I am a reporter and Publisher of Talk of the Sound.
For those who do not know much about Talk of the Sound, probably, based on our comments section and traffic data, because you only heard of this media outlet over the past couple weeks in the context of our reporting on George Latimer, we have played the role of public watchdog in New Rochelle for over 9 years. One thing regular readers know is when I run a series of articles asking the “Who is ?” question nothing good is in store for the person – they are going to be fired, arrested, forced to pay restitution or some other thing they will not like.
Over the past three weeks, George Latimer has lied to me and about me and encouraged others to lie about me on his behalf. And I have had enough.
Readers have often asked when I would respond to Latimer’s attacks on me and Talk of the Sound. I tweeted that I would respond at a time and place of my choosing. Today is the day and this is the place.
So let me begin by observing a bit about my experience with George Latimer and a bit about myself and Talk of the Sound.
To not know George is to like him. From a safe distance he is an affable, gregarious bear of a man. Up close, in the trenches, asking him tough questions as a reporter, my impression has changed. I now see George Latimer as one of the most accomplished liars in the New York State Legislature which for world-class liars like George Latimer is like the World Cup, Super Bowl and Summer Olympics all rolled into one.
George Latimer is a man who who has taken two oaths in his life: one as a public official to “support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York” and “faithfully discharge the duties” of the various offices to which he has been elected and one as a husband where he promised his wife to be true to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health and to love her and honor her all the days of his life.
He has failed to uphold these oaths in spectacular fashion.
And in doing so has lied to his family, his constituents, his colleagues, the media and more. He lies without averting his head or eyes, the sign of a virtuoso at lying. Anyone who can convince his wife he is in Albany working on the State Budget, convince his Senate colleagues he needs to be excused from working on the State budget to take his wife to London, all while planning a trip to the UK with his mistress is a pretty darn good liar.
In lying about me over the past few weeks, George Latimer has gotten my attention. And regular readers as well as public officials in New Rochelle know that getting my attention is never a good thing. It’s like waving a bone in front of Ezekiel, my English Bull Terrier. Just try taking a bone away from Zeke; expect to lose a hand. Likewise, I am now on the George Latimer story and will not stop any more than Zeke will give up that bone.
In this series of articles, I will take readers behind the scenes on my reporting and show all the many ways in which George Latimer lies. It is a long and detailed story but there is no other way to tell it and do the story justice. To make the story more digestible to readers, I have broken it into 10 parts which I will publish in rapid fire succession or you can download a PDF file of the entire article. Know that the entire story was completed before the first Part was published. It runs well over 70 double-spaced pages (about 90,000 characters) typed with one finger on my iPhone. I took my time.
So let me begin with why liars like George Latimer don’t like me.
As the publisher of Talk of the Sound, I have made many enemies.
Based on my reporting, more than a few people have been fired from their jobs, some have gone to jail. Among them an administrator at a local middle school who was convicted for raping students in his school office. Most recently a school district contractor and a former school district administrator both of whom plead guilty to federal corruption charges, an investigation not only initiated through our reporting but our active involvement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The pair of now-convicted criminals are scheduled to be sentenced in January. One of them, protected for years by the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, is the son of a man who not long ago was one of the highest-ranking police officials in New York State (they protect their own). Knowing what the DOJ knows about corruption in New Rochelle (I literally gave them a “road map”) I expect other federal indictments to follow.
For years, I (and my family) have been subjected to all manner of retaliation for speaking truth to power. A great deal of effort has been made over the years to discredit me and my reporting or to deter me from continuing to publish. My tires have been punctured by nails, blow torches, and wooden stakes (7 destroyed tires and counting); there have been multiple death threats, I have been beaten, robbed, defamed, sued, obstructed and even arrested and convicted on false charges brought by corrupt police officers (currently the subject of an appeal and a federal lawsuit against the three police officers involved). My wife, a teacher in the local school district, has been subjected to retaliation and threats for years; retaliation that continues to this day. My wife and daughter were attacked by a henchman for a retired police officer. The list is too long to recount fully here.
Talk of the Sound primarily covers news about New Rochelle, ranging from police and fire incidents, to sporting events, to obituaries, parades, announcements about civic events and official meeting announcements. Out of all the stories I have published by Talk of the Sound over the years, a tiny percentage are about local politics and none about national politics.
Most of what is published is handled by freelancers. Quite frankly, stories about a basketball game or a bake sale are boring to me and I have no interest to post those stories so I hire other people to do that in concert with various news sources.
The formula works. We are, by far, the largest media outlet in New York State’s 7th largest city. Through the web site, our daily email newsletter, social media and the occasional print run we reach a minimum of 10,000 readers a day – and many more if our stories go viral.
What I write myself is primarily articles based on my own original reporting or news scoops like a shooting or an unexpected resignation of a public official. Much of my work is traditional investigative reporting, usually the type described as CARR or “computer-aided research and reporting” where I go online to obtain records, access databases and run numbers, often to fact-check public sector employees. I do a lot of interviews, most on background, because many of my sources fear retaliation for talking to me. I am easily the most active filer of Freedom of Information requests in New Rochelle.
