Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Dishonor Roll - The Shame of New York

The 29 Councilmembers who voted to extend their term in office

Council Leadership:
Christine Quinn (Speaker) -- Mahattan, District 8 - Voted Yes
Joel Rivera (Majority Leader)-- Bronx, District 15 - Voted Yes
Maria del Carmen Arroyo -- Bronx, District 17 - Voted Yes
Maria Baez -- Bronx, District 14 - Voted Yes
Leroy Comrie - - Queens District, 27 - Voted Yes
Inez Dickens -- Manhattan, District 9 - Voted Yes
Erik Martin Dilan -- Brooklyn, District 37 - Voted Yes
Simcha Felder -- Brooklyn, District 44 - Voted Yes
Lewis Fidler -- Brooklyn, District 46 - Voted Yes
Helen Foster -- Bronx, District 16 - Voted Yes
Alan Gerson -- Manhattan, District 1 - Voted Yes
Sara Gonzalez -- Brooklyn, District 38 - Voted Yes
Robert Jackson -- Manhattan, District 7 - Voted Yes
Melinda Katz -- Queens, District 29 - Voted Yes
Oliver Koppell -- Bronx, District 11 - Voted Yes
Miguel Martinez -- Manhattan, District 10 - Voted Yes
Darlene Mealy -- Brooklyn, District 41 - Voted Yes
Michael Nelson -- Brooklyn, District 48 - Voted Yes
Domenic Recchia -- Brooklyn, District 47 - Voted Yes
Diana Reyna -- Brooklyn, District 34 - Voted Yes
James Sanders -- Queens, District 31 - Voted Yes
Larry Seabrook -- Bronx, District 12 - Voted Yes
Helen Sears -- Queens, District 25 - Voted Yes
Kendall Stewart -- Brooklyn, District 45 - Voted Yes
James Vacca -- Bronx, District 13 - Voted Yes
Peter Vallone Jr. -- Queens, District 22 - Voted Yes
Albert Vann -- Brooklyn, District 36 -Voted Yes
Thomas White -- Queens, District 28 - Voted Yes
David Yassky -- Brooklyn, District, 33 - Voted Yes

Gifford Miller: Slush-Fund Refugee
Ex-Speaker Hires Lawyer in Inquiry - New York Times
Speaker Quinn Decides to Talk to a Lawyer - Gothamist: New York ...
City to hire attorneys to help council -- Newsday.com
Lawyers for Council Seen as a Departure - April 28, 2008 - The New ...
A Letter to Garcia: (Michael) Garcia U.S. Attorney Room Eight
Common Cause Blog :: Slush Fund Follies in New York
Queens Crap: Council slush fund quid quo pro
Slush Fund Scandal May Drag Quinn To Court - AOL Video
New York - Melting the City Council Slush Funds - Runnin' Scared ...
wcbstv.com - NYC Taxpayers Petition For Slush Fund Inquiry
NYC pol caught in slush fund probe - USATODAY.com
Lobbyists' Role in Council Slush Fund Scandal Probed - June 20 ...
Field of Schemes: Your tax dollars at work
Phony Allocations by City Council Reported - New York Times
N.Y. City Council Infested With Fraud, Corruption Judicial Watch
How the City's Slush Crisis May Threaten the Political Future of ...
New York’s Slush Addiction - New York Times - Editorial
The Brooklyn Paper: Editorial Slush Fund
NYC Council Slush Fund Practice Under Microscope - Truveo Video Search
NYC council leader grapples with fallout of slush fund probe ...
Slush Fund Scandal May Drag Quinn To Court - AOL Video
City Council Speaker's "Slush Fund" Investigated - Gothamist: New ...
Queens Crap: NYC more corrupt than ever 
Some city politicians received big campaign donations and funneled tax dollars to developers (DN)

Mike Nelson

Councilman Mike Nelson’s Former Deputy Chief of Staff Wants Apology for Posting on Forums for Nelson, then Being Outed by Nelson.

GerritsenBeach.net, 5/9/2008

Every politician has his enemies; Councilman Mike Nelson apparently has a lot and keeps piling up more.

It recently was exposed on the SBPBCivic.org forums that Councilman Mike Nelson had his former Deputy Chief of Staff Robert Varley post to various websites including this site under the guise of City Insider. Every post that was ever written by Robert Varley, a.k.a. “City Insider”, was seen and approved by Mike Nelson. The identity was always a secret, which was important, since City Insider's opinions should never be linked back to Mike Nelson.

Varley left his position as Deputy Chief under good terms in February 2008 and the forum account has been unused by Varley since. However, since February, a Norman Chesler, who was a close friend of Mike and his wife Sheila Nelson, had began commenting on GerritsenBeach.net. He has been threatening that he would reveal things that will be detrimental to the Nelsons and others. However, it should be known that Chesler is someone who’s admitted making $56,000 in payoffs to Clarence Norman, the former chairman of the Kings County Democratic Party. Clarence was convicted of three felony counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions during his 2000 and 2002 re-election campaigns for his seat in the New York State Assembly and is currently serving a jail sentence. Chesler, although his credibility is close to nil due to his illegal dealings, still could say some damaging things.

Other than Chesler, people have been saying some nasty things about Mike and Sheila Nelson. According to Varley, the Nelsons then took action, blaming him for the nasty comments, then outing him as City Insider on the Forum as another poster because according to Varley “maybe that would make those nasty comments go away”.

Varley who attempted for days to get in contact with Mike Nelson took his story public:

Remember Mike Nelson is/was my friend. My only beef I have with the Nelsons is that how they turned their backs to me when I was being investigated. I'm sure the higher ups in the Democratic Party told them to do so.

