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January 24, 2015

We do this thing within our group. When everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, we jump off.

That’s not to say we automatically commit ourselves to the opposite view.

Instead, what we try to do is consider, methodically and dispassionately, possible alternative scenarios.

For example, thirty-two women have accused Bill Cosby of being a rapist. At some point, the sheer volume of accusations falls on your head like a Sequoia and you conclude that you must reevaluate your view of the man as wholesome role model.

But even in a situation like this, we’re committed to, at least for a moment, trying to find some explanation of how it might be, if nothing else, less egregious than portrayed in the media.

Sometimes it gets uncomfortable to do this. In fact, it might turn your stomach to conceive of and articulate the alternate scenario in this matter.  In this regard, is it possible that some of the women who met this man and had drinks with him and accompanied him back to his hotel room knew what that entailed, and went willingly with the expectation that they would have an on-going relationship with him or in some way were led to believe and did in fact believe that he would assist them with their careers or otherwise provide some benefit to them?

Now that’s an ugly thing to say. But if you commit yourself to the semi-intellectual exercise of questioning everything, then you have to at least articulate other side of an argument before you reject it, as we do in this case.

All of that said, fast forward to now.  When we look at the Silver situation, we see everyone rushing to condemn him. We see the media uncritically reporting and actually doing a lot of additional reporting on their own that adds to the narrative of the prosecutor. It’s a rush to find more information that incriminates and further undermines Silver. This is being done, yet again, without the kind of skepticism that should be applied given the way past scandals have played out in Albany.

On point now in the Silver matter: The grants to the doctor continue to be a problem for us. Two 250k grants to Columbia Pres a full ten years ago – that doesn’t strike us as a payoff.  It was for research on the cancer causing effects of 9-11 exposure.

Now a smart reader challenged us in the comments section of a previous post on this very point. We respect what that person had to say, but we’re not convinced.  His construct was that the doctor clearly benefitted. He said it’s a huge deal in the medical world to be able to secure grants for research.  All true. These grants, though not large by the standards of major medical institutions, surely benefitted the hospital and the doctor.

But what actually happened here? Did Dr. Bob say  “One hand washes the other” to Shelly?

Or did Dr. Bob describe the need for funding to examine the effects of asbestos inhalation by scores of emergency workers at ground zero?

What if it was the former, not the later?

Isn’t it at least possible that Silver was doing it with the right motivation?

And isn’t it at least possible that when the Assembly staff, the Governor, the Comptroller and the Attorney General reviewed the expenditure, they said: “Hmm, that seems like a worthy cause. I approve.”

In fact, at that particular moment in time, can anyone think of a more worthy, altruistic use of Silver’s discretionary funds?

Our reader further noted that it was suspicious that Silver hadn’t issued a news release about the award. We don’t know what happened in that regard. We looked online but didn’t find anything all these years later. But we assume the grant was noted in some way – in a ceremony of some kind, in a newsletter, at a hospital dinner – something, somewhere. But even if it wasn’t, so what?  All that it means is that Silver wasn’t interested in media exposure – which has always been his way.

There’s the matter of other “payoffs” to the doctor, but none of it persuades us. Silver arranged for two grants for the hospital. Silver passed an Assembly resolution commending the doctor for his work.  Silver helped some young friend or relative of the doctor get a job.

Those who have served in government or covered it for any length of time as a reporter recognize these things as routine and innocuous.

Pretend you’re one of those odd TV characters who can think like a criminal, who place themselves in the mind of the deviant.  If you do that, don’t you arrive at something more substantial and nefarious? How about a state contract worth millions?  How about some legislation or DOH designation that would inflate the doctor’s Medicaid reimbursement rates? How about a special CON for his clinic?

Instead, Silver arranges for, what? A certificate of appreciation by the New York State Assembly.

Something just doesn’t seem right about all of this. Silver – blatantly, carelessly, defiantly corrupt?

Do the Lincoln thing here. Disenthrall yourself. Does this fact pattern –minus Preet’s characterization of it – really strike you as unquestionably, definitively corrupt?

To us, it doesn’t, at least not in all the critical areas needed to prove a federal crime.

On top of that, Preet is using way too many adjectives. His comments are too expansive – almost gratuitous. We’ve made this point before as we careen between enthusiastically supporting his efforts and thinking he might be a media hound.

That’s where we are right now.  One moment, he’s our hero for cutting into the lawyer-legislator game that has allowed Silver and many others to get rich, and the next we’re saying: Who the hell is Preet to opine on a triumvirate?

Until we’re sure of what’s going on here, we’re not going to do the bandwagon thing. Nor should others.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    January 24, 2015 10:54 PM

    We understand your impulse not to jump on the bandwagon. That’s a good impulse. We also think that giving a proclamation (or whatever that’s called in Albany), finding a job for the doctor’s son or giving a grant to his wife’s organization are innocuous.

    However, if you are a lawmaker who gave a grant for a meritorious purpose to the doctor’s lab, wouldn’t you want to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest? Wouldn’t you then recuse yourself from any business dealings with the doctor, and abstain from profiting on any referrals the doctor sent to your law firm? I mean, you wouldn’t want the public — or any prosecutor — to think there was a quid pro quo for your meritorious grant, right? You wouldn’t want to break any ethics rules — or wait, are there any ethics rules?

    PS, I mentioned the missing press release because the complaint talked about it.

    Maybe in Albany terms $500K is peanuts and chump change, as you suggest, but to most New Yorkers who pay taxes and especially to those who live in SS’s district it’s actually a lot of money.

    Who knows, maybe it will come out that the $3.3M in asbestos referrals that Preet says SS earned after bestowing the little grants on Dr. Taub came from referrals from some other doctor. Maybe SS didn’t make that money. There must be an innocent explanation. Maybe the files on all the cases SS worked on that Preet says he could not find at W & L will turn up at Shelly’s house. Yes, yes, we all share your hope that there is an innocent explanation for it all.

    Meanwhile, NYT reports that Preet flipped the doctor, so we will learn from his mouth just what he thought the grants were. On Friday, Columbia fired him and closed his lab. Guess the august university doesn’t have faith in the innocent explanation.

    Can I speak for the taxpayers of New York and say we just want our $500K back?

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