Medicaid IG To Boot Espada’s Soundview

As expected, the Medicaid IG has recommended that the state exclude former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.’s Bronx-based Soundview Health Network from the Medicaid program based on its “failure to develop and enact a comprehensive compliance program.”

Medicaid IG James Cox made this decision after an “extensive review of management practices” by Soundview. Reviews were conducted in May by the office’s Bureau of Compliance and depositions were taken from Soundview’s board chair and assistant controller in July.

In addition, the IG subpoenaed thousands of pages of documents from the healthcare organization – some of which have yet to be produced, according to Cox’s press release.

Espada and his son, Pedro G. Espada, were barred from participating in the state’s Medicaid program on Jan. 10, which means they cannot be paid with Medicaid funds. Nevertheless, according to Cox, both Espadas have continued to work at Soundview.

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The Dow closed down 520 points; S&P 500 and Nasdaq were down more than 4 percent. In other words, so much for yesterday’s rally.

The man tapped by Rupert Murdoch to oversee News Corp.’s internal probe of alleged cellphone hacking, Viet Dinh, is best friends with US Attorney Preet Bharara, who is leading the US investigation into the company.

There’s no timeline for the Cuomo administration’s review of the state’s gambling policy.

Advocates and foes of gambling in Massachusetts are keeping a closer eye on New York after Cuomo raised the possibility of licensing non-Indian casinos in the Empire State.

An official (taxpayer-funded?) update from Sen. Carl Kruger makes no mention of his legal troubles.

NYC prisoners call their standard-issue footwear “Air Patakis.” They don’t mean it as a compliment, but the former governor takes it that way.

Pataki believes he can be “more than competitive” in the 2012 presidential race, and will make a decision about whether to run within a “very short horizon” of time.

Rep. Peter King is questioning the access filmmakers Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal are getting to make their movie about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

Rudy Giuliani is quietly working to hire top political operatives in New Hampshire for a possible 2012 bid.

Mayor Bloomberg says it’s time for the country to rally behind the president.

Former Gov. David Paterson accepted an award on his wife’s behalf.

After failing to force a primary with now-Gov. Cuomo in 2010, Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner wants to challenge GOP Rep. Chris Gibson in 2012.

Diane Cardwell thinks Alec Baldwin has a lot to learn before running for mayor – assuming he ever does.

RWDSU issued a statement in support of the striking Verizon workers.

Bill Clinton will speak at the annual gala thrown by Staten Island’s oldest charity.

Not only is Sen. Gustavo Rivera the first state lawmaker to join Foursquare, but you can keep track of his movements in the districts thanks to this handy interactive map.

Undaunted, Wisconsin Democrats are now going after Gov. Scott Walker.

Rep. Charlie Rangel says Obama, who all but came out and called for the scandal-scarred congressman to resign, “has a lot to do with the decision that I made” to run for re-election.

What’s up with this?

DiNapoli: Oil Fund Could Save Businesses Money

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was on Syracuse radio station WSYR 106.9 FM this afternoon to pitch his natural gas production fund, saying it could ultimately save the industry money in the long run.

DiNapoli is proposing a spill cleanup system for the natural gas industry similar to how the state handles oil and other chemical spilles.

“I think it’s worked out very well when you’re dealing with the issue of oil,” he said.

The proposal comes as the Department of Environmental Conservation considers regulations for allowing high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, in some parts of the state. The Southern Tier’s Marcellus Shale formation is being eyed as a particularly rich source of natural gas.

But environmentalists remain concerned the process, which involves blasting water and chemicals into rock in order to access the gas, could be prone to spills and damage a local water table.

DiNapoli said he was yet to receive pushback from the natural gas industry, but said the program could make energy companies more responsible.

“Even from the industry point of view, it heightens everyones awareness to make sure you’re doing things correctly,” DiNapoli said. “You could argue it saves money in the long run.”

IG Report: Casino Inspector Received Gifts, Didn’t Know Ethics Rules

A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would be open to loosening restirctions in order to build casinos and other gaming facilities, Inspector General Ellen Biben has released a report finding a casino inspector received gifts of cigars, a clock, bar stools and windbreaker from gamblers and slot machine companies along with casino staff.

Edward Hawks, a supervising gaming inspector for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, told the inspector general’s office that he did not receive the gifts in exchange for a specific action.

And he claimed he was unaware that he could receive gifts for less than $75, despite a change to the state ethics laws that ban gifts of even nominal value.

The release pointedly notes that Hawks took ethics training last year.

“As a supervisor, Mr. Hawks had a duty to avoid any conflicts of interest, and as a State casino regulator even the appearance of a conflict is inexcusable,” Biben said in a statement.

Hawks has worked as an inspector since 1999 and is assigned full time to the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino.

The case is being handed over to the Racing and Wagering Board and the State Commission on Public Integrity.

Casino Inspector Improperly Received Gifts

Bloomberg Challenges Census, Seconded By Gillibrand

Apparently the federal government didn’t account for all the hipsters moving into Bay Ridge.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg today challenged the Census count for parts of Brooklyn and Queens, including Bay Ridge, Bensonhurts, Astoria and Jackson Heights — “which are among the most vibrant areas in New York City,” the mayor’s office said.

Bloomberg sent a letter to Census Director Robert Groves to challenge the findings.

