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  dossier 10: The Gold Tooth
The novel "McTeague", by Frank Norris takes place in late 19th century San Francisco. The eponymous main character practices dentistry, not very successfully and without formal training. Outside his office window hangs his shingle-- in the form of a giant gilded tooth. McTeague marries a skinflint and their marriage becomes a bitter war of wills, with McTeague bent on obtaining his wife's money. Eventually he murders her. In the 1920's, a never completed silent film was made of "McTeague" by director Erich Von Stroheim. It was retitled "Greed". The final scenes were amongst those shot and take place in Death Valley, in a landscape of baked out isolation. But not all roads to hell are so hot or so lonely.

A few months ago the NYTimes ran a column about how Connecticut is now vying with New Jersey as the most corrupt state in the northeast. Among Connecticut's qualifications were the recent conviction of former state Treasurer Paul Silvestri for racketeering and money laundering and the municipal corruption cases of Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim and ex-mayor Phil Giordano of Waterbury. The Giordano case had taken a particularly nasty turn when wiretaps caught X Mayor Phil arranging to buy two girls, aged 8 and 10, for sexual purposes. But the NYTimes ultimately came down in favor of Jersey, saying their sleaze is more ingrained. I thought it a wrong call. First, the author seriously underestimated Connecticut's history. Second, he was slighting other northeast states in making the contest a two horse race. Finally, the scoring was way off. Phil Giordano ratchets up Connecticut's numbers big time: if X Mayor Phil were a baseball card he could be traded for handfuls of others. And after the column appeared, federal corruption investigations moved further into Governor Rowland's administration. Proving Connecticut is definitely nosing ahead.

Both Joseph Ganim and Phil Giordano became QT subjects almost two years ago, as did other corruption cases that were beginning to unfold in the northeast USA. Since that time numerous pols from both parties plus various cronies and public contractors have troted out the old line: "I welcome this investigation". Some got shackled and did the perp walk. There have been convictions of the mighty. Trials still loom. Investigations are ongoing. But for Giordano and Ganim the game is almost over. Of course, for every door that closes another one opens. But before moving on through, some last words about Giordano and Ganim.

Phil Giordano was elected mayor of Waterbury for three terms. In 2001, immediately after those terms, Waterbury went broke. The state became its financial steward. As recently as 2000, Giordano was Connecticut's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. When mayor, Giordano was seen as a revitalizin' ball of fire. His bully boy style and penchant for public contractors with questionable connections went largely ignored. In his recent trial testimony, Giordano admitted taking cash and expensive clothes from one "Joe" in return for a city sewage contract. X Mayor Phil was long time buddies with Joe Pontoriero of Worth Construction. Worth had been barred from doing business with the New York City school system because of Pontoriero's alleged mob ties, yet was awarded the contract to upgrade Waterbury's wastewater treatment facilities. X Mayor Phil also tried to put Worth in charge of the city's downtown revitalization, neglecting to mention that the company was under investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General's office. X Mayor Phil also had a widely rumored thing for hookers. Particularly those with addictions. Some were black and some were clients from his days as a public defender. As was the woman who eventually--and repeatedly-- sold him her 8 year old daughter and 10 year old niece. Graphic testimony about these encounters has been carried in local and national media, including the fact that when the little girls cried, they were promised gifts and money. Their mother/aunt took most of the cash and bought crack. The two children received an education in corruption and betrayal from their closest flesh and blood and from a white authority figure that to an 8 and 10 year old, seemed like God. No doubt that was part of the thrill for X Mayor Phil. And since, by his own words, he took gifts and money in exchanged for favors, he may have enjoyed casting children in his own image.

Some have said: "This isn't about Waterbury, it's about Phil Giordano". No? As mentioned, a good portion of the truth was out there. At times it reached critical media mass. Though his taste for children wasn't known, Giordano sported a major coat of corruption and sleaze. Yet he won three terms as mayor. And what about the wider arena of Connecticut? X Phil X ran for United States Senator. The state Republican Party vetted his candidacy. He got campaign contributions from movers and shakers statewide. Some came from public contractors and politicians prominent in the administration of Democrat Mayor Joseph Ganim of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the state's largest city. And in an act of true bi partisanship, Mayor Ganim himself contributed to X Mayor Phil.

