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17 January
Comments Off on Omahan, 58, arrested in connection with sexually explicit online conversation

Omahan, 58, arrested in connection with sexually explicit online conversation

The man was taken into custody Tuesday at 11:30 am at Dowding Swimming Pool, 1500 Washington St., in connection with the online chat with what he believed to be a juvenile boy.

17 January
Comments Off on New Call Center Is Changing How Well The VA Responds To Vets In Crisis
16 January
Comments Off on Exercising moral authority over the army

Exercising moral authority over the army

Islamabad diary

Its not a question of lsquo;being on the same page, the silly turn of phrase which has become so popular with us, or a question of putting lsquo;generals in Suzukis, the incendiary phrase used by Muhammad Khan Junejo. Its more a question of setting out the outlines of national policy, which is the task of the national leadership, and then seeing to it that the generals, instead of following their own inclinations, take their cue from you.

This is the Holy Grail of Pakistans polity yet to be discovered. Although a democratic order is in place, and long may it last, politics as a currency stands debased while the might of the generals has grown. From foreign policy to the mechanics of internal security, theirs is the decisive voice. For the strengthening of the countrys political fibre lets leave the moral fibre to one side how is this tendency to be reversed?

If words could do the trick Article 6 of the constitution which defines as treason any subversion of the constitution would have done it. We know from experience that these threatening words have had no effect on coup-makers.

Long ago the politicians now in power sought more attractive ways to bring leading generals into their sphere of influence, bearing gifts, call them Trojan horses, to generals marked for seduction. The BMW dealership was with a close confidant of the PM, Saifur Rehman, the onetime NAB chief whose Qatari connections are so strong. Shuja Nawaz in his book, lsquo;Crossed Swords, says one such gift, a BMW, was pressed on Gen Asif Nawaz, the then army chief. There was no photographer at hand so his reaction is lost to posterity.

The present lot in previous incarnations brought high judges to heel, sowing dissension in the Supreme Court and getting rid of a bothersome chief justice. The art of taming the bureaucracy and making it perform like the tamed lions of the Lucky Irani Circus they perfected long ago in that mighty province, land of the five rivers (owing to the accidents of geography, now reduced to three), the real religion of whose elites and leading lights through the ages has been the worship of the rising sunhellip;a province they have ruled, apart from the Musharraf interregnum, since 1985.

Industrialists they were themselves, so the business community and trading classes were always on their side. The army alone remained outside their circle of dutiful obedience.

But the problem was systemic rather than anything to do with individuals. The industrial, financial and banking landscape the present ruling coterie knew how to paint and use to their advantage. They needed no lessons from anyone on how to juggle the tax regime, shift funds, and open hugger-mugger, surreptitious offshore accounts.

This was their own territory and they knew it like the back of their hands. But talking to the generals on policy matters was something slightly different. It was here that their discomfort would rise to the surface. They knew not how to engage with the generals and discuss, say, India and Afghanistan with anything like adequate much less commanding knowledge.

Why is it that Shahbaz Sharif, otherwise self-sufficient in most things, always takes Nisar Ali Khan with him when meeting army chiefs, whether Kayani or Raheel Sharif? Nisar can talk better and being the son of an army officer and brother to another officer, the late Lt-Gen Iftikhar, and not to forget that he is an Aitchisonian to boot, he is more at ease with the khaki crowd.

Muhammad Khan Junejo was no Aitchisonian, and spoke with no cut-glass accent, but he was honest and upright and there were no skeletons in his cupboard. He thus had no problem looking Gen Ziaul Haq in the eye and being straight with him. Junejo had no powerbase of his own, his sole qualification being Pir Pagaras recommendation. But Junejo while always proper and a stickler for the rules never behaved subserviently before the general. At their very first meeting, this was after being selected as PM, Junejo, much to Zias shock, felt no hesitation in asking when martial law would be lifted.

Junejo could act thus because he had nothing to hide. But when your name is embroiled in scandals and questions are raised about your financial probity, then the idea of summoning generals to your table and giving them instructions on policy and strategy becomes somewhat problematic.

You can have the experience of appointing not one but half a dozen army chiefs, but if your bosom is not clean and your hands are tainted, and the country is swirling with fact and innuendo about your financial dealings, then the moral authority you may seek in your dreams becomes elusive.

Corruption has permeated military ranks too and the real-estate virus, as exemplified by defence housing authorities which exist nowhere else in the world, has affected all the defence services. Things are so far advanced on this front that even the Intelligence Bureau, which must be a first for any intelligence outfit in the world, has entered into the real estate. When will the ISI have a housing authority all to itself?