It’s funny, all who knew me and said “we are your friends” just turned away and must have said “Norman who?” You took my money contributions when I was under investigation, maybe I should ask for them back. What do you think??

As we all know giving contributions is part of the political game. All you elected officials and public servants accepted my money, gifts and stamps. You all knew what was going on regarding me and when it was beneficial to you and accepted my financial help and got it and when I needed it YOU ALL TURNED AWAY.

Big Question Unanswered in Scandal

Politicians' self-promotion on our dime soon may end
Daily News, BY FRANK LOMBARDI Tuesday, October 23rd 2007

The days when City Council members could use public funds to take out self-promoting ads in local newspapers could soon end, thanks to a biting report from the watchdog group Citizens Union.

The 110-year-old good-government group, through a Freedom of Information Law request, obtained Council documents showing Council members spent a collective $927,507 in taxpayer funds from July 2001 to this past June on ads they placed in community newspapers and ad journals published by various organizations for fund-raising events and the like.

Figures in chart don't add up to $927,507 because some Council members left office some time during the period covered.

Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, said it's improper to use "taxpayer dollars for such purposes when there's no clear public benefit other than to raise their profile in front of an important constituency."

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) has pledged to close the door on self-serving ads with new legislation.

So how did your Council member fare? You can find out from the chart.

Here are the individual spending figures - in order of who spent the most - of the Council members.
Michael Nelson, Brooklyn $113,362
Domenic Recchia, Brooklyn $54,219
James Gennaro, Queens $53,077
Leroy Comrie, Queens $44,758
Joseph Addabbo, Queens $44,373
David Weprin, Queens $41,667
Dennis Gallagher, R-Queens $40,791
Helen Sears, Queens $38,485
Eric Gioia, Queens $36,615
Joel Rivera, Bronx $34,234
Hiram Monserrate, Queens $31,354
Lewis Fidler, Brooklyn $28,720
James Oddo, R-Staten Island $22,163
Miguel Martinez, Manhattan $20,357
Peter Vallone Jr., Queens $19,604
Vincent Gentile, Brooklyn $17,673
Christine Quinn, Manhattan $15,433
Diana Reyna, Brooklyn $11,502
Annabel Palma, Bronx $9,817
Melinda Katz, Queens $9,743
Gale Brewer, Manhattan $9,737
Simcha Felder, Brooklyn $9,683
Larry Seabrook, Bronx $9,519
Robert Jackson, Manhattan $7,699
Michael McMahon, Staten Island $7,146
Erik Martin Dilan, Brooklyn $7,031
Thomas White*, Queens $6,612
Alan Gerson, Manhattan $6,211
Oliver Koppell, Bronx$4,908
Bill de Blasio, Brooklyn $4,110
James Sanders, Queens $3,768
Tony Avella, Queens$3,272
Maria del Carmen Arroyo,* Bronx $2,150
David Yassky, Brooklyn $1,583
Sara Gonzalez, Brooklyn $1,348
Letitia James,* Brooklyn $1,275
Charles Barron, Brooklyn $1,183
Kendall Stewart, Brooklyn$1,153
Maria Baez, Bronx $700
Jessica Lappin,* Manhattan $554
Inez Dickens,* Manhattan $550
John Liu, Queens $533
Daniel Garodnick,* Manhattan $468
Darlene Mealy,* Brooklyn $250
Albert Vann, Brooklyn $83
Helen Foster, Bronx $0
Melissa Mark Viverito,* Manhattan $0
Rosie Mendez,* Manhattan $0
James Vacca,* Bronx $0

Erik Dilan

Brooklyn Pol Put $187G of Your Dough into Wife's Nonprofit


Jannitza Luna, district leader for the Brooklyn Democrats, was on husband Erik Dilan's staff before she started running North Brooklyn Community Council, whose office (above) is on Wilson Ave.

Brooklyn city councilman Erik Dilan has funneled more than $180,000 in taxpayer money into a small nonprofit run by his wife, the Daily News has learned.

Dilan (D-Brooklyn) was sole sponsor of "discretionary" city funds for the North Brooklyn Community Council, a nonprofit that started out organizing youth football and has expanded almost entirely with government money.

His wife, Jannitza Luna, has been executive director of the group since at least 2005, tax records show.

She was on Dilan's staff before she began running the nonprofit, and she is a district leader for the Brooklyn Democrats.

Each City Councilmember gets a pot of "discretionary" money to use for pet projects in their districts. Potential misuse of these funds is at the heart of an ongoing probe by the city Department of Investigation and the Manhattan U.S. attorney.

Two aides to City Councilman Kendall Stewart (D-Brooklyn) have been charged with embezzling $145,000 from a nonprofit supported with "discretionary" funds. Stewart has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

The News also disclosed that City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D-Bronx) sponsored $80,000 in member items for a Bronx nonprofit that employed her sister and a nephew.

In an interview with The News, Dilan said he disclosed the conflict to the City Council and that no one objected, although a letter sent to the Conflicts of Interest Board obscures details of the arrangement.

At least three times in the past three years, Dilan sponsored member items for the North Brooklyn Community Council totaling $187,500. The amounts grew each year, from $30,000 to $57,500 to $100,000.

He was engaged to Luna sometime in 2006 and they got married in March 2007, he said. During that time, she was listed on the group's tax forms as the only salaried employee.

On the latest tax form filed, 2006, she claims a salary of $45,000. The group also paid $34,658 to unnamed "consultants."

On Friday, at the group's small storefront office in Bushwick, a receptionist told a reporter she would give Luna his number. Luna did not return the call.

