Brooklyn Surrogate's Court 2005

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Big Mess in B'klyn Court for Estates

Daily News July 1, 2005
BIG MESS IN B'KLYN COURT FOR ESTATES
By Nancie L. Katz
A DAY AFTER a powerful Brooklyn judge was booted for lining a pal's pockets with the money of the dead, a city report said the system the judge presided over was rife with sloppy bookkeeping.

City Controller Bill Thompson called the files on estates of people who died in Brooklyn without a will "disorganized collections of documentation."

He said the office of the Brooklyn Surrogate's Public Administrator Marietta Small also was "unable to demonstrate that the fees it charged estates for administrative expenses . . . were appropriate," according to an audit released yesterday.

A probe of 25 files during 2004 found such disarray that Small closed the books on one dead Brooklyn resident's estate without distributing 48 U.S. savings bonds. The bonds later showed up in an employee's desk drawer, the report said.

On Wednesday, the state Court of Appeals bounced Surrogate Judge Michael Feinberg, finding he approved nearly $9 million in fees to his pal - Louis Rosenthal, counsel for the public administrator - without ever asking for affidavits saying what he did to earn the money.

Feinberg said he didn't know he needed to get affidavits - an excuse scoffed at by the court.

The audit also faulted Small for allowing Rosenthal to charge substantial fees without ever filing the required affidavits.

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