But despite this plot-hunger, the army has jealously guarded its professional autonomy and it remains the countrys most organised and vital institution. And its spirit, grievously affected during the Musharraf years, stands restored as a result of Gen Raheel Sharifs outstanding leadership.

Derided not long ago as a chocolate army when its corps commanders were better known as crore commanders it is now widely acknowledged as a battle-hardened army which has taken heavy losses in the war against the TTP but has restored Pakistani sovereignty in wide stretches of territory where this sovereignty had been lost. For this the army has reasons to thank the TTP which re-taught it the forgotten lesson that an armys first duty is to be ready for war.

Regardless of who the next army chief is, the old problem will remain much as it was: how do you look generals in the eye and tell them the lay of the land when serious charges of corruption and financial wrongdoing are swirling around you and a landmark case, however it turns out, involving those charges is before the Supreme Court?

Consider this: if there was any financial scandal surrounding Gen Raheel would he have been the commander hes proved to be? The same principle applies to the political class. For exercising moral authority over the military arm, clean hands are a must and competence and knowledge become plus factors. But if your main concern is self-enrichment your vast holdings are both here and abroad, and conflict-of-interest is a notion that is simply beyond your comprehension, then you will keep having problems with the sword-bearers.

Just as an army cant do well for itself if it mixes business with the warrior principle, those entrusted with the responsibility of leadership betray their trust, and the mandate of heaven, when they use power for no other purpose than their own betterment.

Email: [emailprotected]

14 January
Comments Off on Headache-free new school year

Headache-free new school year

MANY parents will be busy in the next couple of weeks preparing for their young ones to enter school for the first time. There are many things to do, from buying necessities to registration.

They also need to mentally and psychologically prepare their children. Of concern is how to ensure they wake up on time in the morning. When is the right time to train them for this challenging change in routine?

14 January
Comments Off on Paul Lambert looking out for next big Wolves star

Paul Lambert looking out for next big Wolves star

Lambert hasn’t hesitated to make use of Wolves’ highly-regarded academy prospects, handing debuts to Connor Ronan and Harry Burgoyne and starting Bright Enobakhare twice in his six matches in charge.

And the head coach expects ‘one or two’ more to come through before the end of the campaign.

“I’d be disappointed if one or two more didn’t come through before the end of the season,” he said.

“I think they’re a really good group. When you play young ones you get no fear factor.

“They seem to play without fear. Yes, they need older ones alongside them to help them, but I’d be disappointed if more didn’t come through.

“They will have seen what Connor, Bright and Harry have done and think ‘well if they can do it then we can push’.”

Attacking midfielder and England youth international Morgan Gibbs-White, aged just 16, is thought of as the pick of the next generation coming through, while it’s believed striker Niall Ennis would be in and around the first team now had he not broken his leg last month.

Midfielder Christian Herc and defender Connor Johnson are just two of many others thought to have a bright future.

13 January
Comments Off on Niagara County Real Estate Transactions

Niagara County Real Estate Transactions

Following are real estate transactions over $5,000 as listed in records of the Erie County clerk’s office for the week ending Sept. 23, 2016.

CAMBRIA
o 4279 Lockport Road, Sara Johnson; Thomas Zywiczynski to Bertchel O. Lickers III, $38,601.

GASPORT
o 3224 Hartland Road, Susan M. Harrod; William L. Harrod to Christopher R. Smith, $95,000.
o Quaker Road, Rebekah B. Hillman; Rebekah B. Leder to Tina L. Muff; James W. Parris, $84,000.
o 3503 Stone Road, Patricia A. Neace to Dacoda Dairy, $54,270.

LEWISTON
o 4361 Creek Road, Diane Drenko; Ronald P. Drenko to Daniel G. Meterko; Susan M. Meterko, $278,100.
o Cayuga St amp; 7th St., Bhupendra Mepani; Smita Mepani to Eagle Eye Properties, $250,000.
o Saddlewood Townhouses Unit #5206 Paddock Lane, Edward Jesella; Elizabeth Jesella to Kurt Beehler; Pamela Beehler, $250,000.
o Calkins Road, Deborah A. Scarfone; Richard S. Scarfone to Pauline Conrad; Aaron Rotella, $206,000.
o 75 Bk I Onondaga St., Chad E. Garvey; Leslie P. Garvey to Carol Hurst, $201,000.
o Saunders Settlement Road, Lorenza L. Pusateri to Donald Jeffery Brown, $150,000.
o Lower Mountain Road, Antonius Vanuden; Evelyn M. Vanuden to Sharilyn A. Kiebzak, $140,000.
o Townline Road, Charles Flay; Gail M. Flay to Trevor Bennett, $135,000.
o 5330 Elm Drive, Specialized Loan Servicing -Att; Terwin Mortgage Trust /att; US Bank National Assoc -Tr/att to James Richert, $124,888.
o Langdon Road, Robert E. Lammerts to Jose T. Arellano, $95,000.

