Friday, March 17, 2017

NYC Mayor Cunningly Sidestepped Election Laws So That He Could Break Them

Bill de Blasio

De Blasio Proves That Some Laws Are Made to Be Unbreakable

Among the gold medals awarded to Bill de Blasio on Thursday was one for limbo-dancing his way past election laws so he and his allies could funnel money into 2014 state legislative campaigns at a rate 10 times the supposed limit.
Money was not given directly to candidates, but to party committees, which can receive bigger piles of cash. Those committees could then legally transfer the inflated donations to candidates.
It makes a sham of the limits, but Mr. de Blasio did not invent these evasive moves. In just about every single competitive legislative race in this century someone, Republican or Democrat, has used precisely the same contortions. Perhaps because the mayor has a talent for annoying people — he would say, the right people — the state Board of Elections sicced the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. on him a year ago.
On Thursday, the prosecutor said the de Blasio operation “enabled an unprecedented amount of money to flow” to individual campaigns, but did so without violating the limits on contributions.
This comes down, then, not to behavior, but to scale. That is why the gold medal goes to the de Blasio team, which was up against a field of strong contenders that included Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and the state committees of both the Republican and Democratic parties. All of them engaged in versions of the de Blasio team’s tactic of washing big pots of money through state or county party committees in support of individual candidates.
Mr. Vance, in a letter to the Board of Elections, suggested that the de Blasio team’s activities contradicted the “spirit and intent” of the campaign laws.
For this to be true, one would have to believe that the legislature really intended there to be actual limits on how much money could be given to candidates. Mr. Vance is correct that the legislature created limits, but it simultaneously built ways around them; its “spirit and intent” is like the public piety of a Mafia hitman who makes the sign of the cross when passing a church on his way to work.
Money washed through a county committee is not subject to the limits, thanks to an exception in Article 12-124 of the state election law. Other exceptions have made it possible for the real estate industry to own an entire chamber of the state legislature, lock, stock and gavel.
Limited liability companies, or L.L.C.s, are essentially paper companies used as proxies to let big companies get around limits by channeling money through them. Common Cause New York, the good government group, has reported that tens of millions have been funneled to the state Republicans through L.L.C.s since 1996, when the Board of Elections ruled that an L.L.C. was no different under the law than a person. Consider this testimony from an executive at a major real estate company, Glenwood, during the 2015 federal corruption trial of Dean Skelos, the former majority leader of the state senate.
Q. Since you’ve been at Glenwood, how much money have the L.L.C.s donated in contributions?
A. In total?
Q. In total, approximately.
A. Ten million.
In another context, Alan Vinegrad, a former federal prosecutor, once said, “‘Everybody does it’ is not a defense.’ It’s a confession.”
Mr. de Blasio received news Thursday morning that he and his allies would not be prosecuted by Mr. Vance’s office or by the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which was investigating a separate matter, the legality of favors done by Mr. de Blasio for people who made contributions to a nonprofit run by his associates.
Prosecutors carry the responsibility to enforce laws. They are not in charge of good and evil. Nor are they civic hygienists. Nevertheless, Mr. Vance made the useful suggestion that the Board of Elections could issue guidance on the tricks used by Team de Blasio — and prominent others, unnamed by Mr. Vance.
Certain practices deserve our attention not because they are against the law, but precisely because they are legal. Moments after the prosecutors’ announcements, Brian Lehrer of WNYC radio spoke to the mayor on the air.
“Were you looking to get money to the hands of those candidates through the state committees and understanding the spirit of the law but trying to just stay within the letter of the law – not caring about the spirit of the law?” Mr. Lehrer asked.
Brian, respectfully, I think that’s an outrageous question,” Mr. de Blasio replied.

Mr. de Blasio loves saddling up on the highest horse he can find. It can be a long way down.

No Charges, but Harsh Criticism for de Blasio’s Fund-Raising

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New York State May Be Sued For Voting Violations by the United States Department of Justice

re-posted from the New York Times and Parentadvocates.org:



      

U.S. Threatens to Sue New York State Over Voting Violations

The Justice Department has notified New York State officials that it may sue the state over what it says are widespread failures to comply with a provision of federal voter registration law that requires state drivers’ license applications to double as applications for voter registration, according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

In the letter, dated Jan. 6, the Justice Department lays out how the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles violates the law. The lapses “deprive numerous New Yorkers of important voter registration opportunities required under federal law,” according to the letter, which was signed by Vanita Gupta, the head of the civil rights division at the Justice Department.