In its last filing, the group claimed it organized youth sports teams. In an interview, Dilan said the group, which first reported income in 2004, is now doing less sports and more of what he called "immigrant services."

Each year, at least 90% of its funds come from either city or state taxpayers. Brooklyn Democratic leader and Assemblyman Vito Lopez sponsored a $50,000 state "member item" for the group last year, records show.

Speaker Christine Quinn

Quinn on City Council Slush Fund

Christine Quinn Defends Member Items

Council Aids Indicted for Member Item Rip-Offs
New York Post, By TOM TOPOUSIS, May 12, 2008

Embattled City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has admitted for the first time that she understood that the multimillion-dollar slush fund gave her political advantage.

Quinn, who is likely running for mayor, says she knew that the use of the funds - which are now the subject of federal and city investigations - could be helpful to her.

"Did I think, as a speaker, having the [reserve] money to give out through the year might give me political leverage? Of course, I did," Quinn told New York magazine for its current edition.

Sources have said that Quinn doled out the funds to curry favor with certain council members and special-interest groups.

For a candidate for mayor, the support of key council members across the city could be very useful in building a citywide campaign, experts have said.

Since 1999, about $17 million in council monies have been set aside in phantom organizations that were later given out at the speaker's discretion. Quinn said she recognized that her interest in using the council's discretionary funds for political purposes contradicts her reform agenda and push for "transparency."

"I'm not going to lie to people that I didn't think that. Is that a good reform thing to have thought? No. . . . But that's the truth," Quinn said.


Slush Probers Eye Fraud Rap for Quinn
New York Post, April 13, 2008

Slush Probers Eye Fraud Rap for Quinn
By Brad Hamilton, Angela Montefinise and Melissa Klein
New York Post

April 13, 2008 -- Feds probing the City Council budget scandal are weighing wire- and mail-fraud charges against those who helped send millions into a secret slush fund, The Post has learned.

"If you pick up a phone and tell someone to do something illegal, that's wire fraud," said a law-enforcement source familiar with the probe. "If you send a check, that's mail fraud."

Sources said prosecutors are considering several targets, including council Speaker Christine Quinn, though it was unclear whether they had found any evidence against her.

Other council members and staff are also under scrutiny, along with staffers from the council's finance division and the city Office of Management and Budget, sources said.

Mail and wire fraud each carry a maximum $1 million fine and 30 years in prison.

The federal probe is now squarely focused on who was involved in setting up the fake groups used to hide and hold on to funds for later use in the budget cycle.

Sources said the money - more than $17 million over the past six years - was doled out as political favors to groups affiliated with lawmakers who had been loyal to the speaker's agenda. Quinn claims it helped groups that fell through the cracks.

The feds are also looking at who handled the financial transactions.

Mike Keogh, the council's former budget director who was dismissed by Quinn after the practice was uncovered, told The Post only that he was cooperating with the investigation.

Councilman Kendall Stewart (D-Brooklyn) has been subpoenaed but said he was not a target.

Quinn, a presumptive mayoral candidate next year, also denies being a target.

She has reportedly hired a defense attorney, former federal prosecutor Lee Richards III, to help her handle inquiries by agencies probing council funds.

The Manhattan US Attorney's Office began looking into council finances last fall after receiving a tip that staffers were diverting official funds for their personal use, the source said.

Quinn says she spoke to the feds and the city Department of Investigation when she discovered the bogus organizations last fall - at the same time prosecutors were probing financial records of council staffers.

On April 3, The Post broke the news of the secret slush fund and how her office diverted $4.7 million into pet projects by funding 30 phantom organizations since 2007. About a quarter of the fund recipients are headquartered in Quinn's district, which encompasses Chelsea, Greenwich Village and parts of Midtown.

The news sparked the interest of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, but after a sit-down with the feds two weeks ago, the DA agreed to step back.

Two council members told The Post that crimes had been committed - and several want an independent audit.

"What happened is at the very least fraud," one said. "It's as clear as day. And if more than two people knew about it, it's conspiracy to commit fraud."

"There are some pretty bold lies being told."

Meanwhile, Quinn announced Friday major reforms that would essentially eliminate slush funds from the system.

From now on, community organizations will need to submit detailed requests for a portion of the speaker's discretionary funds, which amount to $21 million to $25 million, Quinn said.

While some legislators criticized the move as weakening the council, others fully supported it.

"This is real reform, and while it does weaken the speaker's position, it will allow the council to focus on other, crucial budget decisions," Councilman David Yassky said. "It will have a major long-term payoff."

Quinn Probed over Bogus Grant Groups
New York Post, April 3, 2008

This $$ is Hers for the Faking
Quinn Office Probed over Bogus Grant Groups
By Frankie Edozien
New York Post

April 3, 2008 -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office hid millions of taxpayer dollars by allocating grants to phantom organizations as a way of holding the funds to dole out political favors later - bogus bookkeeping that is the subject of city and federal probes, The Post has learned.

Among the dozens of fabricated groups that were slated to receive funds were the "Immigration Improvement Project of New York" ($300,000), the "Coalition for a Strong Special Education" ($400,000) and the "American Association of Concerned Veterans" ($422,763).

The total amount set aside in 2007 and 2008 for the fake organizations - which are each listed by name in the city budget after being inserted at the council's request - was $4.7 million. In the two years, 30 phantom groups were listed, council aides confirmed.

The money, in effect, became a slush fund for the speaker and was later used at Quinn's discretion to reward groups that were loyal to her and to fund favored council members' pet projects, sources told The Post.