CITY OF LOCKPORT
o South Transit St. amp; Summit St., Rpai New York Portfolio to Ferryport Wings, $4,690,000.
o Lincoln Ave amp; Lindhurst Drive, 909 Lincoln Ave. to Maximus 909 Lincoln, $1,567,490.
o Elmwood Ave., Ryan M. Mulvey to James R. Pierrot, $148,000.
o 72 Saxton St., Michael T. Molnar to Ocwen Loan Servicing, $129,512.
o Pine St., Stephanie R. Danvir; Daniel G. Teichman; Stephanie R. Teichman to Andrew James Jenkins; Gary Jenkins, $109,500.
o 22 Millar Place, Ryan Lanighan; Ryan Patrick Lanighan; Ashton J. Watts-Lanighan; Ashton Jane Watts-Lanighan to Emily A. Strabel; Joseph R. Strabel, $107,500.
o 115 Elmwood Ave., First Niagara Bank NA to Kenneth E. Howard, $34,000.
o Vine St., Malvinder S. Cheema to Lc Strategic Holdings, $22,500.
o Willow St., Malvinder S. Cheema to Lc Strategic Holdings, $22,500.

LOCKPORT
o Oconnor Drive, Eugene A. Nenni; Margherita A. Nenni to Lawrence J. Kopacz; Lisa A. Kopacz, $279,900.
o Forest Hill Road, Terese M. Alex to Megan Mcdonough Lilley; Michael B. Lilley, $278,000.
o Minnick Road, Sparks Custom Homes to Ashley Wollaber; David Wollaber, $255,000.
o 7070 Old English Road, Lynn A. Beshaw-Watier; Kevin M. Watier; Lynn A. Watier to Diane L. Fallgatter; Dieter Fallgatter, $192,000.
o Gothic Ledge Road, Claire Dunham; Clara E. Dunham; Claire Jendrowski to Jason B. Kobrin; Jennifer V. Kobrin, $175,000.
o 4573 Sunset Drive, Ernest J. Slomba to First Franklin Mortgage Loan Trust; US Bank National Assoc -Tr, $161,992.
o Locust St Ext, Jennifer Collins; Jennifer V. Kobrin to Robert E. Braun, $145,000.
o 6529 Harvest Ridge Way, Rebecca Newland; Rebecca J. Newland to Second Opportunity of America, $137,000.
o Academy Lane, Randy Pietkiewicz to Adam R. Cacciotti, $110,000.
o Royal Pkwy North, Lynn M. Beiter; Lynn M. Dayfert to Arnold P. Beiter III, $110,000.
o Stone Road, James M. Case to Irma Schultz, $22,000.

MIDDLEPORT
o Vernon St., Michelle A. Krieger to Joshua A. Lingle, $158,000.
o 21 Church St., Rosa Agosto Becerril to Rmac Trust; US Bank National Assoc -Tr, $77,291.

NEWFANE
o 6488 Ridge Road, Francis J. Landers; Onnalee F. Landers to Ephesians 2:19-22, $740,000.
o -27 Franklin St., Gregory S. Verost to Keith Swartzlander, $30,000.
o 2760 Maple Ave., First Niagara Bank NA to Andrew Johnson, $30,000.
o Hatter Road, Henrietta V. Brauer; James W. Brauer to Joseph K. Heselberger, $16,000.

NIAGARA FALLS
o St Joseph Road, Kurt P. Beehler; Pamela J. Beehler to Lewis J. Laurie, $178,000.
o Munson Ave., Karen L. Boddecker to Raul M. Parker, $95,000.
o 92nd St., Annette Tomlin; Kyle Tomlin to Erik Dorian; Crystal Marquis, $90,000.
o 8317 Frontier Ave., Eric L. Venator to JPMorgan Chase Bank National Assoc, $79,372.
o 1101 James Ave., Fannie Mae to Phillip Brown, $75,000.
o 711 Augustus Place, DHGF to Duckys Pond Rd, $73,200.
o Ferry Ave., Lillian M. Marra; Lillian Powers to Willie R. Dixon, $53,500.
o 20th St., Francis G. Luben to Redell R. Allen, $49,000.
o Independence Ave., Matthew C. Wolosin; Tammy A. Wolosin to Michelle M. Pietkiewicz, $47,900.
o 2227 Michigan Ave., Charles E. Perry to HSBC Bank USA NA, $43,515.
o 1810 Cleveland Ave., Michael S. Gawel to Marquessa Page, $42,500.
o 128 79th St., Mtglq Investors att; Rushmore Loan Management Services -Att to Alexis J. Stopa-Weis; Patrick D. Weis, $40,000.
o 82nd St., Michael T. Nguyen; Donna N. Tran; Diem N. Truong to Hung V. Vo, $35,000.
o 9th St., Frank Fusarelli; Geraldine Fusarelli to Kylie M. Massoom; Michael A. Massoom, $32,000.
o 2464 Michigan Ave., Richard L. Spalla to Bmg Property Holdings, $31,501.
o 166 East Falls St., Jasbir K. Sekhon to Frank Arcadi, $23,000.
o Ely Ave., James C. Paglino; Suzanne C. Paglino to Kweb Properties, $13,000.
o Welch Ave., Nicholas Granto to Imad Issa, $9,000.

