Page 16 THE VILLADOM TIMES IV • August 12, 2009 that he broke the law twice, he said only about a dozen weed trees had been cut down. Two borough officials, both honest men, lumbered through the lot and determined that the actual unlucky number had been 113, and that many of the trees had been so thick – based on the stumps – that their substitutes could not be expected to grow back for 10 to 20 years or more. This wasn’t, I think, a prison offense because it was based on stupidity rather than cupidity, as my friend Special Agent Tom Kimmel of the FBI used to say. It was a dismissal-from-job offense because the man broke the law, then lied to public officials, and basically didn’t know the laws surrounding his job. He must have understood security precautions: The telephone system in his district was set up in such a way that when you tried to call his office, the call was transferred through three secretaries until it came to an answering machine that was always full and would not accept calls. When he left, the kids in his own district published a story in the school newspaper asserting that his job had been an unnecessary waste of taxpayer money and that having a high school principal and a district superintendent was an odious and expensive redundancy. My own profession is somewhat more demanding. If you provoke a libel suit, or if you can’t cut your job, you hit the bricks, pronto. The school administrator finally retired – voluntarily – years and years afterwards. Nobody told him, “You’re fired!” Nobody was watching that particular store either. Some years ago, after endless searching, a large community hired a manager who was also the manager of a personnel recruiting firm. He was his own top choice, which is not very surprising. What is surprising is that – in violation of the contract he signed – he kept working as a personnel recruiter at his previous business even though he had promised not to. He was rude to his staff and to me. He was also rude to a man who had done that particular town a lot of good. Eventually the rudeness caught up with him. He left. I don’t print rumors, but there have been several building inspectors so notoriously corrupt that nobody was surprised to hear about it – but because the code they were was sent to enforce was so absurdly stringent, none of the people who needed help dared to inform on them. One hand washes the other. Both stay dirty. My first job out of the Army – 40 years ago – was at a warehouse where the fire exits were constantly blocked by skids loaded with merchandise that weighed several thousand pounds each. The fire inspector would walk in, go to the office, and come away with a big smile. He also got free merchandise if he wanted any. He usually did. How do you prevent corruption? A sense of honor couldn’t hurt. Europeans or Asians who get caught stealing from the public sometimes commit suicide. Americans tend to put everything in a relative’s name and hope for a safe cell. In America, your honor is your net worth. Period! In some cultures – including ancient Persia and Korea before the Japanese took over – the whole family was executed if an official proved corrupt. I find that cruel and extreme, not to mention unconstitutional. What we should do is strictly legal. We should revise the civic code so any public official convicted of a crime related to his or her office should forfeit all pensions, members of his or her immediate family should be ruled ineligible for public employment, and his or her children should be ruled ineligible for public assistance or public scholarships. There is a precedent for this in Britain. During the Napoleonic Wars, the custom of dueling, usually with pistols, was killing off a number of young officers whose services would have been more useful in combat. The British enacted a law to control dueling. If an officer killed a man in a duel, that officer was charged with murder and hanged. This considerably reduced the incidence of dueling. The next law eliminated dueling entirely: Any officer who killed or was killed in a duel forfeited the right to a pension for his wife and children. Hot-blooded men of valor now had an excuse not to duel: “I must protect my family first!” Go for it, New Jersey! Once political crooks learn they are going to have to pay taxes for the rest of their lives instead of stealing them once they get caught, there’s apt to be a serious outbreak of honesty in the Garden State. Bad, bad Hudson County. If you read about what is going on down in that sinkhole of iniquity, you would think that corruption is a way of life in New Jersey. Of course, we all know that’s nonsense. Anybody up here in the land of pristine purity remember the man who worked for a local board of education? I liked him. I could sometimes get into his office to interview him. Most of the time, the self-important people with taxpayerfunded jobs are “in a meeting.” It is amazing how much time people spend in meetings when reporters are around – simply amazing. They must spend eight hours a day in meetings. Not this guy. Most of the time, he would sit down and talk things over. He was cooperative and friendly. One day, during a tough time when my mother was dying, my son was in college without a scholarship, and I was financially challenged to a daunting degree, I walked into the school employee’s office and found out that his computers had been unplugged and carried off, the file cabinets were open, and there were no papers in the drawers. Just before my arrival, 10 U.S. Treasury agents had taken this man away in handcuffs and confiscated the entire inventory. I was dumbfounded. I never suspected any wrongdoing. He had hit on a scheme of beautiful