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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Too many head-scratchers happening lately

Christopher Parlante leaves Southern District Federal Court in

Christopher Parlante leaves Southern District Federal Court in Manhattan after being sentenced in connection with the LIRR disability fraud case on May 20, 2014. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The past few weeks on Long Island have been unusually rich with things that make us go hmmmmmmm.

There's Southampton Town Justice Edward D. Burke, who while riding in a police car with a defendant -- who the justice earlier had arraigned on a DWI charge -- recommended his business partner to the suspect as an attorney.

Burke also, according to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, used his judicial title to promote his private law firm, imposed fines larger than the maximum allowed by law and made improper political contributions through his law and business partners.

And yet, Burke got away with censure after the commission overruled a court administrator who'd recommended the sensible route of removing the longtime jurist -- one who has deep and wide Republican political connections -- from the bench.


So, what, then, does it take to sack a bad judge?


Former Long Island Rail Road conductor Christopher Parlante recently avoided prison time while also being ordered to repay $294,717 of a federal Railroad Retirement Board pension he had not earned -- at the jaw-dropping rate of $25 a month.

Contrast that with the widow of a retired LIRR train engineer who died last September. Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was pressing Shirley Findel, 80, for repayment of $27,000 in excess pension benefits the couple received since 1995.

Yes, Parlante -- one of 33 doctors, consultants and retirees convicted in a the LIRR scandal -- cooperated with authorities. But, as Newsday reported, it will take more than 982 years for Parlante to repay his debt at 25 bucks a month.

As for Findel, it was not until a series of Newsday stories earlier this year that she found some relief.

Her initial pension repayment demand was triggered after the MTA found a years-old clerical error; Parlante's came after a conviction.

Where's the sense in that?!?


The future of the Independence Party was renewed right here on Long Island after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Democrats running for statewide office signed a certificate of consent and acceptance to run on the line this fall -- pretty much guaranteeing a 50,000-vote minimum that will keep the party viable.

This, however, is not cause for celebration for a party that includes plentiful members who believe they registered as independent -- that is, into no political party -- rather than registering as Independence -- which, like Republican, Democrat and Working Families, is really a political party.

What makes this interesting is that Cuomo, as reported by my colleague Dan Janison, found reason to be deceptive about his intent to accept an endorsement from a party that's been even more in the spotlight since the still-unsolved February shooting of Gary Melius at Oheka Castle. Melius employs Independence Party chairman Rick Bellando and allows his lavish hotel and catering hall to be used for party screenings, functions and mailings.

Asked by reporters last week whether he would seek the endorsement, the governor said: "Those are decisions that we're going to be making down the road."

Except, of course, that when Cuomo made the remarks in Cooperstown, papers already had been signed on Long Island for formal acceptance of Independence Party backing. According to a copy of the certificate, Cuomo signed on May 22. It was filed with the board of Elections on May 23.

Yikes. So many Hmmmmms whhaats and hmmmmms, so little room. Stand by. There's more to come.

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