At D.M.V. offices throughout the state, a Justice Department investigation found, drivers’ license applications do not also serve as voter registration forms unless applicants request it, and the option is sometimes closed even to those who make a request.

The letter said that even among D.M.V. offices that allow voter registration, some do not pass registration forms to election officials in the time required by law. That finding echoes those described by the office of the state attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, in a report on voting issues surrounding the 2016 presidential primary.

Applications to renew drivers’ licenses online are also supposed to automatically serve as voter registration applications, the letter said, but they do not. When drivers submit a change of address to the D.M.V. online, that notification is also required to function as a change of address submission for voter registration, but in New York, the letter said, it does not.

The D.M.V. offers online voter registration separately from its other applications, but that is “no substitute” for combining the voter registration and drivers’ license application processes, the letter said.

Though Ms. Gupta has authorized a lawsuit, the state and the Justice Department could resolve the issue before it reaches a courtroom. The letter said the Justice Department will delay filing a complaint while it discusses the matter with state officials. A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on Friday.

Joe Morrissey, a spokesman for the D.M.V., said: “State laws and policies clearly require auto-combining of drivers’ license applications and voter registration applications. D.M.V. looks forward to speaking with D.O.J. to determine what, if any, concerns exist.”

The letter to the D.M.V. arrived a few days before the Justice Department asked to join a lawsuit over what it said were dysfunctional registration procedures at the New York City Board of Elections, which has been accused of mistakenly dropping more than 117,000 eligible Brooklyn voters from the registration rolls before the 2016 primary.

Last week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a series of proposals that he said would reform how New Yorkers vote, including instituting early voting along with automatic and same-day registration. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

With Norman Seabrook's Arrest, What Happens To Riker's Island Reform?


Norman Seabrook after he was arraigned on corruption charges on Wednesday in
Manhattan.

Norman Seabrook’s Ouster as Union Chief May Complicate Overhaul at Rikers


LINK


In his two decades as leader of the nation’s largest municipal correction officers’ union, Norman Seabrook managed to consolidate near-total control, his authority on the cellblocks of Rikers Island often eclipsing that of commissioners and mayors.


But with his arrest this week on corruption charges, it would appear that Mr. Seabrook’s reign is on the verge of collapse. On Thursday, he was ousted as union president and replaced for now by his second in command.


The biggest question is how this affects the efforts underway to reform the Rikers jail complex. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has invested enormous political capital and hundreds of millions of dollars to remake New York City’s jails and to end the violence and corruption that has long plagued them.


Mr. Seabrook has been a fierce opponent of many of the changes being put in place at Rikers, particularly the scaling back of solitary confinement, which will soon be eliminated for all inmates under age 22.


But as the lone voice for the city’s 9,000 correction officers, his willingness to cooperate with at least some of the reform efforts was important. He was a strongman, but one who gave voice and coherence to a group of workers split among more than a dozen facilities and three shifts.


Among the rank-and-file, Mr. Seabrook commanded tremendous loyalty. Unlike the department officials and the commissioners who came and went, he was one of them, a correction officer born in the Bronx and raised poor as one of eight children. He was also a black man leading a heavily black union, sensitive to racial issues on the job and in the community.


At graduation ceremonies, new recruits would watch the droning speeches of officials with barely disguised boredom. When Mr. Seabrook took the stage — often to disparage those previous speakers to their faces — they were on their feet.


In those ways, his absence could pose headaches to reformers.


No matter how ambitious the reform agenda of Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, may be, it can go nowhere without the support of the men and women who work the cellblocks.


With Mr. Seabrook gone, the question is, Who will speak for them now?


During his tenure as president, Mr. Seabrook quashed any potential challengers and never groomed a strong successor. His 14-member executive board is considered weak, commanding none of the loyalty among members that he has long enjoyed.


