Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Coming Tomorrow: Noticing New York Discloses What MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger Has in His Closet

(MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger)

Tomorrow Noticing New York will disclose something about what MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger has in his closet.

Preparatory to that, a few things first. Yesterday we spent the greater portion of our day at the MTA in order to be present and also testify when the MTA’s Finance Committee heard new information about Atlantic Yards. (See: Tuesday, June 23, 2009, Thoughts on the MTA’s Finance Committee Meeting Wherein Atlantic Yards Was Considered as an “Information Item” and Monday, June 22, 2009, More on Planning in Advance to Bail Out Forest City Ratner Upon the Inevitable Arrival of an Economic Downturn.)

One thing we concerned ourselves with in our testimony and about which we have recently written is the board members’ obligation to respect and live by their fiduciary duty when they vote on Atlantic Yards. (See: Monday, June 22, 2009, Plus Ça Change, (The More Things Change,) Plus Une Chose En Particulier Ne Change Pas: La Transaction Fixée (The Wired Deal)! )

We think that we ought to observe that this is not an abstract concept that is divorced from the other things that happen in life. Just because someone is a board member of a public agency doesn’t mean that this “fiduciary duty” becomes a fiction that can somehow be supplanted by political realty. A fiduciary duty is a real legal obligation and related to the other things one does in life.

We are aware that board members of public agencies are real people who have real private and professional lives and that in those lives there are also responsibilities and obligations and even other fiduciary duties they must observe in other contexts. This may extend to such things as the fiduciary duty to properly administer a relative’s trust or estate and, for instance, we note that Mr. Hemmerdinger, to quote just from what is available on the MTA’s website:

. . . . is president and director of The Hemmerdinger Corporation, a commercial and residential real estate ownership and development company based in New York City.

He also serves as president of Atco Properties & Management, Inc. and Atco Properties Services Corporation and is chairman of Atlas Real Estate Funds, Inc. He is also a board member of Valley National Bank.

Mr. Hemmerdinger is active in civic and business affairs in the New York region and is a trustee and secretary/treasurer of the NYC Police Foundation, a partner in the Partnership for New York City, and trustee and chairman emeritus of the Citizens Budget Commission. He serves as executive vice president of the Realty Foundation of New York, is a member of the Real Estate Board of New York, and is a former commissioner of the City of New York Conciliation and Appeals Board.

He is a 1967 graduate of New York University, where he also did graduate work, and is a trustee of the university, where he is on the budget/finance, alumni relations, library, and executive committees.
As one can see, there are in these activities a great many situations where Mr. Hemmerdinger has significant fiduciary duties and other responsibilities wherein others need to put faith and trust in him. Inevitably, these are all connected just as even our honesty in dealing with our families also relates to such things. You can’t have a breach of trust in one area of your life and not expect repercussions in another area. When it comes to such things one should not expect that expect failure to observe duties and responsibilities and maintain trust can be isolated by cognitive dissonance. Even legally, breaches may well wind up being very much connected.

That is all we will say for now. And we say because we hope that tomorrow the members of the MTA board will remember that they have a fiduciary duty to uphold. We hope they know that failure to uphold these responsibilities cannot be a discrete and separate thing.

And for tomorrow we also offer the promise that we will disclose something about what MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger has in his closet.

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