Sunday, December 17, 2006

My interview wtih Mike Cholowsky

In reporting the story ("Who's minding the mine?") for last week's News-Review, I called Mike Cholowsky for comment. He called me back late Wednesday, past deadline, and I plan to report on that in the upcoming edition.

He didn't appreciate my questions, to say the least. He accused me of attacking him. Referring to his Brentwood facility, which uses rail to ship garbage (something the DEC really likes because it keeps trucks off the roads, helping to limit air pollution — now that they're forcing LI towns to long-haul thousands of tons of trash off-island!).

"I'm just trying to do a good thing," Cholowsky told me. "Why do you have to put a negative spin on this? Why do you want to attack me?"

He said his mining permit condition (prohibiting involvement in the solid waste industry, as per his affidavit) was intended to apply to the operation of East End Recycling only; it wasn't a general prohibition. I pointed out that the language of his affidavit and the special condition of the permit were both very general and made no mention of East End Recycling.

He said:

"The documents I signed with DEC regarding solid waste pertained to the overlap in East End Recycling's permit at the time. That was going to be a waste facility on Calverton Industries site. As it pertained to that and that site. It was not a general prohibition."

So why was it worded to read like a general prohibition?

"That was, those permits and requirements were, uh, you know, through the DEC. We walked through both applications, both permits."

Cholowsky explained his apparently false answers to DEC application questions this way:

"I just answered the way my lawyer told me to."

I have a copy of the criminal court docket from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York indicating that Michael Cholowsky III pled guilty to one count of "conspiracy to defraud the United States" in 2000.

Why, I asked Cholowsky, did he answer "no" to the question on the DEC application asking if he'd ever been convicted of a crime involving fraud? (The actual language of the application states "crime involving fraud, bribery, perjury, theft or an offense against public administration."

His answer:

"I pled guilty to conspiracy to make extortion payments. That application was reviewed by my attorney, by DEC attorneys, by everybody involved. I answered them as directed."

What he says he pled guilty to doesn't match the criminal court docket. But even so, how could "conspiracy to make extortion payments" not come within the language on the application?

No answer.

Of course, I also asked him how he knew Barbara Blass had been at the DEC reviewing the Calverton Industries file on the morning of Oct. 2? (As I reported in the News-Review this week, the councilwoman FOILed the CI file, spent the morning of Oct. 2 reviewing it, and got a call from Cholowsky within an hour of her return to Riverhead Town Hall that day, in which he told her she needn't FOIL his DEC records if she wanted to know anything about his business. All she had to do was ask him." Ms. Blass told me she felt the purpose of his call was to intimidate her.

When I asked him this question ("How did you know BB had been at DEC looking at his records...") he laughed for quite a while — too long, it seemed. Then he asked me, "How do you know that I knew?" And then he laughed some more. Then he told me that he really didn't know. I asked, "So what are you, psychic?" More laughter. "No, I wouldn't say I'm psychic." Then the laughter stopped and his voice just got sort of cold, and he said: "But I'm not stupid, either."

OK, then.

He called me back again within 10 minutes to make the following comments (this is how I typed what he said as he spoke, cut and pasted from my notes):

"im a little upset
my emjay project is something that im really proud of
a good concept
i got shot down in calverton
found another location
i really went out on a limb
spent a lot of money
it's unchartered territory

the trouble that i got into in 99
that was the most difficult time of my life
the worst 2 yrs of my life

im not trying to do anything wrong
im trying to do good things
i feel like anything i try to do i get attacked

i think i did a good thing
a good service
if we're going to move a million yards of waste off LI
it should be by rail

i think im doing a good thing
im not trying to hurt anybody
i don't see why i have to be dragged thru the mud & beat up
i made a mistake
i paid dearly for it
i feel like i should have a right to move on"