“Norman is a tyrant,” said William Valentin, who spent five years on the executive board and was kicked out by Mr. Seabrook in August 2015. “The executive board is pretty much under his control. They really don’t argue with him too much. Whatever he says goes.”


Understanding Mr. Seabrook’s outsized importance on the cellblocks requires understanding the history of the city’s Correction Department. By the end of the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a Republican turned political independent, there was a real power vacuum in the department. It was considered a low priority, and the commissioner at the time, Dora B. Schriro, was a weak leader.


Mr. Seabrook stepped into that void, his power perhaps reaching its apex in fall 2013, when he almost single-handedly shut down the city court system by directing his members in a work stoppage that halted almost all of the buses that ferry inmates to and from court.


A judge complained that the court system had been “held hostage,” and Mr. Bloomberg sued the union. But Mr. Seabrook emerged unscathed.


Even after Mr. de Blasio took office in 2014 and appointed the reform-minded Joseph Ponte as correction commissioner, Mr. Seabrook continued to behave as if he were in charge of Rikers. He called a news conference in which he derided Mr. Ponte as a “hug a thug” yokel from Maine who was out of his league.


Mr. de Blasio seemed to go out of his way early on in his administration to try to cultivate the union leader. During the height of the Ebola crisis in late 2014, for example, the mayor took a break from emergency preparations to attend a charity dinner hosted by Mr. Seabrook at a Bronx ballroom. In a speech, Mr. de Blasio described him as “a friend” and “a great leader in this town.”


But the landscape was changing. News organizations and city investigators were exposing a culture of pervasive brutality in the jails. Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office filed charges against Mr. Seabrook on Wednesday, eventually joined a class-action lawsuit that led to intervention by a federal monitor. And the new mayor took an aggressive stance, vowing to remake Rikers.


Faced with constant obstruction by Mr. Seabrook, who often told his members that Rikers was “our house,” the administration sought ways to circumvent him. Perhaps the most important sign that the balance of power had shifted was a decision by Mr. Ponte to exclude Mr. Seabrook from a behind-the-scenes deal to significantly cut back on the use of solitary confinement. Mr. Seabrook stood at a public meeting and harshly criticized the administration, but the deal to end isolation for all inmates under 22 was done.


Mr. Seabrook continued to bluster publicly about the changes, once showing up outside City Hall with a coffin, meant to represent the dangers facing jail officers. But he also worked with the administration to improve training and to raise hiring standards.


Speaking about Mr. Seabrook’s arrest, Mr. de Blasio described his relationship with the union leader as “fraught.”


“Sometimes he was willing to work with us,” the mayor said. “Sometimes he wasn’t.”


Now there is great uncertainty about what comes next for the union.


Mr. Seabrook is set to run unopposed in unionwide elections this summer. Ballots have already been distributed to the membership, and for now, the plan is to let the election continue as scheduled, according to a union official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have permission to discuss internal union business publicly.


If there are no challenges, the official said, the role of president will be fulfilled for the foreseeable future by Elias Husamudeen, Mr. Seabrook’s trusted second in command.
From Elias Husamudeen – President of COBA:
"We are saddened and concerned by these allegations, but would point out that Mr. Seabrook is innocent of these charges until proven otherwise and we look forward to him having his day in court. But let’s be clear, the current leadership of COBA will remain focused on protecting the women and men in uniform who risk their lives working in our jails every day. Our officers face an increase in gang violence, an increase in encounters with the mentally ill that they are inadequately trained for, and an increase in overtime that is pushing them to the brink. These issues are too important to allow for distractions."
Norman Seabrook at his office
At Rikers Island, Union Chief’s Clout Is a Roadblock to Reform
Riker's Island Jail Complex

LINK
With brutality by guards at the Rikers Island jail complex rising at an alarming rate, the chief investigator for the New York City Correction Department stood before a roomful of senior officers and union leaders in the summer of 2012 and outlined her plans to crack down on abuse and send more cases to prosecutors.
Riker's Jail
The presentation infuriated one man in particular, Norman Seabrook, the powerful president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, who believed the incidents should be handled internally. For the next two years he did everything in his power to get rid of the investigator, Florence Finkle. He helped scuttle some of her investigations, got one of her top people transferred, called for her resignation and denounced her on his weekly radio show.


