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Who is George Latimer? Part II

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Who is George Latimer? Part II

November 05, 2017 - 16:54
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On Monday October 9th, 2017 I was with a friend, driving in my car. Apropos to nothing, he asked me if I knew that George Latimer had been in a serious car crash over the summer. I told him I had not heard anything about it.

My friend is not a part of the Astorino campaign (nor am I). I have never asked but to the best of my knowledge my friend is a not a Republican (nor am I). He mentioned the Latimer car crash because he had heard about it and figured I would know more given that I have been reporting on New Rochelle on a daily basis for going on a decade. He expected I would tell him more about it. I could not but it was certainly the sort of story I would pursue: a high-ranking state official in a serious car crash is the sort of story I would like to break.

My standard response to information like that is to seek public records to see if the “tip” is documented and whether it was worth pursuing. Later that same day, I typed up a Freedom of Information Request and send it to the Public Records Access Officer at the New Rochelle Police Department. Sometimes tips like this pan out, more often that not they don’t.

When I send a FOIL request to any agency I always used a boilerplate template I have developed over the years to encourage full and prompt compliance (feel from to borrow from it). In the boilerplate, I clearly indicate I am making a public records request in the subject line and body of the email. Within that boilerplate, I specify the records I seek. 

This is a public records request.

I would like to obtain the following records:

(insert reasonable description of records sought here)

I would like the fulfillment of my records request to adhere to the new standards required under recent amendments to the New York State Freedom of Information Law which were intended to bring FOIL into the digital era.

Whenever and wherever possible I would like records provided pertaining to my records request to be converted to and delivered in standard, cross-platform, non-proprietary electronic/digital formats. For paper records that must be duplicated I would like them duplicated by scanning not photocopying and saved in Adobe Acrobat PDF (i.e., pdf). For audio records, I would like them exported/saved into standard audio format (i.e., .mp3). For video records, I would like them exported/saved into standard video format (i.e., .mp4). For electronic database records, I would like them converted into Microsoft Excel (i.e., .xls) I would like all communications including the delivery of documents to take place via email as much as is possible based on the nature and size of the available records. Other online digital delivery methods such as Dropbox are also acceptable.

I willing to pay any necessary, required statutory costs but for any costs that exceeds $20.00 I would like prior notification of the estimated cost to comply with this records request so I do not get any big surprises. I am willing to entertain any reasonable request to tailor or narrow my request to make compliance easier. I can be charged for the time required to “prepare” records at the lowest hourly rate for the lowest paid person capable of doing the work but I cannot charged for “search” time or for any costs related to work done by a machine (e.g., a machine that scans and converts paper documents to PDF files, exporting a digital video file from a video surveillance system, duplicating an audio cassette recording, burning files onto a CD) or for any costs not specified under statute.

I would like the Records Access Officer to certify that the records are genuine.

Robert Cox

Publisher and Managing Editor

Talk of the Sound

In this particular matter, my email on October 9th specified the records sought as follows:

I would like to obtain the following records:

A traffic incident where George Latimer went off the road in New Rochelle, mid-July, on or near Wilmot Road. I heard he hit a fence.

While I may have some differences with the senior command of the New Rochelle Police Department (including a federal lawsuit, and providing the DOJ with information about the Police Commissioner related to their corruption investigation), they have been for many years among the best agencies in Westchester with regard to a prompt response to a FOIL request. I typically get a reply on the same same day or the day after.

In this instance, it was two days later, on Wednesday October 11, that I received what I would call a “non-reply reply” to my records request which read simply:

It was a 2 car accident on July 21 at Wilmot & Grand Blvd.

Right away this reply was a red flag. In my 9 years of making FOIL requests of the New Rochelle Police Department I have *never* had a response like that to a records request. Something was different about this car crash already.

I persisted, responding “But I want the paperwork on it.”

Two more days passed without a response. Then, on Friday October 13th. I was sent a copy of the traffic incident report.

