New Rochelle Board President Portrays Playing Fast and Loose with Taxpayer Money as "Personal Matter"

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New Rochelle Board President Portrays Playing Fast and Loose with Taxpayer Money as "Personal Matter"

April 23, 2014 - 20:14

Board President David Lacher delivered prepared remarks last night to a largely empty room at a Special Meeting of the New Rochelle Board of Education.

The overly emotional speech was at times grandiose, wallowing, self-pitying, and self-indulgent. In short, everything that David Lacher has come to be known for in his years in public office.

In the speech, Lacher referenced an email he sent to Board Members on April 10th, the day the District provided records about Lacher's medical insurance invoices under a Freedom of Information request. Talk of the Sound has obtained a copy of the email.

In both his speech and his email to board members, Lacher grotesquely misrepresents the situation and mischaracterizes his own actions and those of others.

You can watch the video here.

You can read the email here.

The underpinning of Lacher's claims is that his failure to reimburse the school district on a timely basis for public expenditures to finance his medical insurance premiums over a 21 month period is a personal matter. The phrase "personal situation", "private matter", "private circumstances" recur throughout his written and spoken remarks.

Lacher made a similar argument to Jeffrey Kehl, the attorney for the school district, and Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff, in an effort to prevent the release of his invoice records under a Freedom of Information request. Lacher's argument was soundly rejected and the records released.

The notion that the District's financial records would be private, as ridiculous as that sounds, was asked (by Lacher) and answered (by Kehl).

When you strip away the self-serving facade that District financial records are private documents and that debts incurred at taxpayer expense are a personal matter, the statements made by Lacher last night and his email melt away into absurdity.

The issue is not personal finances -- Lacher's car payments or mortgage payments -- but about thousands and thousands of dollars in debt accumulated secretly on the taxpayer dime.

The theme throughout is "Lacher as victim", even a victim of himself, saying "I deeply regret that I was unable to prevent myself from falling into this situation that I did."

In his speech, Lacher expressed regret that his family would be "dragged through this humiliating muck". For Lacher, being held accountable for what he admits is, at least, the "appearance of impropriety" is to be dragged through the muck. Again, Lacher as victim.

Lacher failed to mention that in July 2013, at a time when he was already more than $10,000 in debt to the District, he sought and obtained the position of Board President, thereby leaving himself even less time to attend to his law practice.

In his email, Lacher attributes his failure to reimburse the District for almost 8 months to a decline in his law practice, among other things, which he relates to devoting "an inordinate amount of prime work time to school district business – much of which you never hear about -- to the detriment of my own business."

By his statement last night, he is admitting that he failed to inform Board members of his precarious financial situation or that he had a five-figure line of credit open with the Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn, a person for whom he would have direct oversight responsibility as President.

Lacher never explains why he would seek to be Board President, an invasive and time consuming responsibility, when he was already unable to pay his bills due to a lack of time spent practicing law.

To be the victim, Lacher needs a victimizer. Not surprisingly, that is me. Rather than squarely address his own failures, his owns lies and his own omissions, Lacher attempts to attack my reporting.

In his email, Lacher writes:

It is inconceivable to me that the people who now have this information will not use it to embarrass or humiliate me and my family at some point in the future. And so I am determined that my colleagues should hear it from me first before you read it in the blog. This is not ace crackerjack investigation or reporting. There are no Pulitzers here for investigative journalism. Clearly someone on the inside alerted someone on the outside that there is a story here, and the rest was made possible by the District’s response to the three escalating FOIL requests. It is rather a sad tale, regrettable for me and my family, and hugely embarrassing personally within my community. But it is what it is. I wanted you to have this information now, today, from me directly, because I do not know if it will be on the blog by the time we get home from dinner tonight, or tomorrow morning, or perhaps it will be saved for a more opportune time. But knowing who has the information, I cannot imagine that it will not come out.

Setting aside that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein won a Pulitzer Prize precisely because "someone on the inside alerted someone on the outside that there is a story here", Lacher is also now a victim of a District employee who leaked information to me.

This is false. Of course, I do have many sources inside City Hall but in this case my source is David Lacher himself. That has not stopped Lacher from promoting some sort of witch hunt within the District's Central Office to ferret our his imaginary mole.

He states in his email that he has no recollection of having had any discussion with me at the 2013 SEPTA Dinner, adding "I could not imagine that I would have had such a conversation". This is false. In fact, there were numerous witnesses, many people saw us talking, some even interrupted our conversation to make remarks about our talking together, and this includes several board members.

He denies having any conversation with me about his medical insurance, adding "I could not imagine that I would have had such a conversation; and second, there would have been no reason ever for me to discuss the circumstances of my family’s health insurance arrangements." This is false, he did raise this issue.

In his speech, Lacher denounced my reporting as "invented" and "fantasy" while comically asserting, as a matter of principle, that he refuses to cite any specific examples of errors, omissions or untruths in my reporting.

He fails to mention that he was provided an advance copy of the article and afforded the rare opportunity to challenge or correct any aspect of the story and did not.

At no point did Lacher address the numerous false statements he made at the February 26th Board meeting, misrepresentations he made to his board colleagues

Lacher has repeatedly claimed that other current board members were also enrolled in the District's Group Health Insurance plan. This is false.

Lacher has repeatedly claimed that past board members were enrolled in the District's Group Health Insurance plan. This is false.

Lacher repeatedly claimed that board members pay 100% of the cost of the insurance. This is false. At the time Lacher made this statement he had not paid even 1% of his premium for almost 8 months.

Lacher claimed that not one dollar is taxpayer subsidized for board members who participate. This is false. At the time Lacher made this statement, taxpayer dollars were paying for all of Lacher's insurance premiums and had been for 8 months.

Lacher claimed that board members are not eligible for the District dental plan. This is false.

Readers can decide for themselves whether to believe Lacher or our reporting: Taxpayer Dollars Used to Pay Medical Insurance Premiums for New Rochelle Board of Education President

As is quote typical of Lacher, he weaves into his remarks, a series of straw man arguments:

1. Board members are "are entitled by law to subscribe" to the District medical insurance plan.

2. He "neither sought nor ever was offered nor otherwise received any write-off for any part of my obligation".

3. "being behind in one's payment obligations to any creditor is not a crime, it is a tragedy.

4. Other board members "had no knowledge of my private circumstances".

5. "I am not in trouble with the law; I do not have a gambling problem; I do not have an alcohol problem; I am not into any loan sharks; and I am not paying child support for any illegitimate children."

Nowhere in my reporting was it asserted or even implied that Lacher was not entitled to enroll in the District's medical insurance plan, that he requested or received a write-off of the debt, that his delinquencies were criminal, that other board members knew that he had been running up debts with the district for going on two years, that he had a gambling problem, that he had an alcohol problem, that he owned money to loan sharks or had illegitimate children.

After over 1,000 words in his email and speech, Lacher does manage to include three pertinent lines:

"I am sorry for any appearance of impropriety."

"To the extent that any of the rest of you are affected by your association with me, and by my status as Board President, I apologize to each of you."

"I apologize to the staff of the school district and to the community whom I have served faithfully on this board for nearly 23 years."

He might have considered whether he would have been better off to simply read those three lines, without qualification, obfuscation, name-calling, and victimology.