In August, he finally got his wish: Ms. Finkle was forced out, replaced by a former senior Police Department official — a childhood friend of Mr. Seabrook’s.


Over his two decades as president of the union, Mr. Seabrook has come to exert extraordinary control over the Correction Department, consulting with commissioners on key appointments, forging alliances with high-ranking uniformed correction leaders and, more recently, speaking regularly with Mayor Bill de Blasio about department policy. His influence has paid enormous dividends for his members, but it has also fed a culture of violence and corruption at Rikers, an investigation by The New York Times found.


The investigation involved scores of interviews, with former correction commissioners, former senior City Hall aides, and current and former department officials, and reviews of internal emails and other documents, as well as several lengthy interviews with Mr. Seabrook himself. What emerged was a portrait of a labor leader who wields remarkable power through a combination of political savvy and intimidation.


“I came to think that my wardens believed Norman was more important to their career than I was,” said Martin F. Horn, who served as commissioner from 2003 to 2009.


Mr. Seabrook’s power has cut two ways.


Under his leadership, correction officers, long overlooked among the city’s uniformed services, have seen large gains in salary and pension benefits, reaching parity with firefighters and police officers. Like Mr. Seabrook, the overwhelming majority of his members are black. They have risen to dominate the top ranks of the department, making it far more diverse than the Police and Fire Departments, where most of the leadership is white.


But current and former city officials repeatedly described Mr. Seabrook as the biggest obstacle to efforts to curb brutality and malfeasance at Rikers. He has vigorously resisted stiffer penalties for the use of excessive force by guards and has fought stronger screening measures designed to stop correction officers from smuggling weapons and drugs into the jails. Time and again, Mr. Seabrook has shielded his members from serious punishment when investigators like Ms. Finkle have tried to go after them.


Last year, when prosecutors charged 10 officers in a beating that fractured an inmate’s nose and eye sockets, Mr. Seabrook vigorously defended them.


“Here we have correction officers paraded into court for merely defending themselves,” he said. “The officers did everything that they were supposed to do.”


Much of Mr. Seabrook’s influence within the department comes from a fear of what he might do to those who cross him. The Times spoke with about a dozen current and former senior city officials, both inside and outside the department, who have dealt with him regularly over the years and were privately critical of him. But almost no one would be quoted discussing Mr. Seabrook, citing concerns that he could sabotage their careers. Some also expressed fears about their safety while visiting Rikers, worrying that a correction officer might look the other way if an inmate suddenly got violent.


“He’s a bully,” said Daniel Dromm, a city councilman who has openly clashed with Mr. Seabrook on several occasions. “They’re afraid of him.”


3 New York City Correction Officials to Step Down Amid Scrutiny of Rikers


In a major shake-up at the New York City Correction Department, three high-ranking officials, including the top uniformed officer, are stepping down amid mounting criticism over the handling of violence and corruption at Rikers Island.


The chief of department, William Clemons, and two deputies — Joandrea Davis, the bureau chief of administration, and Gregory McLaughlin, the bureau chief of facility operations — are departing, correction officials said. The surprise departures came just five months after all three were appointed to their current posts by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s correction commissioner, Joseph Ponte.


A department spokesman said the changes were the result of “a restructuring” by Mr. Ponte in an effort to halt brutality on the most violent cellblocks.


The department has been under intense pressure from lawmakers and federal and city investigators to address systemic brutality and corruption at Rikers, the country’s second-largest jail complex. The United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which in August released a damning report detailing abuse of adolescent inmates at Rikers, has threatened to sue the city if changes are not made.


The highest-ranking official in the group, Mr. Clemons, is a 29-year veteran of the department. But he has been under scrutiny since an investigation by The New York Times in September uncovered details from an internal Correction Department audit that found he had “abdicated all responsibility” in his duties as warden of a juvenile facility at Rikers in 2011, where hundreds of inmate fights had been omitted from official statistics. The audit recommended that he be demoted.


Instead, he was promoted several times. And The Times found that large sections of the audit, including the recommendation for demotion and the sharpest criticism, were removed from the report by the previous commissioner, Dora B. Schriro.


