Harvey Pitt is either a moron or a scoundrel-either way, his resignation this week as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission will surely save him from further embarrassing revelations, though it will do little to erase his bumbling behavior as S.E.C. chairman over the past 18 months. The White House’s patience with Mr. Pitt finally ran out, as news broke of the S.E.C. chairman’s unseemly maneuvers to install a flawed candidate-former C.I.A. and F.B.I. director William Webster-as head of a new board overseeing the accounting profession.
One would have to think hard to recall a more revolting example of mischief by a public official in Mr. Pitt’s shoes. As The New York Times first reported, in mid-October Mr. Pitt failed to inform his four fellow S.E.C. commissioners that Mr. Webster, whom they were about to appoint as head of the new federal accounting board, had been in charge of the auditing committee of a company, U.S. Technologies, which was facing accusations of fraud. Mr. Pitt knew full well of Mr. Webster’s involvement with the tainted company, because Mr. Webster had told him about it himself. Any reasonable and ethical S.E.C. chairman would have looked at Mr. Webster’s association with U.S. Technologies and concluded that this was hardly the man to put in charge of supervising the accounting industry. After all, this was a company facing lawsuits from investors who say they were defrauded millions of dollars, and whose audit committee, headed by Mr. Webster, had fired an outside audit firm when it raised questions about the company’s financial controls. Indeed, although his years as a public servant were unblemished, Mr. Webster’s past decade in corporate life has served to almost erase that image of probity. The Times recently catalogued Mr. Webster’s less-than-flattering record as a private lawyer, including his involvement with a telecommunications company, NextWave, which defaulted on billions of dollars to the F.C.C., and in the early 1990′s, lobbying against background security checks for airport screeners -a curious position for the former head of the F.B.I. to take.
But not only did Mr. Pitt leave his S.E.C. colleagues in the dark about Mr. Webster’s slippery role at U.S. Technologies, he also kept the information from the White House and Congress, and so Mr. Webster was confirmed. But when The Times broke the story, Mr. Pitt realized he’d been caught red-handed, and so he pre-emptively called for an investigation into Mr. Webster’s appointment.
This wasn’t the first example of Mr. Pitt’s arrogant and inept behavior. Earlier this year, it was revealed that Mr. Pitt had met privately with executives whose companies were under investigation by the S.E.C. And over the summer, he secretly, and unsuccessfully, lobbied Congress to elevate the S.E.C. chairmanship to a Cabinet level position.
And so the White House wised up and gave Mr. Pitt the hint that it was time to go. It will be up to his replacement to help restore Americans’ trust in corporate behavior and financial markets-a trust which Harvey Pitt broke with reckless frequency.
Bishop Daily And the Pedophile
The daily headlines chronicling the crisis in the American Catholic Church have faded, but the crisis and the anger remain. That was made clear recently, when newly released court documents showed that Brooklyn Bishop Thomas Daily conceded that he promoted a now-notorious priest despite knowing that the clergymen advocated sex between men and boys.
The incident took place in the early 1980′s, when Bishop Daily was a top administrator in the Archdiocese of Boston, and when the Reverend Paul R. Shanley was an obscure priest who was publicly advocating sex with minors and attending meetings of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. In testimony given last August, Bishop Daily admitted that he knew about Father Shanley’s twisted views and had received numerous complaints about him. Nevertheless, the bishop appointed Father Shanley to become the acting pastor of a parish in the Boston suburbs.
Father Shanley is now one of the key figures in the pedophile scandal that has overwhelmed the American Catholic Church. He is accused of molesting at least 25 children. Asked if he regretted his decision, Bishop Daily could say only, “I think I would have done much better if I hadn’t made the appointment.” But that’s not the point: Imagine how much better off the victims would be had the bishop removed this sick individual from their presence.
It’s no wonder that Catholic lay people throughout the country are demanding not just expressions of regret, but fundamental changes to ensure that children are never again victimized by priests, and that bishops are held accountable for their actions.
Ben Lambert Makes a Difference
For every New Yorker who throws up his or her hands when faced with the city’s public-school crisis, there are, fortunately, others who dig in their heels and take action to make things better. One such person is Ben Lambert, who founded the Harlem Day Charter School in September 2001, in partnership with the nonprofit Sheltering Arms Children’s Service. Just one year later, the school is proof that New York’s poorest children need not have their lives further diminished by an impoverished educational environment.
Located at 240 East 123rd Street, the school has so far enrolled 120 students, 88 percent of whom come from homes below the poverty line. In just one year, the students have shown remarkable improvements in scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. No class has more than 20 students, and the school day is 40 percent longer than a regular New York public school day. Kids from all five boroughs are eligible to attend, free of charge. The school’s modern facility, located within a public-housing project, recently underwent a $3 million renovation.
Like all beginning ventures, the ongoing success of the Harlem Day Charter School depends on new donors and volunteers. Those who would like to help may call 532-8430.