Boak’s NY Senate Campaign to Challenge Murphy Clouded in Scandal And Controversy

Boak_de Blasio

Looks like NYC Mayor de Blasio’s hand-picked candidate against NYS Senator Terrence Murphy is in serious trouble – both ethically and financially.

Steeped in scandal and controversy, Alison Boak and her campaign are caught up in the fundraising investigation surrounding the illegal contributions de Blasio funneled in 2014 to the Democratic Party in Putnam and elsewhere. See our previous post on this issue:

InsidePEEK wonders why Boak would hire the political consultants Red Horse LLC to help run her campaign. Why is this significant? Red Horse is tied into the de Blasio scandal from the last Senate race. They have been subpoenaed by both federal and NYC prosecutors as part of the ongoing criminal investigation. We know she is aware of this because she refused to comment when asked about it when the subpoenas were issued in May. So why use them in the first place? It looks like de Blasio gave her no choice.

It seems like even members of her own party don’t like her alliance with de Blasio. She has had 8 fundraisers but has raised only $52,000. Not very much, especially when compared to Murphy’s $280,000. It doesn’t help that Boak has been a failed candidate in the past – in 2009 for Pound Ridge Town Board and in 2013 for Town Supervisor. She was able to gain a seat on the Town Board in 2011 because she was unopposed, but was thrown out in 2015 when she ran for re-election and faced an actual opponent who exposed her record.

So how does she expect to have enough campaign funds to continue this race? There is no real support from the people that know her and her campaign has no direction or momentum. Could there be another de Blasio plan to funnel money into the Democratic Party coffers throughout the district as was done two years ago? InsidePEEK wouldn’t be surprised since de Blasio has been defiant about his actions of the past. Time will tell.

Then there is this sticky issue regarding Boak’s Florida rental home. There are reports claiming she has neglected to pay state and local taxes and has had her Florida Rental License suspended. InsidePEEK has learned there is a Florida Police Report from 2015 that may shed some light on the issue. Once we have more details InsidePEEK will share them in a future post.

At the start of the 2016 campaign season InsidePEEK predicted Terrence Murphy would handily win re-election. At that time there were 3 candidates looking to challenge him but none, including Boak, had the experience, record or popularity of Murphy. Since that prediction we at InsidePEEK feel even stronger in our assessment. Murphy has excelled as a first term NYS Senator and has worked hard to change the culture of Albany and bring needed reforms in many areas. The people of District 40 will want him to continue.

It seems logical to us that the State Democratic Party has decided to overlook this particular district race this time around. They know the hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent two years ago cannot be repeated on a race they cannot win.


Claxton’s Poor Attempt At Paramount Damage Control

Burning Final

Our recent post on the disappointing state of Paramount Hudson Valley in Peekskill seems to have hit a nerve with those who thought they pulled one over on the citizens of Peekskill. Funny how when the facts and background that was never made public before are suddenly brought forth, those involved get offended and begin lashing out. Then the cover up kicks in. It’s always the cover up that gets ’em.

Thanks to the Peekskill Post news site, we have learned a key clause to the sweetheart lease deal that Morey & Claxton gave Red House Entertainment. We thank Mr. Fumagalli for providing it but he has the wrong understanding of what it means, otherwise he would have pressed Claxton for the truth. He mistakenly took her comments (about the lease and the ‘negotiations’ that created it) as truth.

First, let’s discuss the clause that was referred to in the Peekskill Post article:

“The rent for the premises (the “Rent”) shall be equal to five percent (5%) of (i) the adjusted gross box office receipts (i.e. gross receipts less sales tax, fees paid off-the-top to distributors of digital content (distributor fees), booking agents, ticketing agents, credit card companies and related service providers and the like) of Tenant from actual performances (live or filmed) produced and sold by Tenant and (ii) gross margin (i.e. net sales less actual cost of goods sold) of Paramount Hudson Valley, Playing at the Paramount or Peekskill branded merchandise sales. Rent shall specifically not include any portion of (x) box office receipts from performances produced by any other third party to whom the premises may be rented (including but not limited to any tax-exempt entity which may so utilize the premises), (y) any other merchandise sales or (z) any revenues received from food or beverage (including alcohol) concessions.”