In mid March, Mayor Joseph Ganim was found guilty on 16 federal corruption counts, including racketeering, extortion and bribery. Ganim took kickbacks on contracts for city sewer work, redevelopment of city land, demolition of blighted housing and the investment of police and fire department pension funds. He bought himself a million dollar insurance policy with city money. Bridgeport is poor. Despite a ballyhooed rebirth, median income is on the decline. Yet Ganim conspicuously consumed. His hunger for graft was mammoth. Custom suits. Shoes. Jewelry. His BMW literally sagged beneath the weight of gift cases of investment quality wine. A gym was built in his McMansion. City sewer lines were extended to his door. In the mid 90's, Donald Trump was looking at Bridgeport as a potential casino site. Ganim pressed his weary bagmen to squeeze Trump harder. Mayor for 5 terms, Ganim's star was on the rise. In 1999, Ganim shared top honors in the City Livability Awards Program, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and supported financially by Waste Management, Inc. the world's largest provider of comprehensive waste services. By 2000 Ganim was considered the likely challenger to Republican Governor John G. Rowland in the 2002 Connecticut gubernatorial race. Thanks to the feds, Rowland dodged the bullet. Thanks to the feds, he has other problems.

In early March, Governor Rowland's former Deputy Chief of Staff Lawrence Alibozek, pled guilty in federal court to taking "corrupt payments" in return for steering multi-million dollar state contracts. Prior to Alibozek's 97-99 stint as Rowland's deputy Chief of Staff, he was deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development. Alibozek is believed to be cooperating with the FBI. A few days after his plea, subpoenas were awarded to current officials in the Rowland administration, including a chief deputy commissioner at the Department of Public Works and a deputy commissioner at the Department of Children and Families. Subpoenas were also issued for information, such as phone logs, files, correspondence and billing records at other agencies. Including the Department of Transportation and the Department of Economic Development. Investigators seem to be focusing on three state projects: the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown, a parking garage at Bradley International Airport and the Superior Court and Center for Juvenile Matters in Bridgeport. The contracts to build all three sites were held by the Tomasso Group, contractors based in New Britain. Tomasso is a prominent northeast company, with a number of related entities. A senior official and family member of Tomasso is believed to be a subject of investigation along with his friend, former Rowland chief of staff Peter N. Ellef. Ellef resigned last year when the state trash authority, an agency he chaired, lost $220 Million dollars in a deal with Enron. Ellef was good friends with Lawrence Alibozek and both were part of the Rowland crew during the same period. Ellif was also an ex-officio member of the Connecticut Development Authority. As was former state Treasurer Paul Silvestri, now in federal custody awaiting sentencing on the racketeering and money laundering charges mentioned earlier.

Governor Rowland says that as far as his own actions go, all is jake. And he stands by the Tommaso Group. His low rent stays at their luxo resorts in Vermont and Florida mean nothing. Tommaso may have contributed to his campaigns but so have all the state's major contractors. No quid pro quo was expected or given. Rowland also points out, quite rightly, that both Democrats and Republicans in Connecticut benefit equally from public contractor largesse, including that of the Tommaso Group. And in a March 12th New York Newsday article, a Democratic former mayor of New Britain agreed, stressing the harmless nature of such generosity: "I think a lot of this has to go to access more than anything else...the ability to get in the door." Does that mean those who don't ante up have to hang in the hall? And how specific does a spade have to be before it gets called a spade?

Speaking of digging, I hope the FBI filled in the holes in Lawrence Alibozek's New Bridgeport backyard. The ones made when they dug up his hidden cache of gold. Alibozek preferred his "corrupt payments" colored mellow yellow and distrusted banks because of then looming Y2K. As a more broad matter of taste you could say Alibozek, like many others, has a gold tooth. As in-- a craving for other people's money. Which in public servants gets fed by abuse of power.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff

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Copyright (c) 2002 by Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff. This material may be freely distributed subject to the terms and conditions set forth in the Open Publication License. This license relieves the author of any liability or implication of warranty, grants others permission to use the Content in whole or in part, and insures that the original author will be properly credited when Content is used. It also grants others permission to modify and redistribute the Content if they clearly mark what changes have been made, when they were made, and who made them. Finally, the license insures that if someone else bases a work on this Content, that the resultant work will be made available under the Open Publication License as well.


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