Brooklyn Politics by Erik Engquist

HYNES ADAs’ ODD VACATION: A typical list of popular vacation spots wouldn’t include polling sites in Brooklyn. Unless you work for Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes.

Apparently, more than a few of Hynes’s assistant district attorneys took vacation days on the day of the Democratic primary in September 2001 and were instructed by Hynes’s campaign to hand out literature at particular spots.

This comes from one A.D.A. who did exactly that on September 11, 2001, until that primary was postponed for two weeks because of the terrorist attack.

Speaking on the condition that she not be named, the A.D.A., who has since left Hynes’s office and is rooting for one of his competitors this year, took exception to Hynes’s claim that he didn’t have an election-day operation in 2001.

The A.D.A. recalls being told to report to the Harbor View Car Service in Bay Ridge, where one of Hynes’s sons was on hand. “When we went to Harbor View that day, it was wall-to-wall people from the (D.A.’s) office. Everyone who worked closely with me, went,” she said.

Hynes’s spokesman told us this was actually an Alan Hevesi mayoral campaign operation being run by a Hynes employee, but our source clearly recalled working for Hynes.

Why did they all give up a vacation day for Hynes’s campaign?

“I made a very good salary at the D.A.’s office. No one ever said point blank, but it was understood that you were rewarded and that the tradeoff was you were expected to give back—whether it was going to a fundraiser, which I also did, or working on the campaign,” the prosecutor said. “There were no threats…but it was understood.”

The A.D.A. recalled being asked directly by one of three of her superiors. “They would ask me in the office, during working hours,” she said. “I have to say I resented it. I knew it was part of the cost of doing business there, but I did resent it.”

Employees with high salaries were asked to give more. “I was told you could give $100, $200, $300. One of the people who worked for me was having financial problems. I said, ‘I could probably get $100 from this person.’ They said, ‘At your level, you’re expected to give $300.’”

What level was that? “Anyone who had a title other than just A.D.A.,” she said. “Deputy bureau chief, bureau chief…”

Low-level employees were not asked to contribute, the A.D.A. said.

The prosecutor said when she first arrived at Hynes’s office, campaign contributions by employees were not legal. “The first time I was asked for money, we were told we could not personally give. We should give the money to a family member and ask the family member to give,” she recalled. “I know some people who said, ‘My mother’s going to give. She has a different last name.’”


O’HARA VS. HYNES: The latest episode in John O’Hara’s crusade to take down Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes is a complaint O’Hara filed with the Conflicts of Interest Board alleging that more than 30 percent of Hynes’s 98 prosecutors earning over $100,000 live outside of New York City (an apparent violation of state law).

The complaint also objects to Hynes’s practice of accepting campaign contributions from his employees. In fact, that’s how O’Hara got the addresses of so many Hynes prosecutors—by examining the D.A.’s campaign disclosures.

O’Hara is seeking revenge against Hynes for pursuing and obtaining an illegal voting conviction against him, which resulted in O’Hara being disbarred, paying a fine of nearly $20,000, and being sentenced to 1,500 hours of community service.

O’Hara’s complaint makes specific allegations against several Hynes people, including chief counsel Dino Amoroso, whose residence is listed as “210 Joralemon Street” (the municipal building) rather than his actual address in Lynbrook, Long Island. O’Hara adds that Amoroso’s registered voting address is “a mail drop at a relative’s house” in Queens, which “constitutes a Class E felony.”

“You have to understand the severity of an ADA prosecuting a crime without jurisdiction,” O’Hara’s complaint reads. “The A.D.A.s at that pay level are all handling serious crimes—murder, rape, robbery, illegal voting.”

O’Hara contends that Hynes’s receipt of campaign contributions from employees violates the City Charter’s Section 2604, b-9 through b-12 and b-15.

We looked up Section 2604 and found this: “No public servant shall coerce or attempt to coerce…any public servant to engage in political activities or request any subordinate public servant to participate in a political campaign.”

The City Charter also says, “No public servant shall, directly [or] indirectly, compel, induce or request any subordinate public servant to pay any political assessment, subscription or contribution.”

By O’Hara’s count, 74 percent of the Hynes prosecutors who contribute to his campaigns do so with $300 contributions twice a year, “which has amounted to over $70,000 in contributions.”

Of course, Hynes would say that his employees’ contributions are strictly voluntary.

But it certainly would take a very loyal employee to donate $600 a year to his boss’s campaign or use a vacation day to hand out campaign literature at a polling site.

Maybe these employees are truly devoted to their boss. Or maybe they believed making donations and sacrificing vacations days to Hynes’s campaign would protect their jobs or earn them promotions.

The only way to eliminate this possibility is for Hynes to prohibit or at least discourage his employees from donating time or money to his campaigns. But he doesn’t.


HYNES DUCKING DEBATES? Opponents of Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes are beginning to wonder if he’ll ever show up at a candidates’ debate or forum.

Of the first half dozen events across the borough, Hynes attended not a single one. He cited scheduling conflicts, such as the course he teaches.