The title and premise of the article reads: “Paramount pays rent based on percentage of gross ticket sales for ‘original productions’” This is not accurate– it is based on “the ADJUSTED gross box office receipts (i.e. gross receipts less sales tax, fees paid off-the-top to distributors of digital content distributor fees…).” This means that AFTER all the fees and related costs are made, which includes full payment to Red House, if there is anything left over THEN the City will get 5% of it. The problem is most shows are not “ORIGINAL PRODUCTIONS” and those few that are don’t make any money so there is nothing to receive 5% of (see example at the end of this post). As we stated in our previous post, this lease is a total sham.

InsidePEEK has learned that Claxton has been “out of control,” (as one of our readers informed us), about the selection committee and truth behind the process being exposed. Her desperate lies in the Post article seem to confirm that. She falsely claimed that the City, under the previous operators, was paying $70,000 a year in utilities. This is not true. While the City did give an annual stipend to the Paramount of roughly $40,000 at one time, it had been slowly reduced to zero, which was agreed to in the previous lease. To state that the previous operators were receiving $120,000 a year from the City (as Claxton did in the Post article) is laughable and totally false. InsidePEEK has been provided information that Claxton and Morey are now stating it was $160,000. If we wait a few more days maybe they’ll even jump it up to more, they can’t help themselves. The lies keep compounding.

The fact of the matter is that we may never know how much Red House has cost the City. Mayor Catalina keeps asking for a full accounting beginning with the lease that was granted to Red House, but the Democratic majority’s appointed City Comptroller has been directed not to provide it. It has been suspected that the full Democratic Council under Mayor Foster misrepresented the Paramount financials all along and that it would take a professional forensic audit to get the true picture.

Here is the ‘money’ line from the article: “Claxton said she does not know how much money the city gets on an annual basis from Red House…” What a joke. She doesn’t know? Claxton likes to say, especially at budget time, she is a finance person who works with numbers all day – and she doesn’t know? In fact, that $40,000 phantom revenue stated by Claxton has been listed in the PROPOSED budget every year since 2013 but when the ACTUAL budget numbers are obtained, there was NO payment made to the City.

Thanks to another reader we were provided Morey’s attempt at damage control through a statement on social media. It seems that Morey and Claxton are working from the same talking points they created. Among other falsehoods, he is totally misrepresenting the Tarrytown Music Hall proposal. He claims Red House asked for no subsidies – this is totally false. In fact, Red House had at least a full year of paying no utility bills. The city picked up the tab. Tarrytown Music Hall only requested a short grace period to get up to speed with the conditions of the debt being assumed and the condition of the physical plant. Red House didn’t have to worry about that since they were promised no utility bill and that the City would make good on the debt.

It soon became clear who was paying the bills and it wasn’t Red House. Some complained of the wasted energy at the Paramount. One of our readers informed us of an incident they witnessed first-hand; “it was only a few weeks after the Paramount reopened under Red House and on very hot day when I was in the vicinity of the Paramount and saw the front doors propped open. I was curious so I went to look inside and see what shows may be coming. I felt a rush of cold air as I approached and thought it odd the doors would be open with the air conditioning on. As I went a little further inside I overheard a conversation between two people near the ticket booth. One person asked the other (who must have been a representative of Red House) why the doors were open while the air conditioning was running. The response was – “we don’t care, the city’s paying for it. Then he smiled and walked away.”

We received an interesting comment from one of our readers who is not connected to the Paramount situation but has experience in theater and entertainment operations: “after what background I already know and reading the latest information regarding the City of Peekskill’s relationship with Red House Entertainment I think the approach may be wrong. It is safe to state that it is nearly impossible for such an operation to survive from ticket sales, there must be other revenue. Red House being a ‘for profit’ operation makes it even more difficult. Usually not-for-profits have access to grant opportunities and it is not unusual to have municipalities contribute to such venues. It happens more than you may realize. In the case of Peekskill and the obvious failing situation there it may be beneficial for the city to run the operation. It seems to me that Red House is nothing more than a glorified booking agent. They probably hired one themselves. Since the city pays for most of the cost of operation of the building they might as well hire their own booking agent and reap the rewards of any profits. Owning the building is a huge advantage. They would have no rent or taxes, just the cost of maintain the building and the booking of shows.”

InsidePEEK felt that this was an interesting take and worth sharing. We do not know if this would be possible but probably worth a look. It can’t be any worse than what is going on now.

