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Betsy Combier

Help Us to Continue to Help Others »

The E-Accountability Foundation announces the

'A for Accountability' Award

to those who are willing to whistleblow unjust, misleading, or false actions and claims of the politico-educational complex in order to bring about educational reform in favor of children of all races, intellectual ability and economic status. They ask questions that need to be asked, such as "where is the money?" and "Why does it have to be this way?" and they never give up. These people have withstood adversity and have held those who seem not to believe in honesty, integrity and compassion accountable for their actions. The winners of our "A" work to expose wrong-doing not for themselves, but for others - total strangers - for the "Greater Good"of the community and, by their actions, exemplify courage and self-less passion. They are parent advocates. We salute you.

Winners of the "A":

Johnnie Mae Allen
David Possner
Dee Alpert
Aaron Carr
Harris Lirtzman
Hipolito Colon
Larry Fisher
The Giraffe Project and Giraffe Heroes' Program
Jimmy Kilpatrick and George Scott
Zach Kopplin
Matthew LaClair
Wangari Maathai
Erich Martel
Steve Orel, in memoriam, Interversity, and The World of Opportunity
Marla Ruzicka, in Memoriam
Nancy Swan
Bob Witanek
Peyton Wolcott
[ More Details » ]
Staten Island Ferry Official Covered Up Negligence, and Mayor Bloomberg Will Have the Public Support Him
E-Accountability OPINION: Bloomberg's use of public money to support Staten Island Ferry Director of Operations official Patrick Ryan is an outrage. Is anyone using political clout to investigate the liability and accountability of Mr. Ryan, Richard Smith, Michael Gansas, and Iris Weinshall, Commissioner of the Department of Transportation (and wife of New York Senator Charles Schumer)?
Ferry official knew of pilot's errors, sources and documents reveal
BY BOB PORT, NY Daily News, August 9, 2004

New York Daily News Link

NEW YORK - (KRT) - Long before the deadly Staten Island ferry crash in October, city Director of Ferry Operations Patrick Ryan made a practice of covering up the mistakes of pilot Richard Smith, according to sources and documents obtained by the New York Daily News.

Twice in 1995, Ryan knew Smith ignored federal maritime safety regulations when he took ferries on runs from Manhattan to Staten Island. But rather than reprimand Smith, Ryan got him a commendation for heroism.

In the first incident, on April 17, then Capt. Smith, sped into the St. George Terminal knowing a propeller linkage used to slow the Andrew J. Barberi had been malfunctioning for weeks, ship records show. That day, the reverse propulsion failed again.

Like a bus with bad brakes, the Barberi smashed into the dock, shattering a concrete and steel vehicle ramp to bits. The crash injured 16. Repairs cost an estimated $3 million.

Ryan's response? He praised Smith in writing for steering the boat against its slip so the scraping would absorb the impact.

Three years later, a Coast Guard investigation attributed the crash only partly to the mechanical failure. "Misjudgment" by ferry management and "insufficient maintenance practices" were also blamed.

The federal report from that investigation said ferry managers knew the propeller linkage was failing but did not report any breakdowns to the Coast Guard - a violation of federal maritime regulations.

To make matters worse, crews had improperly adjusted the propeller linkage as they tried to fix it, the report said.

A spokesman for the city Department of Transportation insisted that the Barberi "was fixed and ready to go," that day. "Unfortunately there was a malfunction," the spokesman Tom Cocola said.

In a second incident on Dec. 11 of that year, a chief engineer and his assistant refused to set sail with Smith on the ferry John F. Kennedy, sources told the New York Daily News. The crewmen raised concerns after a dockside electrical fire burned out the starter motor for the boat's emergency power generator.

When the engineers refused to back down, Smith ordered them off his boat. He sailed with 3,500 people and 50 vehicles in freezing weather for three round trips, according to sources and government records.

Federal maritime regulations prohibit passenger vessels from sailing without backup electrical power. Had the main power failed, the boat would have lost heat, lighting, radios and many controls.

Ryan's response? The engineers who refused to ignore the violation were suspended without pay for one week.

Two years later, the Coast Guard issued an "inspection circular" warning ferry officers they could not sail the Kennedy without the generator working. The Coast Guard only issued its statement after relentless complaints from Robert Pearle, the chief engineer suspended in the incident.

"The record speaks for itself," Pearle said, declining to comment further.

Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall declined repeated requests for comment.

In the past, Weinshall has defended Ryan, as did the city's top attorney, Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo, last week when Ryan was indicted on 11 counts of manslaughter in last October's Barberi crash.

Federal prosecutors say Ryan's negligence helped cause the deadly accident because for years he failed to enforce rules requiring both a captain and assistant captain to man each ferry's pilothouse.

Ryan, 52, is also accused of lying to federal investigators to cover up his failures. His attorney said Ryan is innocent and intends to go to trial.

Smith, 55, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and lying on his federal maritime license application by concealing his need for prescription drugs. He said his medication contributed to his blackout before last year's crash.

Long-forgotten, the two 1995 incidents were typical of Smith's and Ryan's lax attitude toward safety, according to several ferry employees, three of them officers with decades of maritime experience.

"Smith was a hot rodder," one ferry officer said, asking that his name be withheld for fear of retaliation. "Ryan knew it."

"Smith would run full blast and he would use propulsion to back down," that source said. "As long as everything worked good, no problem, but he didn't leave himself a lot of leeway."

Smith knew his braking propeller could fail the day he crashed the Barberi in 1995, according to two sources with firsthand knowledge. The problem and the system's prior breakdowns were noted in the captain's log, which the New York Daily News obtained.

"He knew it," another colleague said. "He just didn't care."


© 2004, New York Daily News.

