A Tale of Two Councilmen

Before I delve into the substance of this article as indicated by the headline, I would like to commend Councilman Tony Avella of the 19th Council District, which covers Whitestone and Bayside, for having the fortitude to stick by his pronouncement when it came time to vote for a 20% pay hike for the present City Council. Yes! He voted NO, and he refused to accept the raise. He has for the past several months been quoted in local newspapers as not being in favor of a pay raise for a part-time job that pays in excess of $90,000. As a matter of record, the pay raise is approximately equal to the entire starting salary of a New York City Police Officer. If Councilman Avella continues with his strong, prudent convictions regarding expenditures and zoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods, he should be drafted as the people’s choice for Mayor.

Councilman Dennis Gallagher often mentions how he voted against Mayor Bloomberg’s property tax hike even though his vote had no weight in determining the outcome of the measure. However, he did have a chance to make a difference in this case by following Mr. Avella’s example and refusing to accept the pay raise. The 104th Precinct could have used another officer…

The Queens Ledger and Its Publisher, Walter Sanchez

Now it is time to take a good look at another turkey in our community, such as the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Queens Ledger, Walter H. Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez allowed a very skewed account of our October meeting to be published in the November 2nd, 2006 edition of his paper, written by a reporter named Nik Kovac. The first line of this hit piece suggested that our “political influence and very existence [is] threatened by the successful emergence of a new civic group.” The article went on to highlight the reporter’s perception that our membership is comprised of people of advanced age who were more interested in being served coffee and cake than they were in hearing about problems of concern in the community.

VP Lorraine Sciulli rightly responded to the article in a letter to the editor the following week. The focus of her letter was the QL’s promotion of age discrimination. As an active civic member in our community, I know – and Walter H. Sanchez definitely knows – that above all else Lorraine Sciulli is honest and correct when offering accounts of the what, when and where of events. Her letter was printed in the November 16th, 2006 edition of the Queens Ledger with an “editor’s” note that was way off the mark; rather than addressing the content of Ms. Sciulli’s letter, the Ledger chose to display their usual unintelligent palaver and basically suggested she was senile for not realizing that Mr. Sanchez is the publisher of the paper and not the editor or the reporter who wrote the story.

While it may be technically correct that Walter Sanchez has not signed his name to any text that has been derogatory towards the JPCA, he is listed as the publisher and editor-in-chief of the paper, and thereby is responsible for its content. Mr. Sanchez is not a newcomer to a little slipping and sliding. As Michael Schenkler, publisher of the Queens Tribune, wrote in an open letter to Walter Sanchez on the Trib’s website in 2000, after one of Sanchez’s columnists likened a Board of Education member to Adolf Hitler: “I’m appalled at Publisher Sanchez. Some sixteen years ago or so, I taught Walter what this publishing business was all about. He bought his way into the industry from a bowling alley and needed guidance. I gave it to him in his early days. Perhaps I didn’t do a good job teaching, or he didn’t do a good job learning or he has just lost his way.”

Sanchez also allowed a letter from someone using the pen name “Truman Harris” to be printed in all of his various newspapers on September 28th, 2006 under the defamatory, Ledger-written title, “JPCA or JPCD, as in Juniper Park Civic Dictatorship”. The Queens Ledger’s rules state that in order to be printed, a name, an address and a phone number must accompany letters to the editor, and that personal attacks on people will not be permitted. We know from another newspaper that received a Truman Harris letter that he in fact does not exist. The letters were mailed with no return address on the envelope, and without an address or phone number inside. Editor-in-chief Sanchez did not care to make sure his staff verified authorship, and broke his own policy of not printing libelous attacks. Comparing Bob Holden to Pol Pot, Kim Jong Il and Idi Amin is a personal attack similar to the way their columnist compared that gentle lady to Adolf Hitler, or the time the QL decided to blitz Sister Jean, Principal of Our Lady of Hope over her stance on the opening of 7-Eleven across the street from the school.

Another case of poor editorial judgment happened this past year when the QL printed a photo of a cement mixer in front of Principe Park under the title, “Sweet, Ironic Justice.” There was nothing “sweet,” “ironic” or “just” about the fact that new sidewalks were being installed around the park. And the caption of the photo stated that the late great Frank Principe, deceased since 2004, had named the park after himself in 2005.

Apparently, Sanchez didn’t learn any lessons from his last major embarrassments. But, fraud is part of his business model and to date many other persons have suffered the consequence of his underhanded tactics.

As a note of edification to our readers the concept of fraud given in “Black’s Law Dictionary” includes text from Delahanty v. First Pennsylvania Bank: “A generic term embracing all multifarious means which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get advantage over another by false suggestions or by suppression of truth, and includes all surprise, trick, cunning, dissembling, and unfair way by which another is cheated.” From Johnson v. McDonald: “Bad faith and fraud are synonymous, and also synonyms of dishonesty, infidelity, faithlessness, perfidy, unfairness, etc.”

In view of this expanded legal definition, fraud is the perfect way to describe the character of Walter H. Sanchez. Here is a man who pays his reporters unjust compensation for articles written and printed in his various newspapers, a man who has failed to pay his printers the balances due for services rendered, and a man who, according to the NYC Department of Finance, has astronomical federal liens against his former corporation.

Yes, Walter Sanchez can accurately be described as a fraud or a charlatan. Who knows what the future holds in store for a man who conducts himself in this manner? Frankly, I don’t understand how his advertisers continually pay for ads in a paper that does not certify its circulation. A charge of 35 cents is made to purchase the paper at newsstands each week. However, in many cases, it is given away for nothing at banks, schools, etc. Even when offered for free, stacks of the old papers remain when a new week’s paper is distributed and none of it is reported back to the paper’s advertisers.

The crying shame of this is that the Queens Ledger was once considered to be the “gold standard” of community newspapers, with excellent reporting of issues of neighborhood concern and fantastic local history articles. Mr. Sanchez quickly turned it into something that now is good for no more than to line the bottoms of pigeon coops. The real nitty-gritty is that JPCA refused to subscribe our members to Mr. Sanchez’s weekly litter box liner; therefore digs at us are now commonplace upon its pages. Expect to see more throughout 2007.

In 2000, Michael Schenkler further stated to Sanchez, “If I were a reader, I wouldn’t write to you. I’d stop reading your newspaper. Publishing a newspaper is not a democratic process. It is a responsibility. You cannot hide behind freedom of the press. You are responsible for what you print. You are responsible for the hate…You are responsible for the vile and disgusting things that your columnist writes. You have failed as a publisher. And in my book, you have failed as a human being.” Amen.

In closing, I trust that everyone enjoyed the traditional Thanksgiving meal and an aperitif before Christmas dinner, concluded the feast without digestive difficulty and above all thanked the Lord for the bounty for which we’ve been blessed and prayed for the safe return of our TROOPS.

Kampermann’s Korner wishes all the readers of the Juniper Berry a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.