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In UN's New Justice, Sex for Contracts Charges Covered Up, UN Wants to Try Again

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 3 -- The case of two former UN staff members who were summarily dismissed after being named as having accepted the service of prostitutes in exchange for awarding UN contracts is among the first to be taken up by the UN's new system of justice. In a hearing in the UN's basement on Monday, Judge Goolam Hoosen Kader Meeran of the new UN Dispute Tribunal cajoled the representatives of Walter Cabrera and Brian Streb to agree to let him review their case based only on the documents considered by the now defunct Joint Disciplinary Committee.

  Cabrera's representative said that before the JDC, they didn't contest the facts -- that UN contractor TCIL offered escort and bar services and paid for the hotel, reportedly -- but rather argued this did not constitute serious misconduct and they shouldn't have been fired.

  Judge Meeran said he will review the file and rule, and "will not rake over the past." He proposed that how ever he rules, his public opinion will say that the underlying facts are "well known to the parties."

  These parties, including the UN, agreed Monday to this diplomatic language. What they forget is that the victim of the crime, if it was one, are the taxpayers whose money is wasted by corrupt UN procurement. The UN only became aware of the charges of sexual favors for contracts because it was testified to elsewhere in Manhattan, by witness Kohli at the Federal Court trial of Sanjay Bahel.

  Once it came out, and Inner City Press ran the names, the UN had to take action. But now its new justice system proposes to gloss over the facts, and the UN's lawyer agreed.

UN's Ban and UNDT judges including Goolam Meeran, gloss over sex for contacts not shown

   The UN's representative at Monday hearing at first attacked the Joint Disciplinary Panel's proceeding as "highly irregular," and argued that the two men's cases should be re-litigated before Justice Meeran. This seemed wasteful, particularly in light of his argument that the two cases should be combined so as to save money.

  After being dressed down by Judge Goolam Meeran, the UN's lawyer began to praise the JDP, saying only that because of the difference in venues -- the JDC was not binding -- the UN might have presented more evidence.

   It became clear that the UN Secretariat's prefers this new justice system to the previous one. The conflict of interest of the Secretary General not having timely ruled on the JDC recommendation, and that being a basis for his representative to argue for a second chance to present evidence was also apparent.

   Cabrera's and Streb's representatives contended to Inner City Press, not without basis, that the UN wants to try the case again, a form of double jeopardy. That the UN consented so easily to pre-agreed on cover up of a scandal does not bode well. We will continue to follow the case.

Footnotes: during Monday's hearing, Brian Streb approached Inner City Press and, perhaps surprisingly, offered praise, that he's been out of work for two years but reads Inner City Press, that it's needed. Inner City Press expected him to be angry for having been named at the person alluded to in Kohli's testimony, and for having made the connection between him and the Capital Master Plan.

   On the other hand, Inner City Press has more recently covered questions about Procurement Task Force chief Robert Appleton and is working on another story questioning the objectively of the PTF under Appleton. Mr. Appleton stopped answering questions when he saw he could not control, and he's had other UN officials step forward in his defense. If we had to choose between the two....

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At UN, Construction Accidents and Fire Hazards Subject to Secret Meeting, Anti-Whistleblower

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- The day after the UN's Capital Master Plan sealed off an area in front of the Security Council balcony with red "Asbestos" tape and then afterwards quickly declared the area safe, CMP chief Michael Adlerstein barred the Press from a "Town Hall" meeting about the plan and safety.

  Adlerstein, when Inner City Press was previously blocked from covering such a meeting, promised to allow entry in the future. But on July 31 he shrugged and his spokesman argued that the offer had been only for the next meeting, and that the presence of the Press would change the discussion.

Inner City Press has been provided with several blow by blow accounts of the meeting. The fallen ceiling and testing for asbestos was raised. But another controversy, which perhaps explains Adlerstein's desire for secrecy, was an incident discussed in which concrete hit a workman on the UN construction site in the head. This was written up as a violation, along with the UN's general contractor Skanska blocking access to the Siamese connection carried water to put out fires.

   Adlerstein told concerned UN staff that Skanska is appealing. The staff, at least as sampled by Inner City Press, were not convinced. Adlerstein was asked to put on the UN's web site all information about violations. He said he would check with the Office of Legal Affairs. Given his exclusion of the press and public from his "Town Hall" meetings, Internet posting of safety violations seems unlikely.