The scheme gave "the speaker a stash of cash with which to thank or pay off politically important allies or cooperative council members," a source said.

Quinn insisted in an interview yesterday with The Post that all of the taxpayer funds were ultimately used for legitimate purposes.

The never-before-exposed practice of hiding the funds dates to 1988, council aides said last night.

"It was used at the speaker's discretion," said an insider who worked for the council at the time it was headed by Quinn's predecessor, Gifford Miller. "People would come in and say 'We need money for this or that.' "

Sources said it may have been started to make an end run around the City Charter, which requires that all funds be allocated at the start of the fiscal year. That limits the speaker's ability to dole out monies throughout the year as needs arise.

In the interview, Quinn, who plans to run for mayor next year and has made "transparency" in budgeting one of her pet causes, admitted she knew some funds were being held in reserve, but learned only several months ago they had been allocated to sham organizations.

Quinn said she ordered that the shady practice be abolished and only recently discovered her staff had not complied.

"I was kind of sick over the fact that there were things listed in the budget that were not accurate and that my instructions to the staff were disregarded," Quinn told The Post.

When she learned several months ago that the practice had continued, Quinn said she turned over information about the bogus bookkeeping to "appropriate authorities," including the city Department of Investigation and the Manhattan US Attorney's Office.

Quinn's aides insist she blew the whistle on the practice, but authorities have been investigating some aspect of the council's finances since last year, sources have said.

Quinn recently hired an outside law firm to help comply with requests from investigators for documents and information dating back several years.

In a development that sources said was tied to the scandal, two of Quinn's top finance aides were either forced out or resigned earlier this year.

New York Post, By SALLY GOLDENBERG and DAVID SEIFMAN, October 15, 2008

In a major power play, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is threatening to oust a powerful committee chairman because he is a leading opponent of extending term limits, The Post has learned.

Sources said Councilman David Weprin (D-Queens) could be stripped of his post as chairman of the Finance Committee for speaking out against legislation engineered by Mayor Bloomberg and Quinn to allow officials to serve a third term.

The speaker is dangling the prized chairmanship, worth an extra $18,000 paycheck above the regular $112,500 council salary, before legislators who have not decided how to vote on the explosive issue, sources said.

One source said Quinn indicated there will be "significant reorganizing of everything, like the Finance Committee" next year after the council elections.

Weprin, in his second term in the council, has repeatedly bashed the proposal but has not said whether he would run for a third term if it passes. He could not be reached for comment.

Another critic who could get the boot is General Welfare Committee Chairman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), one of the loudest critics of the term-limits deal. He earns a $10,000 stipend for his chairmanship.

"That would be extraordinarily inappropriate," de Blasio said of the possible ouster. " I have not heard that, but if they attempt that, I will make a very public issue out of it."

Quinn has denied that threats or promises are being used to corral votes, and on Sunday said accusations of "horse trading, arm twisting, anything of that nature, is just quite frankly false and untrue."

Quinn will soon have at least three other chairmanships to lure undecided members. John Liu, who chairs Transportation, Michael McMahon, who heads Sanitation, and Tony Avella, who oversees the influential Zoning Subcommittee, all plan to leave the council next year.

Members could vote as early as Oct. 23, and the council will hold public hearings at City Hall tomorrow and Friday.

When asked by a reporter about Quinn's arm twisting, Bloomberg defended her.
"Her job is to corral people and convince them to support legislation," he said. "This is an administration-sponsored bill . . . Do you really want us to not go out and promote [it]?"

Last night, the executive board of the teachers union voted to oppose any changes to term limits, except by voter referendum. The issue goes before the full union today.

During a rally at City Hall opposing the legislation, state Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) called the mayor "the worst kind of petty, grubby little politician that
anybody has ever seen in this city."

Bloomberg, who endorsed Parker's opponent in the September Democratic primary, scoffed at the comment, saying, "I didn't hear him and I wouldn't dignify anything like that with a response."


Lewis Fidler

From the Room 8 blog

Pork Pig Fidler’s Media Friends Put Lipstick On Him

You would never know it from the media that Councilmember Lewis Fiddler funds one of the city’s largest non-profit patronage operations in the city. Coming in with the third highest amount of member items in the council, with just over $700,000, Lewis Fidler, assistant majority leader and Chairman of the Youth Services Committee, said he is proud to be considered the third "biggest pig" in the council. The Councilman uses the city’s budget to provide jobs for his friends, campaign workers and to continue the illusion that a once-powerful club is still going strong.

Today’s reporters do not cover politics like Jimmy Breslin, Jack Newfield, Pete Hamill, Murray Kempton and other members of their hard-working greatest generation, who understood neighborhood politics and never quoted politicians like celebrities. Reporters of Newfield’s era understood that elected officials always had motives, and that truth could only be reported by analyzing their words and investigated their actions. Fidler is one of the most quoted councilmembers in the city’s newspapers and blogs on virtually every topic and issue, except for one: what he does with the member items money in his district.

Some people claim that the way the media covers Fidler shows a racial bias in its reporting of political corruption. By reading the dailies we know how Councilmembers Erik Martin Dilan and Leroy Comrie sent member items funds to nonprofits that hired their wives. Maria del Carmen Arroyo sent money to nonprofits that employed her sister and nephew. Darlene Mealy tired to find a nonprofit to hire her sister. Hiram Monserrate, Larry Seabrook and Kendall Stewart used nonprofit money to help in their campaigns.

