Friday, August 17, 2012

Back to the Swift Boat

It’s time for me to revisit a local political controversy. Some months ago, I wrote about an investigation of Lee Kindlon, a local attorney running for Albany DA.
The issue for Kindlon was whether he worked the required number of hours for full time employment as a county defender. At the same time he was doing this county gig, Kindlon was working full time at his own law firm. The question naturally arose: How could he do both?
Now the reason I took interest in this matter was because of a sensational claim that Kindlon made. He said the probe was a political hit job by his opponent in the race, incumbent DA David Soares.
I always pay close attention whenever such charges are made as they have the potential of undermining the integrity of the process of ethics review.
At the time that matter first arose, I suggested that this particular review was fairly simple, and presumably not subject to political influence. All the officials at the county jail had to do was check the time sheet claims against sign in records.
Well, the probe is complete and I don’t think the results are very good for Kindlon.
Remember, he made adamant claims that he was working full time for the county and that his timesheets proved it. But the officials conducting the review say that his timesheet claims cannot be verified from sign in sheets or other means.
At the same time, however, the county officials who conducted the review say that their own time recording policies have some deficiencies. Officials do not believe that Kindlon could have been working without signing in, but there is at least the possibility that he might have done so on some, but not all of the days in question.
But this strikes me as clear evidence that officials reviewing this matter were trying to be fair. Why? Because they are honestly reporting their own shortcomings. If it was a political hit job, they would have left out the part out their own record keeping problems and simply said: “There’s no record of him being here on the days he claims that he was working.”
So what should we make of all of this?
I think it’s pretty clear that Kindlon wasn’t adhering strictly to the county policy regarding the hours that are supposed to be working  as county defender. This isn’t to suggest he was doing a bad job for the county or that he was cheating the taxpayers. To the contrary, I’m sure he was working hard and doing his level best at juggling of his responsibilities, but just not in a 9-5 way for the county.
The real problem here is that Kindlon has mishandled the whole matter. Rather than just man up to the fact that he probably should have discontinued the county gig when it was changed to a full time assignment, he made it seem like he was abiding by the policy when he wasn’t strictly doing so because he couldn’t. Then he started attacking the people who raised questions about the matter and he spun up the Swiftboat and “Watergate comparisions. This was even less becoming of him.
Despite the annoying quality to this whole episode, I think timesheet reviews are important. If fact, I’d like to see more of them. They help keep public employees scrupulously honest.

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