Mr. Ponte has said he did not see the unedited version of the report before appointing Mr. Clemons chief of department in May. The commissioner promoted him over the objections of the city’s Department of Investigation, The Times found.


In a statement released on Tuesday morning, Mr. Ponte wrote that Mr. Clemons had “proved himself an able leader” and “was a model of stability in a tumultuous time.” Mr. Ponte said he would appoint a new chief by Dec. 1.


Ms. Davis, who joined the department in 1988, is Mr. Clemons’s sister-in-law. She served as warden of three of the 10 jails at Rikers, including the women’s detention center, before moving to administrative positions. Reached by telephone, she declined to comment.


Mr. McLaughlin has been with the department for 27 years and has held several posts. He was warden of the Robert N. Davoren Center, an adolescent jail at Rikers, during a period of extreme violence, and was removed from that command in 2008 shortly after Christopher Robinson, an 18-year-old inmate, was beaten to death by fellow inmates. Mr. McLaughlin could not be reached for comment.


Ms. Davis, Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Clemons were promoted to their positions shortly after Mr. Ponte’s arrival in April. Ms. Davis will leave her position on Nov. 1, while Mr. Clemons and Mr. McLaughlin are to step down on Dec. 1.


In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Ponte said that he was now reorganizing the department to improve oversight of the most violent jails at Rikers. This includes getting high-ranking officers out from behind their desks and onto the cellblocks for the majority of their workweek.


He has also designated a civilian, James E. Dzurenda, the former commissioner of Connecticut’s state prisons, to oversee the top ranking chiefs. The change represents a shifting of authority from the traditionally dominant uniformed staff.


The de Blasio administration has also been looking for ways to bring in new leaders, announcing in September that it was seeking to change civil service laws to allow the hiring of high-ranking correction officers from outside the department.


Under the reorganization, Mr. Ponte said he eliminated several top uniformed positions, including those of Ms. Davis and Mr. McLaughlin, prompting them to leave.


“We want to kind of take a look from the ground up with new eyes in these positions,” he said.


Asked whether Mr. Clemons was pressured to step down, Mr. Ponte said it was the chief’s “personal decision.”


Earlier this month, at a City Council hearing about violence at Rikers, Mr. Ponte praised Mr. Clemons for a “long history of doing good work in the agency.”


Lawmakers were not so kind.


Citing The Times’s investigation, the Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, criticized Mr. Ponte for failing to fire Mr. Clemons, calling the department chief “clearly incompetent.”


In a joint statement released on Tuesday, Ms. Mark-Viverito and Elizabeth Crowley, a council member and the chairwoman of the committee overseeing Rikers, urged Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Ponte to seek out new leadership.


“For too long, the Department of Correction has been rife with the mismanagement and mistreatment of inmates, and the Council’s oversight has only served to further shed light on the deep-seated issues plaguing the D.O.C.,” the statement said.


In the face of the harsh criticism directed at Mr. Clemons, some of his strongest support came from the powerful correction officers’ union and its president, Norman Seabrook. After the Council hearing, Mr. Seabrook’s deputy, Elias Husamudeen, wrote on the union’s website: “I feel like this Council is calling for the head of Chief Clemons.” But on Tuesday, union officials declined to comment on Mr. Clemons’s departure.


Mr. Clemons has largely kept a low profile since the Times report. He did not attend the recent Council hearing, prompting Councilwoman Crowley to say that he “did not have the backbone to appear.”


On Monday, Mr. Clemons arrived at the commissioner’s office at 7 a.m., before the regular staff meeting, Mr. Ponte said.