NORTH TONAWANDA
o Old Falls Boulevard, Jeanette N. Krieger; Wayne J. Krieger to Ann Marie Zehler, $215,000.
o Pinewoods Dr amp; Niagara St., Gwen E. Eichler to Christine M. Savoia; Francesco Antonio Savoia, $165,000.
o 172 12th Ave., John Borkowski; Ann M. Pettit; John M. Preisler; Charlene M. Shumaker to Joshua M. Mcmurray, $125,000.
o East Thompson St., Robert S. Rumsey to Cody J. Zeitler, $105,000.
o Louisa St., Leila J. Glosser; Leila J. Workman to John Tontala, $102,000.
o Cramer St., Krzysztof Gollnau to Michael H. Wozniak; Michelle L. Wozniak, $76,600.
o 98 Miller St., Andrew Harding; Mindy Harding to Deutsche Bank National Trust Co -Tr; Ffmlt Trust, $63,020.
o 98 Miller St., Deutsche Bank National Trust Co -Tr/att; Ffmlt Trust /att; Specialized Loan Servicing -Att to Michael Gersitz, $33,500.
o 358 Rumbold Ave., Merrill Lynch Mortgage Investors Trust /att; Phh Mortgage Corp -Att; US Bank National Assoc -Tr/att to Joseph A. Cirrincione, $31,000.
o 36 B10th St., Financial Trust Fcu to Albert Whaley; Phyllis Whaley, $27,500.

PORTER
o Lower River Road, Frank P. Tedesco; Marjorie Tedesco to Duane J. Duncan Sr., $658,000.
o 455 Brookshire Road, Beneficial Homeowner Service Corp to Brian R. Tower; Devon L. Tower, $65,100.

ROYALTON
o 7677 Highland Drive, John W. Clifford; Marcia D. Clifford to Bryan E. Warren; Sarah M. Zakrzewski, $265,000.
o Simms Road, Jean Bedford; James Kress; Marilyn Y. Kress to Jillian J. Truesdale; Phillip E. Truesdale, $67,000.
o Chestnut Ridge Road, Ralph J. Dufour to Todd Albee, $45,000.

SOMERSET
o Carmen Road, Larry J. Parlier to Diane L. Barrett; Mary K. Harrigan, $198,000.
o Quaker Road, Lori A. Mead; Louis J. Mead to Ryan P. Lanighan; Ashton J. Watts-Lanighan, $154,900.
o 8711 Lake Road, Harold G. Rider; Imogene Rider to Daren S. Hill, $47,850.

WHEATFIELD
o Craig Drive, Francis Jacobs; Francis J. Jacobs; Laureen Jacobs; Laureen M. Jacobs to Kelli K. Dimon; Matthew W. Roger, $290,000.
o 23schultz Road, Elizabeth Morsheimer; Darren Tucci to Joseph A. Hescox; Kristen J. Scofield, $274,800.
o Slusaric Road, Rebecca A. Belling; Roger J. Belling to Kara L. Miles, $118,000.
o Lockport Road, Am Farms to Gina Hammer; Jeffrey Hammer, $7,000.

WILSON
o Ide Road, Jonathan P. Cheek; Wynell J. Cheek to 21st Mortgage Corp, $249,524.
o 2769 New Road, Secretary of U S Department of Housing And Urban Devel to Michael Robins, $74,700.
o 5225 Old Beebe Road, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp to Joseph Grasso, $21,000.

13 January
Comments Off on Scoundrels: Chapter 2, Real Estate Is Not the Only Thing for Sale

Scoundrels: Chapter 2, Real Estate Is Not the Only Thing for Sale

Each week, GoLocalProv will publish a chapter of the bookScoundrels: Defining Corruption Through Tales of Political Intrigue in Rhode Island,by Paul Caranci and Thomas Blacke.