“His rationale is that he teaches on certain nights, and he can’t miss his class,” someone from a competing campaign said. “There’s only one D.A. in the city who feels he needs a side job.”

Organizers of candidates forums appear to have caught on. The Brooklyn Young Democrats scheduled an event for Wednesday, April 13—not a night that Hynes teaches—and got a commitment from the D.A. to attend.

But six days before the event, Hynes canceled his appearance, citing—you guessed it—a scheduling conflict. Hynes asked to come on a different day, presumably when no other candidates would be appearing.

Event organizers didn’t roll over, instead asking Hynes to honor his commitment. But he did not attend.


GOLD TARNISHED: At the March meeting of Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, former CBID President Susan Loeb asked Flatbush Democratic district leader Jake Gold why he supported Assemblyman Clarence Norman for reelection.

“He was dumbfounded by the question,” one witness reported. “He stood up there talking about how he originally supported Tony Genovesi.” (Until his untimely death, the assemblyman was a rival of Norman.)

“That was 12 years ago,” Loeb told Gold.

Gold replied, “I don’t see any reason to be on the wrong side of people.”

Loeb was not impressed, asking why none of the leaders in CBID’s area except Alan Fleishman opposed Norman’s reelection as county Democratic leader in 2004. CBID, a reform club, considers Norman to be on the wrong side of its political goals.


G.O.P.’ER TOUTS VOUCHERS: Republicans often claim to be free-market-loving capitalists, yet many advocate subsidizing parochial schools with taxpayer dollars.

Take Bob Capano, ex-candidate for City Council in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst. During his campaign he put out a press release calling for vouchers to boost enrollment at Catholic schools, 17 of which were slated for closure in Brooklyn.

In the release, Capano blamed years of declining Catholic school enrollment on “the high cost of operating in NYC and the rising middle class tax burden.”

Question for Capano:

How have non-religious private schools managed to thrive despite the high cost of operating here? Poly Prep, St. Ann’s, Packer Collegiate, Berkeley-Carroll and others don’t seem to be hurting for students, despite charging much higher tuition than the Catholic schools.

Question number two: Is the “middle class tax burden” really rising? No evidence of that was included in the press release. Property taxes have gone up, but income taxes have gone down.

And why use a loaded word like “burden” to describe taxes? Try running a civilized society without them.

Capano’s statement went on to say, “It is unconscionable that politics would stand between children who need a quality education and schools with empty seats and the proven ability to provide that education.”

By “politics,” we assume Capano is referring to that little church-state-separation thing.


TIDBITS: One person not supporting Frank Boyland for City Council is Daily News columnist Errol Louis, a former Council candidate himself from Crown Heights. “Boyland, who spent 20 uneventful years in the state Assembly, is scheming to keep his family’s lock on every available political office in Brownsville by running for the Council seat held by his term-limited daughter, Tracy,” Louis wrote…

…Republican Pat Russo formally announced his candidacy in the 43rd Council District (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights). The Conservative Party formally endorsed Russo on April 7. The incumbent is Vinny Gentile, a Democrat…

…Councilman Kendall Stewart’s 2003 campaign has been ordered to repay $17,948 to the Campaign Finance Board, which awarded more matching public funds than Stewart was entitled to receive. The CFB also found that Stewart didn’t spend $7,843 of his matching funds. Why Stewart wouldn’t have exhausted his account in such a close race (he edged Sam Taitt by 3 percentage points—fewer than 200 votes) is certainly a valid question…

…Rep. Jerry Nadler secured money in the recent transportation bill to study whether a ferry terminal could be restored at the aquarium in Coney Island. Sounds like a worthy expenditure. But he also funded a project to build handicapped ramps to the beach. But wheelchairs don’t work on sand, so it seems to us that beach ramps would have to be hundreds of yards long to be useful…

Samuel Nicolas, a potential candidate for the 45th Council District seat held by Kendall Stewart, is a cousin of Abner Louima and has served as spokesman for the police brutality victim. Nicolas has run for office before, notably against Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs in the 1998 Democratic primary…

…Whom will Councilman Domenic Recchia endorse in the race for Brooklyn District attorney this year? Here’s a clue: the treasurer of Recchia’s campaign committee was once Kevin Hynes, son of D.A. Joe Hynes

…Rep. Anthony Weiner still cruises around in an S.U.V., but at least it’s not the gas-guzzling Ford Explorer he used previously. It’s an Escape Hybrid, a combination gas- and electric-powered vehicle that gets over 30 miles per gallon in the city.

In less important Weiner news, the mayoral candidate is up to 12 percent in a poll of likely Democratic primary voters, twice what it was some months ago but still well behind Freddy Ferrer’s 40 percent. Weiner’s problem continues to be low name recognition……An angry reader reminded us by anonymous letter that traffic agents are now part of the NYPD and no longer the Department of Transportation, as we had reported back on November 29. But the reader’s second attempt at a correction was itself incorrect: he (or she) objected to our use of the word “missing” to describe cars that are towed or stolen to a street location unknown to their owners. The reader claimed we should have used “abandoned.” But abandoned means “given up” or “forsaken.” An abandoned car is one whose owner does not want it back.

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