Attorney Who Defended Corrupt Brooklyn Dem Boss To Probe WFP (Updated)
Here’s the order – issued more than two years after it was first requested – granting Staten Island DA Dan Donovan’s wish that a special prosecutor be appointed in his stead to investigate possible Election Law violations in connection with the Working Families Party’s involvement in Debi Rose’s successful election to the NYC Council in 2009.
The order doesn’t specifically mention the WFP. But as Crain’s Insider reported this morning, Donovan made the request in February 2010 when he was in the midst of his (eventually unsuccessful) bid for the state AG’s office and did not want to be embroiled in a politically sensitive case.
The special prosecutor tapped by the court is Roger Bennet Adler. That name might ring a bell for longtime followers of Brooklyn Democratic politics.
Adler represented former Assemblyman/Brooklyn Democratic boss Clarence Norman during a sprawling investigation Norman’s judicial selection process by brooklyn DA Charles Hynes. At the time, Hynes accused Norman of using the Legislature, the party and his re-election committee as a ”personal piggy bank” to misappropriate more than $10,000.
In 2005, Norman was found guilty today of soliciting illegal campaign contributions. He was sentenced to two to six years in prison but remained free on bail while fighting the remaining charges. In 2007, he was convicted again – this time on charges that he shook down judicial candidates seeking party support. It was his fourth corruption trial in two years. He was sentenced to serve three to nine years in prison.
So far, no one has commented on why it took so long for Donovan’s request for a special prosecutor to be granted. One insider noted that whoever is tapped for the job must agree, and surmised that perhaps no one – until now – was willing to accept the challenge.
The Office of Court Administration appointed Adler on Jan. 12. In his capacity as special prosecutor, he has the power to subpoena records, testimony and witnesses.
Last October, the WFP settled a civil lawsuit charging that it skirted campaign finance laws to benefit Rose and other NYC Council candidates it had endorsed. The labor-backed party agreed to shut down its for-profit field operation, Data and Field Services, and pay more than $100,000 in legal fees the firm of former Giuliani administration Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro, who brought the suit.
(That was actually the second settlement between Mastro and the WFP. Mastro accused the party of violating their first agreement and it was subsequently found in contempt).
The WFP also hired former Chief Judge Judith Kaye to conduct a probe and issue a report on its inner workings. Her services did not come cheap. In January, the WFP owed more than $107,000 to Kaye’s firm, Skadden Arps, and another firm, Levy Ratner, in connection with its DFS-related legal troubles. That debt appears to have been paid by mid-July, but the WFP was still paying thousands to DFS for fundraising and organizing services.
The WFP believed this was the end of several years of legal headaches, which included probes by Donovan and the US attorney’s office, which decided not to file charges, clearing the way for then-AG Andrew Cuomo to accept the party’s endorsement and run on its line, helping boost it to Row D on the ballot.
Also in 2009, the NYC Campaign Finance Board declared DFS to be an official arm of the WFP, and thus would consider spending by the party on behalf of any candidate to be a direct campaign expense, rather than an independent expenditure. To my knowledge, we have yet to see any audits of the 2009 NYC Council races on which the WFP and DFS did work.
UPDATE: Former Sen. Craig Johnson, a Nassau County Democrat, emailed me the following statement:
“Roger Adler served as my counsel when I chaired the Senate Investigations Committee. He is a brilliant attorney and is extremely fair minded, as evident in his dealings with the members of the Committee and the parties who appeared at hearings. He was an asset to the Committee and I am confident that he will run this investigation in the same fair, respectful manner as when served as counsel to the Investigations Committee.”
Johnson also reminds me that while he headed the committee, there were several “contentious” hearings, including one on the collection (or lack thereof) of taxes on cigaretts sold on Indian lands, and another on alleged abuses by the Medicaid inspector general to name two. He added: “Roger treated everyone with respect and fairness.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Liz Benjamin on April 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm, and is filed under Uncategorized, Working Families Party. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
Comments are closed.