Volume 21, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 8 - 14, 2009
Tension over B.P.C. investigation continues
Sparks continued to fly this week when the Battery Park City Authority discussed the state inspector general’s probe into the authority’s misuse of funds and private apartments.
At last month’s heated meeting of the authority Audit Committee, vice chairperson Charles Urstadt demanded that the authority release the letter the inspector general sent earlier this year informing the authority of the investigation and its scope. The contents of that letter, which the authority eventually gave to Urstadt and the other board members, generated new concerns at the authority’s board meeting Tuesday.
Robert Mueller, a board member, said he was surprised to see in the letter that the inspector general instructed the authority not to destroy any e-mails or other documents.
Mueller did not find out about that request until he read the letter, more than two months after the inspector general sent it.
Andrew Lankler, the white-collar crime lawyer the authority retained, was supposed to call all the board members to inform them of the investigation, said Jim Cavanaugh, authority C.E.O. Several board members said they never got a call, and others, like Mueller, said Lankler never mentioned the instruction not to destroy documents.
The authority has not released the inspector general’s Feb. 9 letter, but Urstadt quoted the relevant sentence at the meeting: “And instruct members of the authority to preserve all e-mails, correspondences and documents.”
Urstadt was upset that he did not know about the inspector general’s instructions.
“When a state investigation starts, we should be put on notice and fully apprised step by step of it,” Urstadt said. Referring to the lack of notice, Urstadt said, “I resent that.”
No board members said directly whether they had destroyed potentially relevant documents.
Cavanaugh said if Lankler did not contact all the authority board members and brief them on the investigation, he would take it up with Lankler. The attorney did not return calls for comment.
Alexandra Altman, the authority’s counsel, said it never occurred to her that the request to preserve documents would apply to the board members, not just the authority’s staff.
“The assumption is that you don’t have records, and maybe that’s not true,” Altman said. “It’s a gap in our procedures that will be rectified.”
Urstadt replied, “It’s judgment more than procedure. I criticize the judgment.”
— Julie Shapiro