One thing we do know is that Red House has, in fact, reached out to Tarrytown Music Hall for help. It is not clear if Tarrytown would be interested since Red House is offering a partnership, not a transfer of operations. From what we have been told Tarrytown Music Hall runs a tight ship and a partnership of any kind seems unlikely and especially not with those at Red House. We can only hope something is done. Peekskill cannot afford to have the Paramount go dark again.

InsidePEEK realizes that the Paramount issue may be difficult to follow. A recent email sent out by Red House after the Michael McDonald concert may help explain why Claxton and Morey’s economics simply don’t add up:

Dear Valued Patrons,

First off, we would like to begin by thanking you for helping make our 86th anniversary such an overwhelming success. It really was a fantastic evening and that is thanks to all of you. With your contributions and support, we were able to raise close to $6,000 for Paramount Hudson Valley Arts!
Kurt Heitmann
CEO Red House Entertainment LLC

They are bragging about raising CLOSE to $6000. That means on a best day, high ticket price, and sold out house, they cleared only $6000. That may sound like a lot of money to some but for an operation that costs somewhere between $300-400,000 a year that is not very much. That means the Paramount would need 50-60 shows like the one they had with McDonald. As we know, most shows are not even close to sellouts, or have high ticket costs. This analysis supports the statement above by one of our readers.

Let’s assume the McDonald concert was an “original show.” According to the lease, that means the city should receive $300 (5% of the adjusted gross). That means that for the City to receive the $40,000 that Claxton claims they received last year, they would have had to have 133 such shows!

In our last post InsidePEEK included a link for the article announcing the selection of Red House by Morey’s committee where they stated the following:

“Red House plans to hold about 80 events the first year if chosen by the Peekskill City Council to run the venue, increasing to around 200 events the following year. The group plans to run as a for-profit and non-profit hybrid, using profitable shows to help fund arts shows. The group estimates about $1.8 million in revenue, with losses of about $370,000 in its first year of operation.”

They have not even come close to the shows or revenues they promised. In fact, its cost to the City has been considerably more than the previous operators. The City Council should have allowed Tarrytown Music Hall take over then, and they should make sure it happens now.

Paramount Theater May Be In Trouble

Paramount_The End

In our last post we indicated we would be visiting the sweetheart deal former Mayor Mary Foster and her Administration gave to the present operators of the Paramount Center, now known as Paramount Hudson Valley. Although we have not yet obtained a copy of the lease there have been many responses to our post (more on that later) including interesting information concerning the Paramount.

We followed up on a number of leads and feel we don’t need to wait for a copy of the lease. Why? Because it looks like Paramount Hudson Valley may not be in operation much longer. So before they possibly close up shop we want to bring forward what our research has produced.

Before we begin, we want to give kudos to a local news outlet, Peekskill Post, for their recent article regarding the possible lease violation committed by the operators of the Paramount. Ironically, it is not one of the violations we discovered. It remains to be seen how the present Mayor and Council react to the discovery.

Read the Peekskill Post Article here:

To understand the disturbing story regarding the present state of the Paramount we must first look at how the organization that was awarded control of the operation, Red House Entertainment, came to be. More importantly, we must understand the ‘committee’ that selected this group that was slapped together just in time for their selection. Here are the members of the “Peekskill Paramount Committee” that was used to ‘steer’ the award to the pre-selected operators: Democratic Party strategist Mike Morey (yes, the same Mike Morey we have discussed in previous posts), Democratic Councilwoman Kathy Talbot, Democratic Cortlandt Town Board Member Richard Becker, Democratic Mayor Mary Foster, Former BID Director and friend to Red House members Jason Angell and then Acting City Manager Brian Havranek, who did whatever Foster told him to do. Never has there been a more obvious pre-determined outcome to a selection process.

Even the Chamber of Commerce knew the fix was in. Hard to believe but the representatives of the business community were excluded from the process. Read about it here:

The question becomes, why? Why go to such lengths to create such an obvious and corrupt process for selecting the operators of the Paramount? The first obvious reason is control. Nothing drives the Morey-Foster-Claxton cabal more than power and control. Come to find out, to no one’s surprise, Morey has a close connection to the Red House members. They are all from Putnam County and are connected to some of Morey’s Democratic political clients. This was a classic case of political payoff. This is the terrible truth behind most of the actions of the Peekskill Democratic Party.