What is never covered is a more complicated corruption in the white community where member item funds and campaign contributions go through interlocking nonprofits, lobbyists and special interests developers. Umbrella nonprofits like Fidler’s Millennium Developers are just the tip of the iceberg of corruption; Emily Giske of Bolton-St. Johns, Parkside’s Evan Stavisky, Jeff Plaut’s Global Strategy, George Artz, Yoswein, Geto & De Milly, and Knickerbocker SKD help campaigns more than Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s nonprofit Libre get a free ride from the media’s corruption coverage.

Putting racial motives aside, it is clear that the owners of the mainstream media control how and when it reports on political corruption. Not one word has been printed about the councilmember items slush fund scandal since all the major papers’ editorial boards came out for extending term limits. Earlier this year, for a few months, there was a story almost every day about the council’s member item’s “little tin box”.

Fidler’s Member Item-Funded Nonprofit Reelection Industry is a Widespread Practice
The late former Assemblyman Tony Genovese, who made the Thomas Jefferson democratic club into a powerhouse with the late county leader Meade Esposito, invented the scheme which uses member items and other government funds to build political power for their club in their district. They set up an umbrella nonprofit called New Perspectives that received and distributed government funds to most of the local nonprofits in their community. Genovese wanted all power to emanate from his club. His clubhouse hack pal Alan Weisberg ran Perspectives. Genovese’s Assemblyman Stanley Friedman was the last elected official in the city to open up a district office outside the Jefferson Club. In the days of Tammany Hall all elected officials operated their district office out of the clubhouse. Genovese and Esposito’s genius created the umbrella nonprofit funded by the government tied to the clubhouse to keep the Thomas Jefferson Club powerful in an era in which most clubs were dying off.

Since that time, elected officials and consultants throughout the city have copied Genovese’s umbrella nonprofit model. Brooklyn Democratic Leader Vito Lopez, an early protégé of Genovese, funds the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Center as an umbrella-type nonprofit with millions of dollars in government patronage to his district. Bolton-St. Johns’ Emily Giske uses the High Line and the health care industry to build an umbrella for her team, including $50,000 to Speaker Quinn for her mayoral campaign from High Line supporters. The Parkside Group used their relationship with former Speaker Miller, former Queens Democratic leader Tom Manton and convicted felon Brian McLaughlin to pull in over $7 million in consulting fees from nonprofits receiving council funding. Former Thomas Jefferson Club leader Bruce Bender, now working for as chief lobbyist for Atlantic Yards developer Bruce Ratner, helps fund Borough President Markowitz’s umbrella nonprofit Best of Brooklyn. Pedro Espada just defeated State Senator Efrain Gonzalez with the help of his nonprofit organization, Soundview Healthcare.

Fidler and the Jefferson Club’s Nonprofit Patronage Networks
After Genovese’s death New Perspectives got in financial trouble, so Fidler and the other new stewards of the Jefferson Club simply closed it down and transferred Perspectives’ functions to a new nonprofit, Millennium Development. Paul Curiale, the husband of Fidler’s council aide Debbie Malone, runs Millennium Development. Both are heavily involved in the operation of the Thomas Jefferson Club and regularly collect signatures for candidates endorsed by Fidler’s club.

Another way Fidler controlled government money was to appoint Georgia Hamilton, the wife of his driver Daniel MacBride, to Neighborhood Advisory Board 18. The board distributed city and federal youth money in Fidler’s district. Fidler knows a lot about how funds are distributed through the Neighborhood Advisorary Board system as chairman of the Council’s Youth Services Committee. With the Councilman’s knowledge, Hamilton illegally continued to serve on the Advisory Board after she moved out of the community. Fidler said in a recent blog post that he received the most discretionary funding last year at $985,000, and snagged a considerable amount of capital too, because he chairs the Youth Services Committee, which oversees a lot of the programs in the city that would be eligible for these types of grants. "Which is also why I am able to put together a pot of properly vetted discretionary items,” said Fidler.

What the Press Did Not Report
As Chair of the Youth Services Committee, Fidler oversaw the funding of the Donna Reid Memorial Education Fund. Two staffers of Councilman Kendall Stewart, including his chief of staff Asquith Reid, were indicted by U.S. Attorney Garcia for skimming at least $145,000 from the Donna Reid fund, a charity that had received council funds. Fidler’s committee funded the Memorial Education Fund after the Department for the Aging rejected the group's application for city money in 2004 after noticing that its office address was identical to Asquith Reid's home address. Reid, like Fidler’s staffer Georgia Hamilton on Board 18, was a member of his Neighborhood Advisorary Board – Board 17 – which funded youth groups like Donna Reid in his community. Councilman Erik Martin Dilan’s North Brooklyn Community Council and Councilman Hiram Monserrate’s Libre are other nonprofits that have been funded with council funds dispensed by Fidler’s Youth Service Committee that have been written about in the press for their practice of hiring the councilmembers’ family members and helping in their reelection bids. Not one word has been written in the press about how the questionable funding was approved for these and other nonprofits by Fidler’s Youth Committee, which, by the way, he gets paid $10,000 extra a year for chairing.

Judging by a series of recent loses by the Thomas Jefferson Club, Fidler’s funding of the nonprofit Millennium network is about the only thing keeping the councilman’s club from falling apart. Last year, the club lost its control over the Brooklyn Surrogate Court when its candidate Judge Shawndya Simpson lost to Judge Diana Johnson. Judge Johnson only lost by 200 votes in the club’s 59th district and won in the Assembly District where Fidler is District Leader (the 41st AD) two to one. The Club’s former Assemblyman and Surrogate Judge Frank Seddio was pressured into retirement, according to The Daily News, because of illegal contributions from his Assembly account to Fidler and other elected officials of the Jefferson Club when he was running for the surrogate judgeship. The club lost the other Surrogate position in 2005 when Judge Margarita Lopez Torres beat their candidate. In addition, the Jefferson Club only managed to get 11% for the candidate it backed in the 2005 Democratic Mayoral Primary, Gifford Miller. In the General Election that same year, Fernando Ferrer, the Jefferson Club’s endorsed candidate, only got 27% in its district. Moreover, in 2001, the club’s candidate in the Democratic Primary runoff, Mark Green, failed to carry the Jefferson Club’s district or Fidler’s District Leader district. Finally, in the primary that same year, the club’s City Councilman Herbert Berman lost the controller’s race to William Thompson.

