the City not to talk to me including union leaders who are in negations with the City on contracts. He has repeatedly told residents meeting with him that he does not want them to discuss their meetings with the City Manager with me or see information from those meetings appear in Talk of the Sound.
There were problems in December and January which we discussed. You indicated it had nothing to do with the Mayor announcing his run for the Democratic nomination for County Executive. Those problems have since turned into a stone wall ever since the City Council meeting where the APC position was voted down and the garbage truck story that I am not getting press releases, media avail notices or anything else.. It was immediately after the APC vote that the
So, will I be wrong in reporting that the City of New Rochelle has, once again, banned me from receiving press releases and other media notices? They have this sort of thing elsewhere -- Cuba, North Korea, Syria, Iran, etc… -- and I just want to see if we have that same sort of policy here in New Rochelle, that unless a media organization publishes or broadcast stories that the government likes they will ban you, block you and otherwise refuse to cooperate with you.
I know we do not have a gulag here (yet) but I have visions of my being locked up in the dog run at Ward Acres the next time I write a story that offends our Dear Leaders.
It seems to me that you work for the people of New Rochelle, that you are paid from funds taken from taxpayers and that you have a fundamental obligation to set aside political and personal considerations and cooperate with the media including media that does not devote itself to glowing, uncritical reporting of the doings of our local govenment and its officials. In the case of Talk of the Sound.
I would appreciate you addressing these concerns.
We can start by you providing me copies of all of the emails you have sent since January 1, 2013 until today that went out to any news organization or any person working or a new organization so we can compare what you have been sending out to the media and what you have been sending me so we can make a fair appraisal of whether you have been deliberating withholding public information from me.
I would also like to know what Resolution was adopted by Council authorizing the re-naming of the street referenced in the stoy and any related paperwork.
New Rochelle's Talk of the Sound