Sunday, November 9, 2008

Domenic Recchia

Wednesday, October 15, 2008, Room 8, By Gary Tilzer


Councilman Domenic M. Recchia told the New York Times on October 7th that he favors the extension of term limits, “A lot of us Council members feel that passing it through legislation is giving ample opportunity to the voters of the city to voice their opinions.” He added: “If the voters don’t like their council member, they can vote him out of office. And if they don’t like the mayor, they can get rid of him too.”

Dominic knows that if term limits passes he will be reelected. Dominic knows that 95% of the incumbents who ran for reelection in the 2005 City Council elections were reelected. Only Allan Jennings, who was censured on sexual harassment, was defeated that year and that was by a former incumbent, Thomas White Jr. “Incumbents have a taxpayer-financed staff, which may act as a public relations operation; the ability to mail newsletters to constituents,” Ron Lauder said in a 1993 letter to the New York Times. “Thus we have noncompetitive races, members increasingly insulated from constituent pressure and ossification of municipal government.” Lauder did not even get into the unfair advantages that incumbents get from redistricting, member items and New York’s election system.

Memo to the Times: Dominic is A Special Interest

“Journalism's ultimate purpose is to inform the reader, to bring him each day a letter from home and never to permit the serving of special interests,” proclaimed Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, former New York Times publisher. Will the Times, which blindly printed Recchia’s quotes without offering analysis, mislead the public in an attempt to mold public opinion to support its goal of another term for Mayor Bloomberg? A proper attempt to inform the public of the unfair advantages incumbents have and a review of the dirty tricks that Recchia has used over the years to repress his opposition would let its readers know what the Councilman already knows: that if term limits are extended he is a lock at reelection.

The Missing Analysis

In 2003, after Dr. Oleg Gutnik, running (2001) on the Republican line, came very close to becoming the first GOP candidate to win in Recchia’s 47th Council District in a hundred years, Recchia hatched a plan to divide the Russian community. The Councilman made a backroom deal with the Redistricting Commission, controlled by former Council Speaker Gifford Miller, to cut about 33% of the Russian voters out of his district.

4 reasons for Recchia’s weakness in his district:
1. He was only elected with less than 30% of the vote
2. His opponents, all Jewish, split the Jewish vote
3. The Italian neighborhoods were becoming Russian
4. The Russian citizens were increasingly registering to vote

Recchia Hooks Up with the Corrupt Norman Machine

After redistricting, Recchia conspired with the corrupt Clarence Norman-led Brooklyn machine to throw his opponent, Russian candidate Tony Eisenberg, off the ballot. Eisenberg was thrown off the ballot after a judge picked by Norman ruled he did not live in the district. The election law says a candidate for City Council can live anywhere during a redistricting year, which 2003 was. However, the law was no obstacle to a Norman judge. Recchia appeared shortly after removing Eisenberg from the ballot at a rally backing Norman, who was indicted by Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes for selling judgeships.

In 2005 after a New York Post reporter wrote a story about community leaders making a complaint to DA Hynes Assembly was not a legal resident of his district. They charged Lopez renting a tiny room in a home of a director of a non-profit he funded to maintain a legal residence, voting several times there. The net result of the charges to the DA was the county leader moved out of his single room to a real apartment and the reporter left the paper. If I were John J. O’Hara I would run for county leader to get my illegal voting conviction overturned.

In 2003, Recchia still managed to spend $82,500 in city matching funds, despite not having had a primary opponent and receiving 75% of the General Election vote. Recchia spent $35,000 on the election lawyer to throw Eisenberg off the ballot, $3,500 to hire a private investigator against Eisenberg, and $2,500 in rent to his own wife.