Fidler’s smart enough to know his good relationship with reporters allows him to get away with almost anything

Fidler represents a boutique niche market lending company called LawCash. Fidler’s cousin was made V.P. of the company right after he graduated college. New York Supreme Court Justice Ira Warshawsky said that LawCash, which advances money to plaintiffs while their civil lawsuits are pending, charges high usurious rates. The judge blasted LawCash for making a high-interest loan to a poor African-American family. LawCash has charged 50% or more in interest for one of their loans. Fidler’s loan company operates like subprime mortgages in that they both take advantage of the uninformed poor. A representative of LawCash said his firm can charge such high rates because, unlike banks, its money is "advanced," not lent, to plaintiffs, and this is a high-risk investment. When elected officials use their position to make money and deliberately fail to protect the public by promoting weak laws and regulations, the people suffer. Wall Street called derivatives trading “barter” instead of an insurance policy to avoid government regulations. Now the federal government must bail out that $600 trillion dollar business. Many of the high level consultant firms in the city today call their services education to avoid lobbying regulations. They make secret deals between each other in a type of exclusive “Star Chamber” that runs campaigns, nonprofits, and healthcare institutions without any legal requirement to report their cooperation on city or state financial forms.

Fidler is the District Leader in the 41th Assembly District, which has a minority population of at least 65%. Not only is the Councilman not protecting his own voters from high-interest lending operations, he profits from one. Yet the press reports that Councilman Fidler is fighting predatory lending. If you Google Fidler on predatory lending you will find articles that quote him speaking out against subprime mortgage lending. Fidler supported Frank Seddio for Surrogate Judge. Right after Seddio left the Surrogate Court he advertised in local newspapers his services to get homeowners subprime mortgages in Canarsie as a mortgage lawyer. According to Crain’s, Canarsie has the highest subprime default rate in the city. Fidler was also frequently quoted in the press how he was trying to reform Brooklyn’s corrupt judicial systems with a Blue Ribbon Commission, while he and his club backed every Norman machine judge, many of who were removed from the bench. Some went to jail.

What never gets printed in the press is how Fidler uses his control of nonprofit funding to eliminate political opposition in his community. When minority Assembly candidate H. R. Clark showed up to protest overdevelopment at a City Planning Commission’s local hearing in a building owned by a nonprofit funded with government funds, he was thrown out. According to neighborhood activist Mark Fertig, Fidler was under pressure by Assembly candidate H. R. Clark and community leaders since their meeting last year with mayoral candidate Tony Avella to downsize zoning in his district. To this day the area has not been downzoned. According to Fertig, all Fidler wanted to do is show the appearance of doing something while protecting his developer friends from downzoning.

Fidler has even figured out how to rip off the Campaign Finance Board (CFB) to make money for his friends when he runs for reelection. Fidler wrote a letter to the CFB in 2003 to qualify for full campaign finance funding after the CFB ruled he would only get 25% of the matching funds because he did not have a serious primary or general election challenger. All that is needed to quality for full funding is a letter from the elected official to the CFB saying they have a competitive primary. Fidler got $82,500 in 2003 in matching funds, the full allowable amount, and went on to get 87% of the vote in his so-called “competitive race.” He wrote the same letter to the CFB in his 2005 reelection bid and received full public funding in both a primary and general election he won overwhelmingly.

Besides using the government for political gain Fidler has not show much loyalty to his supporters. Fidler supported Ferrer for mayor in 2005, going back on the endorsement commitment he gave to Gifford Miller after the Speaker passed that year’s city budget, which contained Fidler’s pork requests for his district. Two-timing is something Fidler has always been known for. He supported Anthony Weiner for City Council against his own cousin, Michael Garson. When Weiner’s council seat became vacant in 1998 after he was elected to congress, Fidler supported Michael Nelson against Irma Kramer, despite the fact that Kramer was one of Fidler’s earliest supporters.

Sometimes Fidler’s double crosses are a work of art. At the same time Fidler’s committee was funding Councilman Stewart’s indicted aide’s nonprofit, according to Wellington Sharpe, Stewart’s 2005 Council opponent, Fidler was helping Sharpe with his ballot access. Sharpe was later knocked off the ballot after Stewart’s lawyer brought him into court and produced a mortgage prepared by Fidler that was supposed to turn over a house to Sharpe’s kids, but actually showed Sharpe as the primary resident of the house, which was outside of Stewart’s district.

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” - Thomas Jefferson

The false way Fidler is covered by the media, while he rips off government funds to accumulate power is just a warning sign of how the press is endangering the lives of New Yorkers. Our City and Republic are in jeopardy because today’s media has abandoned its role of informing the public, leaving the people powerless to defend themselves. What the press did not tell the public during the term limits debate was that the two-term restrictions were voted for by a public that was upset with the corruption in the Koch Administration in the 1980’s and the role that the City’s impossible-to-defeat incumbents played in allowing that corruption. Now even that small safeguard against incumbent protection in our society is gone. George Orwell would have to write a new chapter in 1984 to explain how 34 City Councilmembers under investigation for illegally using the member items slush fund were able to receive press coverage that basically said that extending their time in office would increase choice, democracy and improve our economy.