Two other groups were interested in being considered to run the Paramount. One was called the “Paramount Phoenix Group,” a most unoriginal and corny name. This group was headed by local restaurateur Arne Paglia, who has absolutely no experience running a theater so his bid was understandably thrown out right away.

Read the article from 2013 outlining the selection of Red House (note Morey sitting at the far right in the photo):

The other organization interested was the highly successful Tarrytown Music Hall. InsidePEEK was recently informed that Tarrytown Music Hall was moments away from taking over the Paramount 9 months earlier! Yes, the previous Paramount Center for the Arts organization had been in months long conversation and negotiations with them to seamlessly take over the operation of the theater! Tarrytown was ready and willing to take over immediately and honor any outstanding debt left by the previous group, including advanced ticket sales for events that ultimately became cancelled.  Tarrytown Music Hall was in a perfect position to do this; those ticket holders that got burned would have two venues to select replacement tickets from!

Morey-Foster-Claxton would not have it. This was their chance to get total control and power over the Paramount while also allowing Morey to provide his political patronage. They preferred to let the Paramount go dark for 9 months and suffer serious physical deterioration just so they could trick the public into thinking they were actually the saviors of the theater.

With their friends of Red House now selected, it was important for them to put in place a lease that would assure their success, even if it meant the City (which really means the citizens of Peekskill) pay for the operation. That’s right, the Foster Administration used taxpayer funds to pay the expenses of running the theater. They had to – the lease was a farce. They had to manipulate to make it look like Red House was a success – which was the farthest thing from the truth. Red House soon became difficult to work with. They put a poor schedule in place and failed to generate excitement for the theater. They continually criticized the previous operators in public and fought with many of their neighbors in the downtown. Their lack of experience combined with their poor business and public relations sense became a recipe for disaster. If Mayor Foster was not thrown out of office in 2013, the City would still be paying the bills. Some of our readers suspect they still are to a lesser degree. For example, the Peekskill Common Council majority recently authorized $15,000 be spent on the Paramount air conditioning equipment that was not properly maintained by Red House.

So what is the condition of things at the Paramount today? InsidePEEK has learned that the Paramount Hudson Valley/Red House Entertainment is on the verge of collapse. The termination of the organization may be imminent. This is not good news for the great City of Peekskill. The success of the Paramount, no matter who operates it, is a key for the success of the downtown and the many businesses that rely on it.

InsidePEEK has also learned that there may be good news – that there have been secret negotiations by Red House to once again entice Tarrytown Music Hall to assume operation of the Paramount. How ironic. The very organization that would and could have taken over four years ago and delivered true success, is now being asked to save it once again. We can only hope the negotiations are successful and we can once again have a thriving operation at the Paramount. Let’s also hope that Claxton, McKenzie, Talbot and Noodle let it happen this time.

As we referred to at the beginning of this post, our pervious entry received a record number of responses. Thank you to all our readers who sent us their thoughts on the information provided, both positive and negative. Now more than ever we at InsidePEEK understand the importance of providing the information and facts related to issues that are either unknown or purposely ignored by the general media. InsidePEEK stands by the information we provide. It is carefully researched and corroborated through various sources. We realize that learning truths can be unnerving sometimes but can also be empowering. InsidePEEK believes it is better to be an informed citizen who can have all the facts presented related to the issues affecting their day-to-day lives.

Claxton & McKenzie Continue to Embarrass Peekskill

Claxto_Mckenzie_Still at it

Disgraced and embattled Peekskill Councilwoman Drew Claxton and ethically challenged Councilwoman Vivian McKenzie are at it again. Their tag team approach of attacking fellow board members and members of the general public have reached new lows.

It seems that the quiet lull created by the beginning of summer has convinced both Claxton and McKenzie that their legal and public relations battles are over. Nothing could further from the truth. In fact, the investigations are continuing. As more and more facts emerge, the investigations continuously extend. It will take months but more will be coming out on Ms. Claxton’s dealings and those she did business with.