The book uses several infamous instances of political corruption in Rhode Island to try and define what has not been easily recognized , and has eluded traditional definition.

The book looks at and categorizes various forms of corruption, including both active and passive practices, which have negative and deteriorating affects on the society as a whole.

Buy the book byCLICKING HERE.

Chapter 2
Real Estate Is Not the Only Thing for Sale

The Saturday morning of February 16, 2002 was fairly cold. For Rhode Island, it was a typical winter day. For Lincoln Administrator, Jonathan F. Oster, it was not that much different than most Saturdays. As he so often did, Oster was heading to his private law office at 1525 Louisquisset Pike. Prior to his election as Town Administrator, Oster spent countless hours at his office meeting with clients and shuffling through papers. By most accounts, he had built a fairly successful law practice. On this particular Saturday he was planning to meet with his old friend and fundraiser, Robert Picerno. But as Oster would soon learn, nothing on this day would be like any other day in his life. Before nightfall, Oster would begin a six-year battle to protect his reputation and preserve his freedom.

Though Oster had been involved in politics for only a few years, he was no stranger to the game. He grew up in a political environment as his father had served as the towns very first town administrator. The younger Oster earned his bachelors degree at the University of Rhode Island in 1973, his masters from the same school in 1976, and his law degree from Suffolk University in 1981. By 1996 he was a partner in the firm of Oster amp; Sawyer and was already actively involved in the community having previously served as president of the Cumberland/Lincoln Rotary. He was also a Trustee of the Towns Land Trust and co-coordinator of the Lincoln Watershed Watch Program. In that year he made his entry into elected politics with a successful run for the Rhode Island State Senate. Already a successful lawyer, Senator-elect Oster, who was married and had two children, was sworn into his first political office in January 1997.

Following two short, relatively uneventful terms in the State Senate, Democrat Oster decided to challenge Republican Burton Stallwood, Lincolns Town Administrator since 1972, for the towns highest elected office. Robert R. Picerno played a key fundraising role in this election. According to Michael Hill, a Cumberland accountant and campaign treasurer for all three of Osters election efforts, Picerno raised $10,655, or more than 25% of the $43,284 total that Oster raised in his 2000 run for town administrator.

Oster was a scrappy fighter, and despite long odds, he managed to edge out Stallwood in a tense and hotly contested political battle. The hard feelings created during the election didnt end on election day, however, and Osters planned inauguration was delayed one month, to January 2001, after the States highest court granted an injunction that was filed by Stallwood. The two politicians had a dispute over when Stallwoods term should end and Osters begin.

L. Robert Smith, who was recruited by Picerno to do some interim engineering work for the Towns Planning Board, said Picerno served on Osters transition team and helped Oster put his office together in early 2000.

One of Osters first acts as town administrator was to pay almost $1,000 to an electronic surveillance company to scour Town Hall for illegal listening devices. It was a display charged as much with arrogance as paranoia and no bugs were found. Oster justified his actions at the time by saying, there lsquo;were a number of issues that raised the level of concern. There was some behavior going on in office just prior to the other administrator leaving. Given that, Oster said, lsquo;we thought it prudent to conduct a search.

Perhaps this initial behavior should have been a premonition of things to come. But other than the most vocal of his political opponents, no one really seemed to pay too much attention to his actions. Many politicians understand that the public is apathetic and inattentive. That apathy, in fact, is one of the reasons that corruption flourishes.

Oster settled right in and began addressing several of the routine issues that confront an administrator on a daily basis – examination of expenditures and tax revenues, the appointment of qualified department heads and an evaluation of existing programs and policies.

He also addressed some matters that were not so routine. On January 11, 2001, just days after taking office, Osters friend and political confidant, Robert R. Picerno, asked businessman Robert J. Campellone, if he wanted to buy the Hamp;H Screw Co. property on Route 116 in Lincoln.

The town had taken title to the property in 1991 for taxes owed. No one purchased it at the tax sale because the property was known to have significant environmental problems. The site contained an undetermined amount of industrial waste that an old report issued by the States Department of Environmental Management estimated would cost between $400,000 and $2 million to clean up. Although Banneker Industries had occupied the property for the past seven years, they had never paid a penny to the town for rent. When Oster inquired about the arrangement, the once cordial relationship between Banneker and the town soured.