Without an informed public, elected officials act like organized crime mobsters, working against the voters’ needs for personal gain. They create government-funded umbrella-type nonprofit reelection organizations to stay in office. They also create a dysfunctional, unregulated government with no legal accountability to carry out their greedy friends’ scams to make money at the cost of the public good. Our city would be a lot better off if it listened to a few independent voices about the dangers of repealing the Glass-Spiegel Act, rather then constantly devoting their coverage to political celebrities and their meaningless news conferences.

Look at what Gordon Gecko’s greed has done to Wall Street. New York City is next!

Donna Reid Fund's Other Benefactors
Daily New Blog, April 17, 2008
As The Post details, Councilman Kendall Stewart wasn't the only Brooklyn lawmaker to direct discretionary dollars to the Donna Reid Fund headed by his now-indicted chief of staff.

All told, the Council sent $356,000 to the fund, between 2005 and 2007, with $211,000 being used for legitimate purposes and $145,000 allegedly embezzled by Asquith Reid and his co-conspirators, including two who remain unnamed and his fellow indictee - and Stewart syaffer - Joycinth "Sue" Anderson.

During that same time period, two other Councilmen allocated member items to the Donna Reid Fund - Lew Fidler ($20,000) and Bill de Blasio ($5,000). The Fund also received $24,000 from the entire Brooklyn delegation in 2006.

In an interview last night, de Blasio, an '09 Brooklyn borough president candidate, proclaimed the misuse of the Donna Reid money "totally disguting" and "obscene," and said he had never had any indication the cash was being used for anything other than its stated purpose - providing tutoring to public school kids.

De Blasio said he didn't know Asquith was involved with the group, and decided to make the member item allocation based on Stewart's "glowing" review of its work.

Fidler reiterated that he had originally allocated member item money to the Donna Reid Fund after the group made a "public, open presentation to the Brooklyn Council delegation at a hearing for a computer program for kids in public school."

He said he renewed the grant twice at the request of a school principal, adding: "They much have been doing something right."

"Unfortunately, when money is inolved, no matter how it gets there, sometimes people attempt to steal it," Fidler said. "It was not the member item process that was at fault."

In regards to the funds allocated jointly by all 16 Brooklyn members, I'm told each delegation handles this a little differently. But in the case of Brooklyn for the years in question, all groups had to make in-person presentations and submit both details of their budgets and plans on how they planned to use the money. The members voted by paper ballot to determine which groups would get funded.

Both de Blasio and Fidler said the indictments don't change their concerns about the RFP process for member item allocation proposed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

If anything, they noted, the failure of DFTA to alert DYCD that the Donna Reid Fund's initial request for cash had been rejected due to a conflict of interest regarding Asquith demonstrates letting agencies make the final call about who gets what wouldn't be foolproof.

Brooklyn , City Council
By Elizabeth Benjamin on April 17, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Darlene Mealy

Brooklyn councilwoman Darlene Mealy's 25G for nonprofit run by sister tabled
Daily News, BY TINA MOORE and GREG B. SMITH, Sunday, May 11th 2008

City Council member Darlene Mealy insists her sister's nonprofit group hasn't received a dime from taxpayers - but it wasn't for lack of trying.

Mealy admits she tried to sponsor $25,000 in Council "discretionary funds" for the Fulton-Atlantic-Ralph-Rochester Community Association (FARR), a Brooklyn block association run by her sister, Louise, out of her apartment.

For some reason - she won't say why - the fiscal 2007 funds weren't paid. A City Hall source said the Council pulled it back. A spokeswoman for Speaker Christine Quinn refused to comment.

One reason could be that FARR has not registered as a charity with the state attorney general.

The agency that would have distributed the money - the city Department of Youth & Community Development - also wasn't talking.

Asked about the proposed payment to FARR, an agency spokesman said he was prevented from speaking because of an ongoing probe of Council funding by the city Department of Investigation.
DOI and the Manhattan U.S. attorney are probing abuses of Council funds sent to nonprofits, including some with family links to Council members.

The Daily News has revealed four other Council members with such ties, including Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn), Maria del Carmen Arroyo (D-Bronx), Miguel Martinez (D-Manhattan), and Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn).

Mealy said FARR is a block association she founded before she was elected to represent Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York in 2006.

After she joined the Council, she says her sister, Louise, took over as president.

"I had the intention of giving money to FARR, including the $25,000 member item from fiscal year 2007, but FARR never received that funding," she said in a written statement.

The group is based at Louise Mealy's apartment on Hancock St. in Bed-Stuy. Mealy said her sister is an unpaid volunteer.

In October, the councilwoman made a point of mentioning FARR on a form all members must fill out if they feel a budget item could pose a conflict of interest for them.

Questioned by The News about why she did this, she responded, "The current president of the block associations, who also volunteers her time, happens to be my sister. I listed FARR on my budget item disclosure form so that the public would be aware of this connection."

In incorporation papers filed with the Department of State, FARR lists Louise Mealy's home address and labels her apartment as a "suite."

There were no signs on Mealy's apartment building in Bedford-Stuyvesant for a community association, and neighbors said they had never heard of the group.

Resident Jean New, 38, said she stayed with her mother in the building and confirmed that the councilwoman's mother lived in the unit that's listed as FARR's headquarters.

"I've never heard of that," she said.