After reviewing the report I contacted sources employed by the City to ask about Latimer’s car crash. I got back two types of responses: (1) I don’t know anything about it; or (2) words to the effect of “uh oh, you found out?”. Any conversation about any aspect of the car crash over the next few days was met with fear and words to the effect of “you didn’t get any of this from me” or “I’m not your source on this” even when the discussion was tangential to the car crash.

After many years reporting in New Rochelle, and knowing how the City works, especially the methods of Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll, it was clear to me there had been a deliberate effort to keep the incident quiet. At the time, I chalked this up to the crash involving a State Senator.

Having confirmed there really was a collision involving Latimer over the summer, and that it had not been reported and was not even known to people I would expect to know, I worked on the story on the morning of Saturday October 14th with the initial plan to run a story later that day.

There is no requirement on a records-based story like the car crash story that I speak with anyone. I had a public record, the police report, and that was enough to publish but I prefer to offer people an opportunity to respond even in stories like this one.

I reached out to George Latimer for comment about lunch time. Note that we have an extensive dialog on this topic over several days and that in the weeks that pass Latimer only ever addresses one question, whether he was speeding.

From: Robert Cox <[email protected]>

Date: Sat, Oct 14, 2017 at 1:38 PM

Subject: Inquiry on your 7/21 traffic collision in New Rochelle

To: George Latimer

George,

I have a few questions about traffic collision you were involved in on July 21, 2017 in New Rochelle.

Are you OK? Did you suffer any lasting injuries? Are you aware of the condition of the other driver? The people with the damaged fence?

What happened to the vehicles? Did airbags deploy on the one you were driving? The other vehicle?

Police records indicate you ran a red light, that you indicated the sun was in your eyes so you could not see the light turned red. Is that right? Is that a good excuse? If you cannot see whether the light is red or not should you not have operated the vehicle on the premise the light was red?

How fast were you traveling as you approached then entered the intersection? Were you speeding?

Where were you coming from? Where were you going to? Were you on state or campaign business? Did you file any sort of injury or lost work time claim as a NYS employee/elected official or as a candidate?

Police records indicate that you were not driving your own vehicle? Why is that? Who is Andrew Genna? Internet search shows he is a lawyer? But he also works for you on Community Outreach? Is that right? What is his connection to you? Why were you driving a vehicle registered to him, not your own?

Thanks

Robert Cox

Publisher and Managing Editor

Talk of the Sound

These questions came out of my review of the traffic incident report. To me, they were rather obvious questions any reporter would ask. He responded later that evening:

From: George Latimer

Date: Sat, Oct 14, 2017 at 6:17 PM

Subject: Re: Inquiry on your 7/21 traffic collision in New Rochelle

To: Robert Cox <[email protected]>

Will forward your e mail and questions to the lawyer who is handling the matter. Since there may be litigation, he will advise whether I can answer some or all of your questions. I wound intend to answer all of them, but I will let him opine first.

George

I replied briefly to acknowledge receipt of his email (I was in the midst of watching Game 2 of the ALCS, Yankees at Houston).

From: Robert Cox <[email protected]>

 Date: Sat, Oct 14, 2017 at 7:14 PM

Subject: Re: Inquiry on your 7/21 traffic collision in New Rochelle

To: George Latimer 

Ok.

Bob

Latimer gave no indication of when he would reply to my questions so I followed up the next day, about 24 hours after my original email.

From: Robert Cox <[email protected]>

Date: Sun, Oct 15, 2017 at 12:12 PM

Subject: Re: Inquiry on your 7/21 traffic collision in New Rochelle

To: George Latimer

George,

I want to run the story for Monday (ie Sunday night). I figure 24 hours is fair to wait so I will go with what I have tonight at 630 pm.

Hopefully you or he can reply by then.

Bob

Apart from all this, during the week, I had been exchanging emails with Helen Jonsen at FiOSNews about a shooting in New Rochelle. She had requested permission to use some of our photos from the police response which I granted. Over the weekend I sent her an email to let her know I might get some video. I gave her a heads up that I had a story coming that would get wider attention.

Who is George Latimer? Part III

Who is George Latimer? Table of Contents