Recchia Uses Government Funds and the Election Law to Wear Out Opposition

Recchia has distributed millions in member funds from the Council, Mayor’s Office and capital budget throughout his district to buy political support. He has worked with a team of political supporters who have moved Russian polling sites and threaten poll workers to make it harder for the new immigrant community to organize and vote. The Russian activists who were organizing campaigns in Brighton Beach got tired of spending money and worn out from all the dirty political tricks Recchia and his friends play against them. Several said the machine was worse than the KGB in the Soviet Union. It was not until I met with Congressman Nadler in the winter of 2006 about how the dirty tricks against the Russian community were hurting any chance of reversing the declining Jewish vote in Brooklyn that Adele Cohen was talked out of running for reelection to the Assembly and Alex Brook-Krasny, the first Russian-American Assemblyman, was allowed to succeed her.

Being Councilman Has Been Good for Recchia’s Business

Recchia, the lawyer, is the top outside money earner in the City Council. In 2006, Citizens Union reported that Recchia has an outside income of over $210,000. In addition to the near quarter of a million he takes in, he receives a salary of $100,000 as a Councilman, plus $10,000 more for chairing the Council’s Libraries & International Intergroup Relations committee. Recchia has done very well for someone who graduated from a law school that was not accredited at the time he graduated from it. If the neighborhood buzz is true, Recchia’s tenure as President of Community School Board 21 was also good for his well-being.

Dominic is Only for Dominic

Recchia’s biggest backer, at least in terms of campaign contributions, is the developer who wants to turn historical Coney Island into a co-op project. Most of last year, developer Joe Sitt of Thor Equities pushed Recchia for U.S. Congress. But Recchia decided not to run after Rep. Vito Fossella dropped out of the race - when it was discovered

Fossella has a second family - and backers of Councilman Michael McMahon applied pressure to Recchia to have McMahon replace him. Despite Sitt’s longtime support for Recchia, by voting to extend his time in office to a third term, the Councilman is now destroying Sitt’s plan to build housing in Coney Island. The biggest opponent of Sitt’s plan is Mayor Bloomberg, the City’s staunchest advocate for keeping Coney Island an amusement park district. If Bloomberg stays another term, Thor Equities is likely to lose the battle to reshape Coney Island.

Term Limits were designed to stop elected officials like Dominic Recchia, who use elected office for selfish gain. Now our dysfunctional press is giving a man, who some Russians call the “Butcher of Brighton”, the right to extend his own term without comment or question. “Just like in the Soviet Union we left,” sighed a Russian senior woman after a deep exhale.

City councilman funds group that improperly made big loan

Sunday, June 22nd 2008, 12:36 AM

City Councilman Domenic Recchia sponsored thousands of taxpayer dollars for a nonprofit that gave a wealthy board member an improper interest-free loan, a Daily News probe has found.

The $60,000 in Council funds was earmarked last year for the Sephardic Angel Fund, a nonprofit that's supposed to award no-interest loans to "poor, distressed or underprivileged persons" to start or improve businesses.

But the group's treasurer, Eddie Shamah, got a $50,000 interest-free loan in 2005, tax documents show. The nonprofit later admitted the loan was a blatant conflict of interest when it applied for a federal program that bars such self-dealing.

A spokesman for the group, who did not want to be identified, confirmed the loan and admitted the Angel Fund also has awarded loans to distant relatives of board members. He insisted that none of the loan recipients were "direct" relatives of board members, stating, "Every one that they checked has been a third or fourth cousin."

Recchia (D-Brooklyn), the latest Council member linked to the growing funding investigation, either sponsored or co-sponsored a total of $690,000 in Council funds last year for the Angel Fund and five affiliated nonprofits, records show.

The most recent $60,000 for the Angel Fund supports a youth newspaper, the spokesman said.

Dozens of board members, employees, relatives and lobbyists of the nonprofits that got Recchia-sponsored funds have made campaign donations totalling more than $40,000 to Recchia since 2004, records show. Most were made in the last two years.

In an interview, Recchia defended his sponsorship of public funds for the groups, and insisted that campaign donations did not inspire him to sponsor Council funds for the groups. "One has nothing to do with the other," he said.

Asked about the Angel Fund's loan to a board member, Recchia replied, "My job is to get funds for groups that do good work in my district. I do not know how it's run. I don't know anything about this.