Mr. Ponte recalled, “He came in and said: ‘I decided to put in my papers; I’m going to retire. I think it’s time.’ ”

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bill deBlasio and His Corrupt Loans To Four Troubled Pre-K Programs


Mayor Bill deBlasio

De Blasio used ‘slush fund’ to support faulty pre-K programs




Mayor de Blasio’s office arranged for a nonprofit fund to loan $1.36 million to four private pre-kindergarten programs too troubled to get city contracts. Now it wants to use taxpayer money to repay the loans.
Education watchdogs say the mayor side-stepped procedures that guard against waste and abuse by asking the Fund for the City of New York to finance the faulty pre-K vendors.
“It’s like using a slush fund to avoid their own procurement rules,” said Patrick Sullivan, a former member of the Panel for Educational Policy, which votes on Department of Education contracts.
The moves come amid charges that the mayor created another nonprofit, Campaign for One New York, as a political slush fund to finance his agenda. In a probe revealed Friday, the state Board of Elections found that de Blasio and his top aides used the nonprofit to ­illegally raise money for fellow Democrats.
The 50-year-old Fund for the City of New York created an interest-free-loan program in 1976 to provide cash to nonprofits waiting for money from approved government contracts. In this case, the city gave a green light for pre-K programs to accept kids last school year despite problems including tax evasion, misspending public funds and failure to hire sufficient qualified staff — a move Sullivan called “irresponsible.”
Other critics agreed.
“It puts the taxpayers’ money at risk and it puts vulnerable children at risk,” said Leonie Haimson, an education advocate with Class Size Matters and a DOE budget watchdog.
In a rush to expand de Blasio’s signature Pre-K for All initiative in 2014-15, the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services asked the Fund for the City of New York to give “bridge loans” to the four vendors to pay teachers and other expenses pending the background stamp of approval:
·         Church Avenue Day Care in Brooklyn, whose program cost $768,676, did not file city corporate tax returns from 2010 to 2014, which disqualified the vendor. Phone numbers listed for the company were out of service Friday.
·         B’Above WorldWide Institute in Richmond Hill, Queens, loaned $330,050, failed to fix problems with oversight, staffing, rec­ords management and curriculum, records show. A representative did not return a call.
·         Footsteps Childcare in Brooklyn, loaned $133,840, was accused in 2008 of “numerous instances of failure to demonstrate that it had spent monies properly” under a former contract with the state Office of Children and Family Services. It reimbursed $64,000 of $100,000 the state found misappropriated. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Footsteps ­Director Monica McDonald said Friday.
·         West Harlem Community Organization, loaned $130,000, owes state and federal taxes and has not yet settled with the IRS. In addition, the city Health Department shut down a pre-K class it was running under the Administration for Children’s Services for failure to hire qualified teachers and do background checks on some staff. The ­issues were fixed and the program reopened last July 1, representatives said.
The DOE has since dropped all four pre-K providers. Now it plans to ask the city Comptroller’s Office to retroactively approve contracts with the vendors so taxpayer money can repay the Fund for the City of New York for its bridge loans.
Experts called the unusual request an ­end-run around the rules.
“We will review these contracts when they are submitted,” said comptroller spokesman Eric Sumberg.
The DOE says taxpayers should foot the bill even though it found the vendors “nonresponsible” and lacking the required integrity to win contracts.
All pre-K providers undergo a “rigorous review process” and strict oversight, said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness, adding that performance or safety problems can result in immediate suspension or eventual termination.
“All families can rest assured their child is in a safe and supportive learning environment,” Holness said.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The de Blasio-City Council-NYPD-Industrial-Complex

Re-posted from COURTBEAT

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor,COURTBEAT, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice

Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council, the NYPD, and the 2012 Responsible Banking Act - Not

If the powers that be in New York City can shine a light on Mayor Bill and the NYC City Council, I think that the disaster we have voted into office will be clear.

See Bill's bio. His real name is Warren Wilhelm, Jr. He became Bill de Blasio in 2002.