Before we get into the lies, deceit and embarrassment to the good citizens of Peekskill perpetrated by these two so-called government officials, we need to clarify what is likely to be the single most self-serving ruse ever inflicted on the pubic – the FAKING of being sick to gain sympathy and shelter from criticism. Yes, Drew Claxton did not recently have cancer as she led people to believe and as the Democratic Party minions spread. At the height of her public exposure for illegal grant funds she obtained and the laws she violated, she devised (along with her advisors) a plan to turn a routine colonoscopy into a case of cancer. Cries went out to back off while she battled her ‘disease.’ Have sympathy it was said, have a heart was said. We even received emails about it. It worked – until now. Claxton herself exposed her ruse recently in a meeting by stating she had missed meetings being away in Florida and California. She was not in the process of treatments as the public was led to believe but rather gallivanting and visiting family. She not only further lost the public trust by such action, she totally abandoned her responsibilities as an elected member of the City government. She should be ashamed of herself.

On top of her criminal acts of obtaining grant funds and orchestrating an illegal meeting and budget vote (each alone are grounds for resignation), she premeditated a way to remove herself from the public eye to let things cool down surrounding her actions. Her mentor and advisor, Michael Morey, taught her well and most likely helped in the planning of the whole thing. It almost worked. Now, she can expect a renewed outcry for her resignation.

In recent weeks, both Claxton and McKenzie have been attacking members of the public wishing to give donations to the City, including the Peekskill Rotary Club! Hard to believe but the focus of City government has been arguing over trees and gazebos, not moving forward projects waiting to begin. Projects, like the Abby (St. Mary’s property) and Gateway on Main Street, that will bring the city much needed revenue. The Peekskill Democratic Party has been against many projects from their inception and, thanks to former Mayor Mary Foster and her majority Council, they were all stopped in their tracks. Developers have millions of dollars invested and want to see their plans move forward. The Democratic Party appointees to boards such as the Peekskill Planning Board have made sure there have not been enough members in attendance to be able to vote on items. It has been months now that this sleazy tactic has been used by the Democrats to prevent approvals. They know the community wants these projects to move forward so voting against them in public would be a political liability. So they use the usual deceptive tactics they are known for.

It has become common knowledge that McKenzie plans on running for mayor next year. She has become very vocal and has attempted to make her voice one of the loudest. The problem is she has exposed her lack of understanding and knowledge of the issues by doing so. She has been desperate to deflect away from her breech of ethics for sharing a confidential email to the press. At one point she attempted to falsely implicate a fellow council member of doing business for the City and getting paid for work done at the Paramount Center. She asked for invoices be produced from the previous two years. Mayor Catalina then requested that the invoices to be produced should go back farther than just two years, up to seven years. Well, not only did the maneuver by McKenzie backfire when it was proven no such payment was made to her Council colleague – by looking back that far, MacKenzie knew it would be shown that she herself was the one who committed the violation. (Yes, her business, Kathleen’s Tea Room, was the beneficiary of funds for catering Youth Bureau events – while she has been a sitting councilwoman!) Unbelievable! No wonder her continuous probing for Paramount related invoices abruptly ceased.

So not only has she violated the ethics code by exposing confidential email, she has garnered personal financial gain through her position as an elected official. Wow – and she wants to run for mayor?!

Here is the critical underlying mistake that will surely come back to bite the Peekskill Democrats: they made the Paramount Center a focus of discussion. Something they know should never happen as it would expose their actions related to the new operators. Seeing the opening handed him, Mayor Catalina asked to review sweetheart lease the Democrats gave them – he continues to be prevented from doing so. Why? InsidePEEK is attempting to obtain a copy of the lease to bring you the details in the future. We have received numerous emails on this issue and one of our readers strongly suggested we look into the matter stating: “the members of the committee that selected the present operators are all Democrat elites who have close ties to the hastily formed organization that was awarded the lease.” Sounds interesting to us. Expect more details to follow once we obtain it.

Finally for this post, we need to mention the most recent ‘you can’t make this stuff up’ moment. It involved Councilman Noodle (yes, there is a City of Peekskill Council member that goes by the name Noodle –and no, that is not what we are referring to). It was brought to our attention that Noodle was forced to attend the June 27th Common Council meeting by his Democratic Party bosses because they needed his vote to turn down the aforementioned gazebo donation. He was not planning on attending because he contracted the highly contagious Conjunctivitis, aka ‘Pink Eye.’ He at least had the sense to want to stay away from a public gathering but his handlers refused to let him – so he wore sunglasses to the meeting.

It’s sad to see the level that the Peekskill City government has sunk to – continuous ethics violations, deceiving the public about illness, preventing much needed projects from advancing, sweetheart deals for friends, fights over gifts from the public, Noodles, Pink Eye and sunglasses. What could be next?

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