Campellone, an automobile dealer, had known Picerno for at least a year before Osters election and the two had developed a close business relationship. In late 1999, Campellone sold Picerno a car that included a free alarm system and a free set of tires. He also included the extended use of his dealer plates. Although only dealership owners, corporate officers or their salespeople normally use dealer plates, state law allows the purchaser of a new vehicle to use them for up to 20 days. This allows a buyer some time to register the car and pay Rhode Islands 7% sales tax. Allowing Picerno to use the plates for more than a year enabled him to postpone payment of the sales tax on the $22,000 vehicle as well as to avoid payment of the town taxes that would normally have been assessed.

Now Picerno was offering Campellone the Hamp;H property on behalf of the town, a good place Picerno thought, for Campellone to locate his car dealership. However, Campellone was offering only $50,000 for the site, a price that most agreed was too low. Eventually, Campellone agreed he would pay the town $105,000 for tax title to the six-acre property and pay Picerno $25,000 in cash. Campellone seemed a bit anxious to close the property and take title and was dismayed when he learned that there would be a delay. Responding to Campellones question about the timing, Picerno said at one point lsquo;we cant move too quickly; my guys only been in ten days, a reference, Campellone said he assumed, to the recently inaugurated Oster. Campellone, however, expected that the closing would take place by Januarys end.

For Picerno, this might have been the easiest money he ever made. He would soon learn, however, that even easy money takes some work. The deal dragged. Winter turned to spring and still no closing. In June 2001, an impatient Campellone called Oster directly to determine the status of his bid. Oster told him it had to be approved by the Town Council and that Picerno lsquo;is not lying to you. During this conversation, Campellone never told Oster that he paid Picerno $25,000 although it is certainly clear that Oster knew of Picernos involvement in the transaction. But interestingly enough, after the phone call, the deal started to move along quickly. Picerno brought a letter to Campellone to sign regarding his interest in the property, and Oster prepared tax documents and argued to the Town Council that the deal should be accepted.

But the letter that Picerno and his lawyer, Donald Lembo, presented Campellone with would create a partnership of him (Campellone), Lembo and Picerno to own the property. This took Campellone by surprise because he wasnt looking for partners, especially partners who would not be participating in the financing of the property. Feeling less enthusiastic, but still interested in the deal, Campellone asked his attorney, Joseph DeAngelis, to review the documents. DeAngelis advised Campellone not to proceed, saying of the deal, it stinks.

Following his attorneys advice, Campellone told Picerno he was out and wanted his bribe back. To convince Picerno to refund it, he told him he had tape-recorded one of their conversations about the payoff. Not sure that he was telling the truth, but not wanting to chance finding out, Picerno eventually made a partial repayment with a $15,000 check made out to Campellone from Major Construction Associates, a company doing business with the town. Major Construction is owned by Robert Gelfuso, someone who would eventually play a prominent role in the transaction.

Around this same time, David Wayne Daniel, a West Warwick contractor, was working to complete his contractual obligations to build a new concession stand and bathhouse, and to make other improvements to the Fairlawn playground in Lincoln. The relatively small job was being paid with a $150,000 federal grant. According to Daniel, he and his crews were regularly pestered by town officials who complained about the quality and pace of the work. Daniel was also called to three Friday morning meetings in a row in Osters office, where the main business, according to Daniel, was lsquo;jumping on my back.

While he was berated for the delays, many were not his fault and were certainly not of his doing. One of the problems Daniel encountered was that the playground was located near a wetland requiring a special permit that the town was expected to obtain, but didnt. At one point, Daniel was told to relocate the bathrooms they were set to build, but the town changed its mind after the hole was dug. Daniel had to bury the hole.

Federal Funds Coordinator, Stephen Balestra, was the most frequent visitor to the construction site. Gelfuso complained that Balestra, along with Picerno, pressured him to inflate his billing statements and kick back the overcharges to them. Parks and Recreation Director Paul Prachniak and Public Works Director David T. Harrison also regularly visited the site. These visits made Daniel nervous but he dealt with it. Then, on the Monday following the third Friday meeting in Osters office, one in which Daniel told Oster that he wanted to be on his team, Planning Board member Picerno showed up at the site. lsquo;He asked me how things were going and I told him theyre busting myhellip;and he started to laugh a little slyly Daniel said. lsquo;Picerno then took out a pack of 100 Oster fundraiser tickets worth $50 a piece – $5,000 total and asked if he, Daniel, could take care of them. I said, lsquo;If you can get thosehellip;guys off my back, Daniel said he told Picerno. lsquo;He said, No problem. Picerno then described the Hamp;H Screw deal in an obvious effort to spark Daniels interest.

Rather than paying the full $5,000 requested, Daniel presented Picerno a check for $4,750 because he had already donated $250 to the Oster campaign, and he didnt want to double pay. Picerno wouldnt accept the check and told Daniel, Im going to need it in a nicer way. Daniel knew that meant he wanted cash, which he later presented to a grateful Picerno.

