One of the consequences—and costs of doing business with the Metro-North Railroad until not very long ago—was being hit up by Joe Streany for a sizable contribution to his favorite charitable institution, the Croton-Harmon High School Booster Club. Contractors doing business with Metro-North who thought the railroad was free of graft found this out to their sorrow.
Having the squeeze put on you for his Booster Club by Croton resident Streany would be understandable if your business were Deprez Wines & Spirits or one of the Capriccio Pizzerias here in Croton—but Joe Streany’s victims were companies scattered in various parts of the U.S. and that had nothing to do with Croton-on-Hudson. They just happened to be unlucky enough to have been awarded a contract with the Metro-North Railroad. Even so, they were in no position to say no or even to hesitate to whip out a checkbook. As Deputy Director of Safety for Metro-North, it was Joe Streany who managed their contracts with the railroad.
We leave to your imagination what power that gave him over them. We don’t picture that his approach was as blatant as one of Humphrey Bogart’s early movies in which he approaches a saloon owner with one hand in his pocket and asks, “Who you getting your beer from?” Whatever Joe Streany’s approach was, it was persuasive enough to convince five different contractors to part with coin of the realm over a period of five years. No doubt it would have continued to this day if some whistleblower had not revealed Joe Streany’s illegal scam. An investigation into the affair began when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s inspector general got the anonymous tip suspected to have come from the co-worker who had warned him about the illegality of what he was doing. This tip was passed on to the state Ethics Commission.
Ethics is defined as the rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession. Graft is defined as unscrupulous use of one’s position to derive profit or advantage. It is unethical behavior. Joe Streany is now a Republican candidate for Trustee. He and the Republicans are asking the citizens of Croton-on-Hudson to vote him into an office of public trust requiring the utmost in ethical behavior.
The word “booster” has two definitions. One is someone who vigorously supports a cause. The second definition, in criminal slang, is someone who engages in unlawful activity, such as shoplifting or picking pockets. The five contractors for Metro-North Railroad surely must have felt that their pockets were being picked repeatedly for five years by booster Joe Streany, who apparently has his own peculiar definition of ethics more suited to Boss Tweed and the old Tammany Hall than suburban Westchester. He also had no objection to being entertained with expensive steakhouse lunches.
We can imagine the word getting around among contractors along these lines: “If you are bidding on a Metro-North contract that might come under Joe Streany’s jurisdiction, be sure to add some vigorish to cover the regular payments he will ask you to make to his favorite charity.” Lest we be accused of leveling charges without providing details in full about this sordid affair, here they are. Read them and weep for the good name of your fair village, Croton-on-Hudson.
Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Leadcare, Inc., an environment testing facility in Long Island City, N.Y. They made five payments totaling $5,380.00.
Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Waste Technology Services, Inc., of Lewiston, N.Y., specialists in waste management and recycling. They made four payments totaling $4,790.00.
Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Safeway Environmental Services, a waste management consulting and disposal company in Glencoe, Alabama. They made six payment totaling $2,640.00.
Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from Day Engineering, P.C., of Rochester, N.Y., environmental engineering consultants. They made four payments totaling $2,050.00.
Croton’s Joe Streany solicited money from York Analytical Laboratories, of Stratford, Connecticut, which provides analyses to establish conformity with environmental legislation. They made five payments totaling $1,990.00.
According to the state’s Ethics Commission, such solicitations are illegal. A co-worker had warned Streany that he was violating the ethics law. Nevertheless, in each of five years, Streany solicited and received donations to the club from the five contractors he dealt with as a railroad employee. In addition to these donations, one of the contractors treated him to a $105.50 lunch at The Palm, a Third Avenue steakhouse in New York City noted for its giant steaks, surly waiters and expensive tabs.
Brought up on charges by the Ethics Commission, Streany admitted to violating the state ethics law by soliciting a total of $16,850 between 1998 and 2002 from five companies with Metro-North contracts. According to a settlement agreement reached in Albany on Nov. 10, 2004, he agreed to pay $2,250 to settle the charges, a mere slap on the wrist, according to The New York Post.
“RAIL BIG’S BAD BOO$T,” Nov 10, 2004 (Click image to enlarge.)
Persons who violate the Public Officers Law can be fined, suspended or removed from employment. Walter Ayres, a state Ethics Commission spokesman, said Streany could have been slapped with fines totaling a quarter of a million dollars, since he could have been fined $10,000 for each of his 25 violations.
Streany earned $107,000 a year, or $2,057.69 a week, making his fine the equivalent of little more than a week’s salary. Dan Brucker, Metro-North spokesman, said no other action would be taken against Streany, who had worked for the railroad more than 30 years.
Readers may remember a famous contest in which the first prize was a one-week stay in the exciting city of Philadelphia with all expenses paid. The second prize in the contest was two weeks in Philadelphia. Crotonblog can imagine a similar contest among contractors. First prize: A contract with Metro-North Railroad. Second prize: A contract with Metro-North Railroad managed by Joe Streany.
As we noted, Joe Streany is now a Republican candidate for Trustee. He is asking the citizens of Croton-on-Hudson to vote him into an office of public trust requiring the utmost in ethical behavior. Do the voters want to elect a person who has violated the law and has shown repeated inability to recognize the difference between right and wrong? We hope not.
Editor’s Note: For readers who want all the gory details, we include the findings of the New York State Ethics Commission dated November 4, 2004 below. To view a full-size version of this document, please follow this link: NYS Ethics Commission In The Matter of Joseph Streany.