   Adlerstein was also grilled about bad conditions in the UN's "swing space" in the Albano Building on 46th Street. Russian staffers of the Department of General Services and Conference Management complained of freezing air being thrust upon them from badly designed vents directly above their workplaces.

    Inner City Press was invited and confirmed this, as well as the lack of air conditioning at the Arabic DGACM unit lower down in the Albano Building. One wag jokes that this was a form of profiling, and that the Arabic group, if and when the UN compound is finally fixed, are not assured of a right of return.

   The UN's messengers' unit, meanwhile, says it is forced to work in cramped quarters with the whole Albano unit using a single toilet, and without access to the various floors of the Albano Building which they need to visit or service. Inner City Press' invited visit reveals some floors with fire doors blocked or taped open, others sealed up tight. Some complained that when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited this week, he went to only two floors. The issues raised at Friday's closed door meeting and below, these staffers say, are not understood or taken seriously by Ban Ki-moon.

UN's Ban in hard hat, workman hit in head and short walls not shown

   A recurring complaint was the lack of sound proofing cutting into the ability top work. This is a theme with Adlerstein, who along with Department of Management chief Angela Kane is insisting on changing a previously commitment to the UN correspondents that their "swing space" would be similar to what they have, with the ability to make phone calls and, in the case of investigative journalism endeavors like Inner City Press, to meet confidentially with whistleblowers.

   Now Adlerstein, Kane and Ban's advisors have decreed that walls will be only seven feet tall, and paper thin at that. In an attempt to divide and conquer, wire services will be able to request taller walls after a week, while other media like Inner City Press and the Washington Post -- which is mulling closing its long time UN bureau, as Inner City Press exclusively reported, as picked up by the Daily Beast -- can only make such a request after four months in a "Whistleblower Free Zone."

   Inner City Press' visit on July 30 -- after a demand to delete a photograph of the police taped "Asbestos" zone on the floor -- to Adlerstein's office in the basement under the library found that he has full floor to ceiling walls, hard and sound proof. Secrecy reigns at the UN, with safety and sanity seeming to take a back seat. Watch this site.

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At UN, Belated Asbestos Warning by Fallen Ceiling, Photograph's Deletion Demanded

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 30 -- For days on the UN's third floor a patch of fallen ceiling has been roped off with yellow police tape. Still, on July 29 Inner City Press witnessed families with strollers walking feet away from the police tape, touring the UN. On July 30, seeing a workman with what appeared to be a gas mask on probing at the ceiling with standing on a ladder, Inner City Press took a photograph.

An official of the UN Capital Master Plan rushed over to Inner City Press and asked why the photograph was taken. The safety measures used by the UN workman, under a ceiling hole by while unprotected visitors and children passed only a day earlier, seemed of potential news value. The official went back over to the roped off area and returned with the workman. "You have to delete the picture," the workman said. "You took it without my permission." He grabbed for the camera.

   Inner City Press pulled back and explained that since the UN is a public institution, the work done with public money, in an area with even outside visitors were permitted less then 24 hours earlier, the photograph would not be deleted. The workman retorted that he is not a UN employee but rather a contractor. (Click here for Inner City Press' previous exclusive story about the UN's asbestos contractor, ATC Associates which has been hit for Clean Air Act violations).

The Capital Master Plan official escorted Inner City Press down to the office of the CMP in the basement of the UN's library, to speak with CMP director Michael Adlerstein.

Tour of UN with roped off area and kids, July 29, 2009
In front of his ample office with its views of the East River, a receptionist asked, Is this about up there, the third floor? It's related, the official said.

Another receptionist said Mr. Adlerstein is in a meeting, Mr. Adlerstein can't be bothered. Inner City Press left a business card, if any legal reason for deleting such a photo existed.

UN workman, with protection, under same ceiling, July 30, 2009

Later on Thursday, to the yellow police tape around the work area, now with what appeared to be air testing machines buzzing, was added an additional red emergency tape with the word "ASBESTOS."

The context here is that the City of New York has already barred school children from being taken on tours of the UN"s Conference Building, including the third floor area at issue. It is not clear why children, including in strollers, still passed by the fallen ceiling on July 29. The CMP's many assurances that all asbestos work is being done in a safe manner appear to be called into question by the amateur and ad hoc fashion that the fallen ceiling on the third floor has been handled.

Adlerstein is slated to give a "Town Hall meeting" for UN Staff on July 31. After his spokesman excluded Inner City Press from a prior such meeting, Adlerstein told Inner City Press is can attempt future Town Hall meetings. Watch this site.

  Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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