simplicity. Working with a friendly contractor, he awarded contracts – always for just under $10,000, due to federal regulations about reporting income – for landscaping work that either never got done or didn’t cost the contractor anything remotely resembling $10,000. The two of them would then drive down to a check-cashing place in Englewood and cash the checks and pocket the money. As the years rolled by, the man and his friend cost the taxpayers an estimated $1.7 million for work around the schools that remained, shall we say, invisible. Somebody finally blew the whistle. The honest person in the case remained anonymous, probably to protect his or her life from others who are less than honest and hate nothing more than a squealer. My guess is that some poor soul who could never get any work with the school district despite reasonable bids asked a federal official to look into the matter. Either that, or somebody bragged too much. The U.S. Treasury Department came for the computers. The man was convicted and got some prison time. The district never got its money back. He appears to have put most of it in someone else’s name. A few years later, another school official decided that a private contractor who wanted a contract to put up awnings for the school buildings should do some work at the school official’s own house at no charge, except perhaps to the people who were paying that official’s salary. He got caught, too. Is anybody watching the store? Does anybody know how to spot a crook? I guess not. They must not teach that in school. Another case: One school official ordered contractors to chainsaw 113 quality trees without getting a permit from the state or from the town. When confronted with the fact Is there corruption in northwest Bergen? (continued from page 17) a form for the tax refund. The form requires the entry of personal and financial information. The refund scam is the most common one seen by the IRS. Several recent variations on this scam have claimed to come from the exempt organizations area of the IRS. Some others have included the name and purported signature of a genuine or a madeup IRS executive. Taxpayers do not have to complete a special form to obtain a refund. Taxpayer refunds are based on the tax return they submit to the IRS. How to Spot a Scam Many e-mail scams are sophisticated and hard to detect. However, there are signs to watch for, such as an e-mail that: Requests detailed or an unusual amount of personal and/ or financial information, such as name, SSN, bank or credit card account numbers or security-related information, such as mother’s maiden name, either in the e-mail or on another site to which a link in the e-mail sends the recipient. Dangles bait to get the recipient to respond to the email, such as mentioning a tax refund or offering to pay the recipient to participate in an IRS survey. Threatens a consequence for not responding to the email, such as additional taxes or blocking access to the recipient’s funds. Gets the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agency names wrong. Uses incorrect grammar or odd phrasing (many of the e-mail scams originate overseas and are written by nonnative English speakers). Uses a really long address in any link contained in the e-mail message or one that does not start with the actual IRS website address ( To see the actual link address, or url, move the mouse over the link included in the text of the e-mail. What to Do The IRS does not initiate taxpayer contact via unsolicited e-mail or ask for personal identifying or financial information via e-mail. If you receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to come from the IRS, take the following steps: Do not open any attachments to the e-mail, in case they contain malicious code that will infect your computer. IRS offers anti-scam tips Do not click on any links, for the same reason. Be aware that the links often connect to a phony IRS website that appears authentic and then prompts the victim for personal identifiers, bank or credit card account numbers, or PINs. The phony websites appear legitimate because the appearance and much of the content are directly copied from an actual page on the IRS website and then modified by the scammers for their own purposes. Contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine whether the IRS is trying to contact you. Forward the suspicious e-mail or url address to the IRS mailbox, then delete the e-mail from your inbox. Genuine IRS website The only genuine IRS website is All IRS. gov Web page addresses begin with Anyone wishing to access the IRS site should type the IRS. gov address into their Internet address window, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail. Industrial zones (continued from page 4) conclusion that the ordinance lacked the oversight required by the municipal land use law. Following Harris’ ruling, Megan Fraser, vice president of communications and marketing for the Valley Hospital, advised that the hospital would not appeal the court ruling and would drop plans for a fitness and wellness center in Mahwah. She explained that the hospital is focusing on renewing its campus in Ridgewood and would not, therefore, go forward with any additional plans to open a wellness center in Mahwah. Valley was seeking to occupy 90,230 square feet of an existing building on the south end of McKee Drive that is currently occupied by F&M Expressions Unlimited Inc., and the Lincoln Tech Institute, which occupies the other 79,200 square feet of the building. A fitness center, a three pool aquatic center, a child care center, day spa, classrooms, and a health food café were included in the plan for the building.