The die has been cast, it’s been a blast, so why is the Pat Ryan administration continuing to pillory former public defender Andrew Kossover?
Depending on when you tuned into this running controversy, Kossover, accused of failing to file for some $2.5 million in state aid over a six-year period ending last year, either resigned, retired, or was fired by Ryan for what amounts to a capital offense. In government, woe the department head who does not beg, grovel and plead for every cent Albany or Washington has on the books. Kossover, they charge, did just the opposite. Oh, the shame!
Whether Kossover jumped or was pushed is now a moot point, as former Kingston alderman Bob Senor might say. But why kick him again as he exits stage left? (Everything goes left in local government these days.)
Ryan’s latest twist of the tale, delivered by a spokesman under strict orders, is that Kossover was not only incompetent (for alleged failure to manage this particular grant program which would have added several public defenders to his outnumbered staff), but not to be trusted.
It’s all right there, right between the lines. In revisiting the episode with inquisitive media, Ryan, stuttering some, reiterated that he had asked for Kossover’s resignation, got it, announced it as a resignation and then Kossover denied he had in fact resigned.
Now, where I come from when a person gives his/her word, looks you in the eye and shakes hands, it’s a deal. Unlike Ryan’s, Kossover’s version of their exchange hasn’t changed. “I did not resign,” he said, and nothing more. Was somebody calling somebody a liar?
Kossover is history now, it being politically inexpedient to restore him to public service as long as Ryan’s express is running things. But two weeks after the story broke, questions of credibility, responsibility, process and transparency linger. If this be a precedent for this administration, let us pray for better angels.
He’s no angel, but Legislature chairman Dave Donaldson, protesting he was blind-sided by the administration, says he’ll conduct his own investigation. But can Donaldson find the smoking gun that may or may not have ordered Kossover not to apply for the state funding in question? The record is not encouraging. Donaldson, champion of lost causes, usually creates more heat than light.
Meanwhile, Ryan has asked county comptroller March Gallagher, whom he calls his “partner,” to launch her own investigation into L’ffaire Kossover. Gallagher has pledged her priority attention and, unlike Donaldson, has the staff to do it.
Going forward – Under the heading of let no crisis go to waste, the administration may yet come out of this to the positive. For one thing, the general public might not have been aware that the public defender is a part-time position job and that the person holding that near $90,000 a year job (plus about 30% in benefits) can practice law on the side.
Ryan, who says he likes to shake things up, has the unique opportunity, with a brace of new defense attorneys pounding on the door, to restructure this department with new, full-time leadership.
I can’t wait for the press conference on that one.
If only he can get past Kossover.