The name of Daniels company was Major Construction Associates and his partner was none other than Robert Gelfuso, the same man that had provided the $15,000 check used by Picerno to partially return the bribe he received from Campellone. Shortly after the playground exchange, the pressure ceased and Oster commended Daniel on a job well done with the site.

Picerno used the Administrators office to enhance his own economic status. Many of his actions were self-serving and the more that people visiting Town Hall saw the ease with which he could gain access to the Administrator, the more the perception of his power was exaggerated. He was frequently seen on the rear deck of Town Hall, the deck that had access to the rest of Town Hall through a sliding door into a conference room that was next to Osters private office. It was rarely, if ever, used by the public.

In 2001, Picernos wife Joyce filed suit against the Town of Lincoln contesting the way the town assessed taxes on the familys Preakness Drive home. She challenged the method the town used to assess taxes from 1998-2000, refusing to pay about $22,000 in property taxes over those three years, some before Oster took office. Emerson Johnson, the Tax Assessor at the time, wanted to settle the suit for $11,000, but Oster said he felt comfortable enough in the friendship to convince Picerno to agree to $15,000. According to a secret tape recording of the November 20, 2001 Town Council executive session, Former Assistant Town Solicitor William Dickie suggested that the Council allow Picerno to pay $15,000 of the $22,000 tax bill owed because the $7,000 loss would be less expensive than litigation. The Council voted to support Dickies recommendation, but after only a few days, Councilman Dean Lees, Jr., who abstained in the executive session vote, questioned the manner in which the suit was being settled and threatened to contact the state police. It was only after Lees threat that Dickie said he conducted additional research and found that the Picernos hadnt filed a timely appeal with the assessor, or paid the taxes, both requirements that must be met before a suit can be filed. He said he then recommended that the Council fight the suit. Regarding the filing of the appeals, Dickie said he relied on the word of the tax assessor. He also said he had assumed that if the taxes had not been paid, the assessor would have informed him of that. However, the law regarding the filing of timely appeals and payment of taxes was contained in the document that Dickie filed before the executive session. Dickie said that the document was boilerplate and that he hadnt specifically read the statute the document he filed cited.

Leon A. Lee Blais served Oster from January to June 2001, first as a consultant, then as the Director of Public Works, and eventually as the Assistant Town Administrator. Blais was concerned about more than the perception of power that easy access afforded Picerno. He was uncomfortable from the start that Picerno seemed to have the run of Town Hall.

Picerno had served on Osters transition team a position that extended for several months. It is fair to say that the two were very close. Upon taking office, Oster assigned Picerno an office next to his and provided access to what may have been a private entrance in Osters personal office. From this vantage point, Picerno interviewed staff personnel and did other work for Oster.

Blais continued to warn Oster about letting Picerno enter into areas of Town Hall that were not accessible to the public. He explained that he was troubled by Picernos behavior and recommended that Oster stop associating with him. Despite his warnings, Blais would frequently see Oster and Picerno together at the Lodge, a local tavern frequented by town politicians. One day, while Oster was sitting at the Lodges bar Blais approached him. I basically used a raspy voice and characterized Mr. Picerno as Darth Vader Blais said. Oster said he would lsquo;take steps to rein in Picerno, but invariably, Picerno would return. Oster justified the relationship by telling Blais that Picerno was an integral part of his campaign organization, capable of raising large sums of money and rallying the towns Italo-American population on his behalf.

But Blaiss fears seemed to be founded in fact. In the fall of 2001, two private citizens, filed two separate state police complaints involving Picerno, alleging that they had been approached about paying a bribe to a town official. The subsequent investigation would involve the first-ever state court authorized wiretap into public corruption.

At a meeting held on Thursday, February 14, 2002, the state police had the video and audiotape running when David Wayne Daniel and Picerno discussed the details of the bribe payments. Gelfuso was to pay Picerno $25,000 for the tax title document that would allow Daniel and his partner to take over the land.

Wired for sound by the state police, Gelfuso did meet with Picerno at Stuffies Restaurant in North Providence. Police took photographs as Gelfuso handed over a bulging envelope containing a $5,000 partial payment to Picerno when the two were in the parking lot.

But the payment plan morphed several times. During a taped conversation that took place on December 4, 2001, Picerno suggested that instead of cash, Picerno could pay Gelfuso $75,000 for a piece of property worth $100,000. Daniel would make a payment of $15,000 to cover legal fees. He would also pay the town $105,000 as a purchase price for the property. There were no formal names in Picernos patter; it was lsquo;Frankie and lsquo;Bobby. lsquo;Fifty green was $50,000. He would hint and imply, using phrases like lsquo;you know what Im saying? rather than say things directly. And there were repeated hints at nebulous future deals.