Mayor's Pal Yitzchok Leshinsky and Housing Bridge Are Under Investigation




Betsy Combier
Editor, Courtbeat

A top aide to Mayor de Blasio had warned against putting the businessmen now at the center of the NYPD corruption scandal onto Hizzoner’s 2014 inaugural committee, The Post has learned.
But Avi Fink was blown off by de Blasio’s chief fund-raiser — whose campaign-finance work is under investigation — and also by the committee’s chairwoman.
Fink, a mayoral adviser on Jewish issues who is on leave working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, told Ross Offinger and Gabrielle Fialkoff that he had concerns about Jeremy Reichberg and Jona Rechnitz, sources said Thursday.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio
“People in the Orthodox community told Avi they had questions about where his money comes from and said he’s not a community activist, he’s only out for himself,” one source said.The red flags included doubts about how Reichberg, a prominent member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Borough Park, Brooklyn, had attained his wealth, sources said.
Another source said Rechnitz was well-known in the Bukharan Jewish community in Queens for clashing with Israeli billionaire and diamond merchant Lev Leviev over a business deal.
Jeremy Reichberg (left) and Jona Rechnitz
“He had a falling out with [Leviev] that may have tarnished his reputation,” the source said.
Offinger and Fialkoff, a jewelry heiress who now holds a $203,000-a-year City Hall job, let them join the committee anyway.
Perks of a committee appointment included seating at the Jan. 1 inauguration ceremony and a spot on a receiving line to congratulate the mayor, as well as an invitation to a Gracie Mansion breakfast the next Sunday.
Avi Fink
Rechnitz and his wife each donated the maximum $4,950 to de Blasio’s campaign, which the mayor has said he would return.
After de Blasio’s election, Reichberg hosted a fund-raiser at his Borough Park home that raked in $35,000 for the Campaign for One New York, the mayor’s now-defunct nonprofit.
Fink, Offinger and Fialkoff — who runs the de Blasio-created Office of Strategic Partnerships — did not return calls for comment.
A de Blasio campaign spokesman didn’t deny Fink’s warnings but issued a statement describing the inaugural committee as “a large, ceremonial group” whose “members were recommended and vetted by campaign staff and chosen by staff in partnership with the volunteer chairperson.”
Additional reporting by Yoav Gonen

The Judge Who Saved New York

MAYOR DE BLASIO IS BARRED FROM REGULATING BANKS. CRISIS AVERTED.

A meteor headed straight for the world’s financial center has been knocked off course. Federal Judge Katherine Polk Failla of the Southern District of New York has prevented catastrophe in Gotham by knocking out the city’s 2012 Responsible Banking Act. The benefits will be felt far beyond New York.
The idea behind the law was to pressure banks to provide more loans to politically favored borrowers. The plan by the New York City Council was to take an obscure, routine function of approving banks to hold the city’s deposits and use it as leverage to assert a vast authority over lending that even many Washington regulators would envy.
Step one was creation of the Community Investment Advisory Board, charged with collecting data from banks on their efforts to offer services “most needed by low and moderate income individuals and communities.” The board was also deputized to examine what the banks were doing in “affordable housing,” foreclosure prevention, “community development” and other projects that might “positively impact” the city through activities such as “philanthropic work and charitable giving.”
Yes, the progressives who run New York City think it’s their business to pass judgment on private charitable donations. After the board had examined the banks and opined on how socially responsible they were, city bureaucrats were then empowered to use these judgments to determine which firms would be official deposit banks in New York City. The city would put out annual reports essentially grading each bank.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg thought this was illegal. Under longstanding precedent, banking regulation is conducted by the feds and states. Federal law states that “no national bank shall be subject to any visitorial powers except as authorized by federal law,” but the council overrode a Bloomberg veto.
The new board created by the law recently started demanding information from banks, including proprietary data that could reflect the health of the bank and involve trade secrets. A number of other big cities, including Philadelphia and Los Angeles, have also sought to enforce “responsible banking.”
Judge Failla found that the Responsible Banking Act is “preempted by federal and state law,” contains “unconstitutional provisions” at its heart and is “void in its entirety.” Under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, federal law trumps subordinate laws, so a city cannot simply choose to override national banking policy on a whim.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lawyers argued that compliance was voluntary and the city is free to choose which banking services to purchase. But Judge Failla noted that the law had nothing to do with getting a better deal on the city’s checking accounts and everything to do with broad social goals. Cities are free to use their proprietary power to select the best services at the lowest cost, but not to use this as a pretext for unrelated regulation of activity already governed by state and federal law. As for the idea that banks didn’t have to participate, the judge noted that the law “secures compliance through public shaming of banks.”
Good for Judge Failla, Sullivan & Cromwell counsel Robert Giuffra who argued the case, and the citizens of New York City who have been saved from another progressive onslaught.