"All I know is that these groups do excellent work in helping our community, in treating people," he added. "If you think there's anything going on that's illegal, you should report it to the Department of Investigation."

The Department of Investigation and the Manhattan U.S. Attorney are probing Council funding of nonprofits. Two Council aides have been charged with embezzling $145,000 from one.

The News has documented at least four Council members who funneled Council funds to nonprofits that employ relatives and one who tried to.

The Council spent $41 million in discretionary funds last year. Facing a stunning drop in tax revenues, the mayor has ordered $1 billion in budget cuts to everything from parks to schools, with massive budget deficits predicted in coming years.

The insider loan to the Angel Fund board member shows up in 2005 and 2006 tax records, some of which are signed by Shamah as treasurer of the group. In one filing, Shamah's loan was listed as an "advance," but the Angel Fund spokesman described it differently.

He said the loan originated when another Angel Fund loan recipient had a nervous breakdown and couldn't go through with a plan to open a diner in Brooklyn.

The spokesman said Shamah wound up with the loan after other investors in the diner urged Shamah to step in. He would not disclose the identities of the original loan recipient or the investors, and would not reveal whether any were Angel Fund board members.

The spokesman said the conflict-of-interest question regarding Shamah's loan arose last year when the Angel Fund applied to a Small Business Administration loan program. The SBA requires that participants "prohibit employees from using their positions for a purpose that constitutes or presents the appearance of personal conflict of interest."

The Angel Fund board members "felt there was a conflict" with Shamah's loan from the fund "and they wanted it to be gone," the spokesman said.

In May 2006, the Angel Fund was approved by SBA to be an "intermediary." Since then it's been authorized to borrow $400,000.

Angel Fund officials say they "ordered" Shamah to either resign or pay off the loan in "late 2006," though documents indicate he still owed $39,000 at year's end. He has since repaid the loan, the spokesman said.

Shamah, reached on his cell phone, would only say, "I'm on the golf course and can't talk."


Recchia: No Quid Pro Quo For Mayoral Member Items
Daily News Blog, May 14, 2008 by Elizabeth Benjamin

Councilman Domenic Recchia, one of the small handful of Council members to benefit from Mayor Bloomberg's personal pool of discretionary funds, insisted it's just a coincidence that three of them crossed party lines to endorse the mayor's 2005 re-election bid (back when he was still a Republican).

“It’s got nothing to do with anything like that,” Recchia, who got a total of $625,000 from Bloomberg in the last budget cycle, told the DN's Frank Lombardi. “There was no quid pro quo."

Recchia, who is now raising money for a potential congressional run in the 13th CD, said he has a personal connection to only one of the 11 groups to which he dispensed the mayoral funds - PS 215 - which received $85,000 through the Department of Education.

“My children go there,” he said, noting that the school had lost a lot of federal funding in recent years.

Other party-line crossers shown love by Bloomberg were Councilman Simcha Felder ($1.9 million) and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. ($400,000).

Also on the receiving end: Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who got $900,000. He also bolted the Democratic Party to endorse hizzoner in 2005.

Another coincidence: Felder, Vallone and Markowitz were all the beneficiaries of fundraiser host by the mayor in his East Side townhouse, worth upwards of $200,000 each, according to reported accounts.

Bloomberg also doled out some member-item funds (albeit considerably less) to non-endorsers, including Democratic Councilwoman Helen Sears of Queens, who received $50,000.

Sears said she supported “the nominee of my party” in both of Bloomberg’s mayoral runs.

She directed her mayoral grant to the Doe Fund, a nonprofit group that helps the homeless find jobs. Workers for the Doe Fund are helping merchants in the business district of Jackson Heights keep their sidewalks clean and their litter baskets from overflowing, Sears said.

”We had to do something about the problem (of litter), and I went to the administration and asked for help," Sears said. "Everybody knows the mayor did it and everyone is grateful to the mayor."

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