New York Post, By SALLY GOLDENBERG and DAVID SEIFMAN, October 25, 2008

Reported political threats against Brooklyn Councilwoman Darlene Mealy before the vote may have contributed to her queasiness.

Darlene Mealy - one of only two City Council members to switch sides in the tense term-limits vote - was under such intense pressure and threats that she vomited twice at City Hall before announcing her decision, sources said yesterday.

Mealy's "yes" vote drew gasps from the audience in the packed council chambers Thursday, since it was the first public signal that the opposition was headed to a slim defeat, 29-22.

Some council members insist Mealy, who was injured in a car crash just hours after the vote, was threatened.

"She was very upset. She kept saying she has to deliver for her district, and she was tired of being on the losing side," said Councilwoman Letitia James (D-Brooklyn), one of the bill's leading adversaries.

Opponents said Mealy was told she would face trouble for trying to sponsor a $25,000 grant for a Brooklyn block association run by her sister in Fiscal Year 2007.

Mealy attempted to allocate her council discretionary funds for her sister's group, the Fulton-Atlantic-Ralph-Rochester Community Association (FARR), but the request was mysteriously pulled.

Jamie McShane, a spokesman for council Speaker Christine Quinn, denied Mealy was threatened in any way.

Proponents of the measure said it was the other side - namely the Working Families Party - that tried to intimidate Mealy by warning they would mount a campaign against her in the next election.

When a Post reporter approached her in City Hall before the vote, Mealy called out for Bill Lipton, of the Working Families Party, and hustled away without addressing questions on term limits.

"Even while we were on the floor, Bill Lipton came over to her and tried to flip her back," said Councilman Lew Fidler (D-Brooklyn), a proponent of the bill.

He said Mealy told him "people she considered to be political allies were threatening her."

A Post reporter saw her leave Thursday's council meeting twice, and one member said she threw up before the vote.

Mealy issued a statement yesterday saying she changed from "no" to "yes" only after "strong deliberation."

Mealy's auto accident occurred Thursday night in Queens. She said in a statement that she was not seriously injured. Sources said she broke her collarbone.


Maria del Carmen Arroyo

Council member in funding flap
Daily News, BY ROBERT GEARTY and GREG B. SMITH,April 17th 2008, 4:00 AM

Maria del Carmen Arroyo says her sister and nephew had left the nonprofit by the time the group was given the money. Bronx City Council member Maria Del Carmen Arroyo has a unique way to get taxpayer support for her family.

Last year she sponsored $82,500 in Council "discretionary funds" into a nonprofit that employed both her sister and nephew, the Daily News has learned.

Arroyo's sister, Iris, was "fiscal officer" for the South Bronx Community Corp., where a former employee accused her of incompetence that led to thousands of dollars of federal liens filed against the group.

Iris Arroyo's son, Richard Izquierdo, was also listed as an executive at the agency; he claims he's not paid.

The Arroyos' arrangement comes as the feds charged two staffers of City Council member Kendall Stewart on Wednesday with embezzling discretionary funds through their nonprofit.

No one has been charged with a crime in the funding of the nonprofit that employed Arroyo's relatives, and Stewart himself has not been charged with a crime.

Each City Council member is given a set amount to spend annually on "discretionary" items that are usually pet nonprofit causes within their districts.

Stewart's aides were charged with siphoning off $145,000 in such funds through a nonprofit he funded.

Council member Arroyo is the former director of South Bronx Community Corp., which purports to "provide various services to the elderly, disabled and low income families" in the Bronx. Her mother, Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, was director of the nonprofit years before.

In her Council biography, the younger Arroyo claims to have been a "volunteer" at South Bronx, though records show her collecting $33,000 to $45,000 a year in 2001 and 2002.

She left the nonprofit after being elected to the Council in February 2005. Early last year, she was co-sponsor of a $75,000 "member item" and sole sponsor of a $7,500 member item for South Bronx Community Corp., records show.

Arroyo confirmed Wednesday she'd sponsored the money for the group, but insisted it was allocated only after her sister, Iris, and Iris' son, Richard, had left.

"I know that when the Council discretionary funds were allocated, I know that they were no longer there," she said.

Nevertheless, she couldn't say when her sister left. As of February 2007, Iris Arroyo was signing tax documents as the group's "fiscal officer," records show.

Also the group received $50,000 in discretionary funds in 2006, although at the time sponsors were not publicly listed.

The 2007 discretionary money was to go for senior programs administered by the Department of Aging. Wednesday, a contradiction emerged regarding that agency.

With Stewart, prosecutors say the Department of Aging recently rejected his request to fund a nonprofit run by his chief of staff, citing conflict of interest.

Nevertheless, the agency appears to have approved Arroyo's funding of a nonprofit employing her sister and nephew.

A spokesman did not return calls.

In a lawsuit, a former employee questioned the competence of Iris Arroyo, claiming she failed to keep up with payroll taxes and as a result, federal liens were placed on the South Bronx Community Corp. in 2000 and 2001.

The liens were settled, but reemerged in 2006 with a new lien for $48,000. That remains outstanding.

The former employee, Belinda Santos, once an Arroyo inlaw, said in court papers she urged Iris Arroyo to keep up with the payroll taxes and quit because Iris would not listen.

In response, Izquierdo blamed Santos and accused her of using South Bronx monies to pay her car insurance. Santos denied using money for personal benefit.

The case was settled with South Bronx acknowledging the lien was its responsibility.

The nonprofit has also benefitted from state taxpayers, care of Arroyo's mother, the assemblywoman. She co-sponsored state member items totalling $141,500 for the agency while it employed her kin, records show.

Assemblywoman Arroyo did not return calls.