Ferry big has angel in Mike
BY LISA L. COLANGELO, Daily News, August 9, 2004


Mayor Bloomberg angrily defended the city's use of tax dollars to pay the legal bills for the Staten Island ferry director charged with manslaughter in last year's deadly crash.
When asked whether he was concerned about backing Patrick Ryan with city money, Bloomberg snapped: "I'm not concerned. It's my decision."

The Daily News reported yesterday that Ryan knew ferry pilot Richard Smith ignored federal maritime safety regulations twice in 1995 and never reprimanded him.

Smith was piloting the Andrew J. Barberi on Oct. 15 when he passed out. The ferry slammed into a concrete pier, killing 11 people.

"It's shocking," said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan). "If there were coverups of people's behavior, it's unacceptable."

"The city needs to do whatever it can to protect itself," Miller added. "But it is important to make sure that riders are safe and that there is a clear message being sent that people are being held accountable."

Ryan was indicted on 11 counts of manslaughter last week by federal prosecutors, who said he failed to enforce rules requiring both a captain and assistant captain in each ferry's pilothouse.

Smith pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges last week, and could face as little as 33 months behind bars - or three months a life, as some loved ones of those killed see it.

Meanwhile, the ferry's captain, Michael Gansas, was charged last week with lying to the Coast Guard and city cops. He was not in the Staten Island wheelhouse of the Andrew J. Barberi at the time of the crash.

Sources have said Gansas is considering a plea deal. He could become a key witness against Ryan, who is still collecting his $88,894 salary.

City officials have defended Ryan as a "respected and loyal employee" who did nothing wrong. The city so far has doled out $42,000 to Ryan's lawyer.

A guilty verdict against Ryan could mean a liability nightmare for the city, which has been hit with more than $3 billion in claims stemming from the ferry disaster.

With Veronika Belenkaya

The use of public money to support employees is bothersome to many, but not to Corporation Counsel Chief Michael Cardozo:

Conflict Asserted in City-Paid Legal Bills for Ferry Official
Tom Perrotta
New York Law Journal

A Brooklyn federal judge said he will consider whether New York City should be allowed to pay the attorney's fees of Patrick Ryan, who faces 11 manslaughter counts in last year's Staten Island Ferry crash for his role as director of ferry operations.

But Judge Edward R. Korman, the chief judge of the Eastern District, said in a courtroom conference last week that he does not yet see a conflict of interest and suggested he will continue to hear arguments mainly as a matter of caution.

He asked prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf of the Eastern District to explain why Mr. Ryan needed to be worried that the city might not have his best interests at heart.

Mr. Ryan is accused of failing to inform his workers of safety rules that require two pilots to stand in the ferry's wheelhouse at all times. Prosecutors are worried that if he is convicted he might win an appeal and a new trial if a higher court finds that the city should not have paid his legal fees.

Meanwhile, the city said it would no longer pay the attorney's fees of another ferry defendant, John Mauldin, a port captain who allegedly lied to investigators about the "two-pilot" rule. The city had already paid $69,054 in fees for Mr. Mauldin, and it has so far paid $45,799 for Mr. Ryan, according to Kate O'Brien Ahlers, a Corporation Counsel spokeswoman.

The city faces more than $1 billion in civil damages from the crash, which killed 11 and injured dozens more. Mr. Ryan's conviction would likely be a decisive blow to the city's attempt to limit its liability to $14 million under a rarely used maritime law that is a century old. Under the law, the city would have to show that only the ferry's crew, and not a manager of ferry operations, was liable for the crash.

The city gave no reason for dropping Mr. Mauldin's defense fees, but his conviction is less important to the civil case, since he had no responsibility to administer safety rules. Also, prosecutors last week accused him of telling investigators two different stories about the safety rules: first that they were in place, and then that he had not heard of them.

The Andrew J. Barberi crashed last October when its pilot, Richard Smith, passed out behind the wheel of the ferry. He had been taking prescription medication at the time but lied to the U.S. Coast Guard about the drugs. Mr. Smith pleaded guilty to 11 counts of manslaughter.

Unenforced Rule

The ship's captain, Michael J. Gansas, was not at Mr. Smith's side, as the "two-pilot" rule requires. Mr. Gansas allegedly lied to investigators about his whereabouts but escaped manslaughter charges because prosecutors determined the two-pilot rule was not being enforced.

Mr. Gansas has since agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their case against ferry managers, and false-statement charges against him will likely be dropped in the future.

In a letter to Judge Korman on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew J. Frisch wrote that the city's defense of Mr. Ryan brings up "significant competing interests warranting an inquiry by the Court to protect Ryan's constitutionally-guaranteed right to a defense that is predicated on his interests alone."

The letter did not cite a specific conflict. One possible theory is that if Mr. Ryan were to decide that he wanted to discuss a plea, he might not feel free to do so since only his acquittal would serve the city's interests.

Judge Korman declined to appoint an independent counsel to advise Mr. Ryan on any the conflicts he faces and said prosecutors must cite specific conflicts before he will consider the matter further.

Thomas Fitzpatrick, Mr. Ryan's attorney, said, "Judge Korman wasn't very impressed."

In a statement, Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo said, "The City of New York does not believe that Patrick Ryan was in any way responsible for the tragic events of Oct. 15, 2003."

Nicholas M. DeFeis, who represents Mr. Mauldin, the port captain, said he would ask to sever that case from Mr. Ryan's. He said he is willing to represent Mr. Mauldin in a separate trial if Judge Korman approves a court-appointment fee of $90 an hour. Otherwise, he said, he probably will seek to be dismissed from the case.

- Tom Perrotta can be reached at

© 2003 The E-Accountability Foundation