“It is our expectation that the City’s population could increase by tens of thousands of New Yorkers if the errors from those two Census offices alone were corrected,” he writes.

Bloomberg notes in a news release that the count will not mean the city loses a seat in the House of Representatives. However, it does appear possible New York would lose one upstate district as well as a seat in one of the outerboroughs if the Census numbers hold.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, meanwhile, seconded Bloomberg’s call for a challenge and wrote a letter of her own to Groves.

“While I am aware that extensive measures were taken by the Department to ensure that Census 2010 was the most inclusive in our history, I along with the Mayor, maintain that there is a significant undercount of New York City population growth,” she said.

Asked for his reaction, Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier today said he was yet to see Bloomberg’s challenge to the Census data.

291-11 (Census Challenge)

Audit Finds Regents Problems Linger

A follow-up audit conducted by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found lingering problems with the grading of Regents examinations for high school students.

The probe followed a 2009 audit that found inflated grades for Regents examinations because of scoring inaccuracies at the district level.

At the time, the audit found troubling trends for school districts in grading the tests:

In its final report, the Review team noted that the schools tended to award full credit even when answers were vague, incomplete, inaccurate or insufficiently detailed, and as a result, their scores tended to be higher than the scores awarded by the Review team.

DiNapoli’s office recommended 12 changes to how the examinations are graded. Of those recommendations, nine were implemented, two were deemed partially implemented and two others were not achieved.

The auditors wrote in a letter to Education Commissioner John King that the Education Department has made “significant progress” in making the fixes to the scoring process.


Cuomo: We’ll Get To The Bottom Of PA’s Finances

At a brief question-and-answer session following the unveiling of Sept. 11 memorials in 30 cities around the state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he hoped to get to the bottom of the financial problems plaguing the Port Authority.

The authority is seeking large toll increases for crossing bridges and tunnels that span the Hudson River into New York City.

Cuomo, as he did on Tuesday, reiterated that he did not have a verdict on the tenure of Port Authority Executive Director Chis Ward. And Cuomo again called for facts before making any decisions on the authority’s leadership.

“I want to maximize my appointees on the board and I want a comprehensive review of how we got here and why we need more money. We need the answers, we have the questions, but we need the facts.

I want to know why, what was the plan, how are you going to do it and then we’ll make a decision about the management.”

Cuomo Introduces 9/11 Exhibits

We are just under one month from the 10th Anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, and the state has announced that 30 museums around New York will be holding exhibits to remember those attacks.

Each location will open during the week of August 29th and continue until the end of September. All will be open on Sunday, September 11th.

The state museum says that many of the artifacts and items that are to be displayed have never been seen by the public before – from damaged emergency vehicles, a religious symbol that workers on site crafted out of steel, and even landing gear from one of the airplanes that hit the twin towers.

“Every community across New York felt the impact of the senseless acts of terrorism that claimed thousands of lives just one decade ago,” Governor Cuomo said. “These exhibitions will give New Yorkers in towns, villages, and cities all across the state a gathering place to once again stand as one community to make sure we never forget those who lost their lives on September 11th and to embrace the spirit of unity that brought us together on that day of devastating tragedy.”

After the jump is a list of exhibition locations:
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Savino: Staten Island ‘Gets The Shaft’ Again (Updated)

Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Democrat and Republican, respectively, from Staten Island, made a joint, bipartisan, appearance on “Good Day NY” this morning to decry the Port Authority’s proposal to hike tolls on Hudson River crossings.

The outspoken lawmakers argue that the often forgotten borough too frequently “gets the shaft” from Albany and NYC when it comes to transportation policy.

They believe the borough is disproportionately impacted by the PA’s plan, and are calling on Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo to exercise their veto power.

It seems fairly certain at this moment the PA’s exact plan won’t be approved. But a modified version might yet have legs, as Cuomo yesterday called the current proposal a “non-starter,” but did not specifically rule out hikes, period.

UPDATE: Savino called to clarify, telling me she and Malliotakis understand the PA needs to raise revenue to fund ongoing and future capital projects, and toll increases are likely in the offing.

What they want is a fair and simple discount for Staten Island residents provided by the PA along the same lines of what EZPASS-holding residents get for the Verrazano (otherwise a $13 hit for cash-paying drivers).

Toll Hike Impact On Staten Island :

Lawmakers: Federal Fracking Panel All Fracked Up

More than a dozen state and local lawmakers are voicing displeasure with the U.S. Department of Energy’s panel formed to study natural gas drilling, writing in a letter today that the committee fails to include any local voices.

In a letter on the state Assembly letterhead of Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, the officials write to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking him to add New Yorkers to the panel.

As New York State elected officials, we are concerned about natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing in our state’s portion of the Marcellus Shale. New York has had a de facto moratorium on drilling and fracturing in the Marcellus Shale since 2008, a necessary precaution to prevent contamination of water supplies and other environmental harm while we study the effects of shale gas drilling.

So far, your panel has excluded citizens from New York and other regions affected by fracking.
Those whose way of life is at stake deserve a seat at the table where decisions are made. We
insist that you add people from affected communities to the panel.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is undergoing a draft review of regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing in New York. The controversial natural-gas extraction process involves blasting a mixture of chemicals and water into the ground in order to access the gas.

Energy companies say the method could be a boon to the economy of the upstate region, but environmentalists are increasingly concerned it could harm the water table.

NY leg ltr to Chu