New Rochelle is a one-party town. In the municipal government and on the school board there are a total of 114 elected and appointed positions which require filing a financial disclosure form. Out of those 114 positions, last I checked, 111 of them are Democrats and 3 are Republicans.
As my investigative reporting focuses almost entirely on New Rochelle public sector employees managed by appointed and elected officials, my targets for investigation are often people who owe their jobs to Democrats. Our reporting is not partisan but might look that way to outsiders who are not aware that 97% of our local government is run by Democrats. As the three Republicans are distinct minorities on City Council and the Board of Education, New Rochelle is 100% under the control of Democrats and the Democratic Party is controlled by a handful of individuals. In other words, New Rochelle is effectively run by an oligarchy.
The issue is not Republicans versus Democrats but honest people and dishonest people. In my experience, “dishonest public officials” is the most non-partisan issue of all. Dishonest people despise me because I shine a light on their malfeasance. The powers that be do not like what I do. That they may be Democrats is a function of our coverage area; I have done plenty of reporting that has been deeply upsetting to the handful of Republicans involved in running New Rochelle. I have been threatened with violence for my reporting on a senior New Rochelle City Court employee. The political affiliation of a crook is not a consideration in my reporting.
I have done a good number of major multi-part investigative series on public sector corruption in New Rochelle. Most relate to school district employees, cops and public-sector contractors. None of them have involved elected officials or relate to partisan politics. Off the top of my head the biggest ones are: (1) corruption within the Buildings & Grounds Department (2) corruption involving school district vendors over-billing and paying bribes and kickbacks that led to those two Federal indictments and convictions; (3) corruption involving police harassment of a woman on behalf of the manager of a local beach club; (4) a child rapist operating out of a public middle school; (5) an illegal gambling and pornography web site operated by members of the New Rochelle Police Department; (6) a retired police officer defrauding charities including St. Jude’s Children’s Research; (7) illegal asbestos handling and asbestos removal at an elementary school; (8) an effort to artificially inflate the salaries and pensions of senior police commanders; (9) the relationship between the New Rochelle Police Commissioner and a corrupt contractor, a man who has since been convicted on Federal corruption charges; (10) the sordid history of former New Rochelle Schools Administrator Freddie Dean Smith. There are others.
Our stories are often picked up and reported by larger media organizations at the local level (The Journal News, News12, and FiOS1News), at the regional level (CBS2, New York Post, NBC4, Eyewitness News7, Fox5, New York Daily News) and at the national level (Associated Press, USATODAY, The New York Times).
I have worked a lot with the folks at WCBS and provide photo and video content for News12 and FiOSNews. For quite a while now I have gotten requests for content, news tips, story ideas and even interviews, from FiOS1News, mostly from Executive Producer Helen Jonsen.
Although New Rochelle is in Westchester, I do not care all that much about Westchester County government. To me, it is a useless extra layer of government that rarely touches the lives of most New Rochelle residents in a significant way. I do not find there is much they do that could not be handled by the state government or local municipalities. More than anything, it is just plain boring to me and, I suspect, to the vast majority of my readers. I have never once attended a session of the Westchester County Board of Legislators. I cannot recall doing all that much original reporting on the County government except related to the Westchester County Health Department which I considered one of the worst run agencies in New York based on my dealings with them. I publish public interest announcements from the County government but mostly just link to other media outlets reporting on County government and send my readers to them if they want to know more.
I was certainly not interested in covering the current race for Westchester County Executive. I am not going to bother to check my own site but if prior to October 16th we had published more than 5 articles about the County Executive race in 2017 I would be surprised. One story that did catch my eye was the Latimer property tax issue where he was clearly lying, and a bit of online research showed that he had a couple of other financial issues which I did report.
As the Publisher of Talk of the Sound, I do not deal with George Latimer or Rob Astorino much. Like every other politician in the area, I am on their email press list and occasionally publish information from them. I once raised concerns directly to Astorino about the failure of the Westchester County Health Department to notify several communities including New Rochelle they would be shutting off the water for a day. I once raised concerns directly to George Latimer about the New York State Education Department continuing to license Freddie Dean Smith as a school administrator despite his extensive criminal record and his numerous fraudulent job applications at schools around Westchester County. There may have been others over the last 10 years but I do not recall them now. In neither case did either of them take action to resolve my concerns. Mostly, I spend my time covering New Rochelle so if I see them at all it is most likely at an event in New Rochelle. In those very brief interactions over the years I have found them to both be pleasant and amiable. I have never had a cross word with either of them that I recall.
As for Westchester County government politics, I believe Rob Astorino has done a good job as County Executive. I believe Tim Idoni has done a good job as County Clerk. I intend to vote for them. I requested lawn signs from both. Astorino’s campaign dropped off a sign and it’s on my front lawn. If Idoni would have dropped off a sign I would have that sign displayed as well. He declined to do so. I went to Iona Prep with Jim Maisano so I had better support him (plus he is running unopposed) and I support Sheila Marcotte. I forget which one’s district I am in these days but I will vote for whichever one it is.
The simple fact is, I find County government to be uninteresting. Maybe if there was an airport or amusement park or nuclear power plant nearby I might care more but there isn’t and I don’t.
Next up. the issue of George Latimer’s lies, deceptions and dissembling.