At the time of this meeting, Picerno was serving on the Lincoln Planning Board, a body that was able to determine the fortunes of a developer with a yes or no vote. During the session, Picerno alluded to future deals, spoke of lessons from prior dealings and boasted of his clout while talking about failed deals that he could have saved. They also spoke of potential tenants for the property. They included Campellones car dealership and a 7-Eleven store that Campellone had talked about building. Picerno told Daniel he could match or pay 10% more than what another contractor could do.

On Friday, February 15, 2002, Gelfuso met with Picerno and delivered the $20,000 bribe balance for the purchase of the Hamp;H property. The payment was made with money that the state police had convinced Citizens Bank to provide through a cooperative agreement with the bank. Citizens also provided a phony bank check made out to the Town of Lincoln for $105,000 as the agreed upon payment for the land.

Following that meeting, Campellone was arrested and charged with bribery. He entered a guilty plea and was offered a five-year deferred sentence in exchange for his cooperation against Oster and Picerno.

So, on that cold, winter, Saturday morning of February 16, 2002, Oster and Picerno met for almost an hour. Oster had no way of knowing that Picerno, who had already been arrested on February 14th, was also wearing a police wire. The meeting started in Osters office, but moved outside after he told Picerno about how lawyers offices can be bugged by law enforcement. While they are outside, Oster told Picerno that Gelfuso had been talking to state police, accusing Picerno of extorting money from Gelfusos partner Daniel in exchange for getting town inspectors to ease up on their inspections of a job site the contractors had in town. The police also videotaped a portion of the meeting that took place outside the law office. During the meeting, Picerno put an envelope with $10,000 in $100 bills in a metal mailbox, saying All right, thats from Wayne, for that Hamp;H [expletive]. The envelope with the cash was found in Osters office later in the day when police searched it.

A few hours after their meeting ended, Oster was arrested and charged with two counts of bribery and two counts of conspiracy. His six-year legal odyssey was just beginning. The bribery charges alone could bring a jail term of up to 40 years and fines of up to $100,000.

Oster was quick to proclaim his innocence saying that he would stay in office and fight the bribery charges. His critics were just as quick to call for his resignation. On February 17th, just one day after his arrest, several town officials said that Oster should resign his elected position immediately. Several questioned whether he could effectively govern the town and whether his continued presence would tarnish Lincolns generally positive image. lsquo;Should he continue? Given these charges, I say no, said Town Council President Raymond Dapault, Just a week earlier, Depault had announced his intention to oppose Oster in the 2002 Democrat primary.

12 January
Comments Off on Zeroes And (Young)Ones: The Future Of Technology In The Classroom

Zeroes And (Young)Ones: The Future Of Technology In The Classroom

By Claire Stead, Online Safety Ambassador at Smoothwall

The days of chalkboards and dusty textbooks in classrooms are long gone. Over the past two decades, technology has slowly crept into the classroom, changing the way students study and access information, and also opened up a whole new world of resources for teachers to utilise.

So what lies instore in the year ahead for schools? What are going to be the key players that advance the classroom and the way students learn in the year to come?

11 January
Comments Off on Malawi’s flag flying high at the BBC, all because of Joab Chakhaza

Malawi’s flag flying high at the BBC, all because of Joab Chakhaza

Normally when talking on radio I do not think about the multitudes that are listening. I just aim to be at my best. The best approach when on air is to imagine you are talking to your best friend. That will help calm your nerves and speak naturally, said Chakhaza

His work placement began on 5th September this year and will end on 4th January next year. So far he has enjoyed regular time in reading news briefs during Focus on Africa news programmes on BBC Radio. He follows in the footsteps of another renowned Malawian media personality, Chakuchanya Harawa, who has been with BBC for a long time.

Chipliliro Kansilanga is another Malawian journalist who was considered work placement together with Joab Frank Chakhaza, having also impressed academically. However Kansilanga is associated with BBC media action in East London.

Chakhaza advises the youth to follow their dreams if excellence in life is to be guaranteed. He argues that parents should not impose dreams on children but the young ones should decide on their own.

Work hard and do something you are passionate about. Most youth do things to either impress their friends or on instruction from their parents.

In my view, it is much easier to do something you love or are passionate about. So if you love music then sing. If you like helping the sick then be a doctor. But most of the time young people pursue careers because My dad wants me to be a lawyer etc, he said.

11 January
Comments Off on 5 Reasons Instant Messaging Makes Sense for Businesses