Friday, February 17, 2017

The Pay to Play Conflict of Interests of de Blasio's Criminal Law Firm in the Federal and State Investigation That Also Lobby's Him for Developers

Ethic Experts Will Pay to Play Contributors Be Donating to de Blasio Legal Fund?  Will JCOPE Approve the Fund?
Ethics experts howl over de Blasio’s debt fund (NYP) de Blasio’s announcement that he’ll have donors pay his mounting legal bills tied to suspected City Hall corruption is drawing howls of protest from government watchdogs and ethics experts.  De Blasio will be walking into “a trap of his own making” if he hits up supporters for cash to fund his defense, said John Kaehny, executive director of the reform group Reinvent Albany.  “He’s responding to probes about his fund-raising activities by doing more fund-raising,” Kaehny noted.  On Friday, de Blasio outlined a fund-raising effort to get himself out from under the mountain of unpaid debt he’s racked up since hiring defense lawyer Barry Berke in April.  “A donor is not giving money to an individual. You’re giving money to an elected official,” she said. “This sets up potential pay-to-play possibilities . . . It looks very messy.”  Lawyer David Grandeau, former executive director of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, noted JCOPE was already investigating de Blasio’s since-shuttered nonprofit, the Campaign for One New York, and could have a problem with de Blasio’s payment plan.  “Obviously, if you give money to the defense fund, you’re benefiting the mayor, so that would be problematic for those that are lobbyists or their clients,” Grandeau said. “I’m pretty sure the people at JCOPE would consider that to be an illegal gift to the mayor.” The city has $11.6 million in contracts with law firms representing de Blasio underlings in the probes, which involve both CONY and a failed bid by de Blasio to help Democrats win the state Senate in 2014.  Mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips said de Blasio wanted his own lawyer in order to spare taxpayers the expense.  He added that when the legal fund “is eventually formed, the mayor will voluntarily disclose donors and the legal protocols used to comply with any and all regulation related to City Hall.”  Neither Berke nor the managing partner at Kramer Levin, Paul Pearlman, returned requests for comment.
de Blasio Legal Fees to Be Paid for by the Same Deep Pocket Developers ThatFunded CONY Now Under Federal Investigation

NY1 and the Rest of the Media Only Report What the Mayor Flack Want About the Mayor's Criminal Investigation
Press Does Not Investigate or Ask the Mayor About the Criminal Acts That the U. S. Attorney and the Manhattan DA Have Grand Juries Hearing Evidence for Possible Charges Against the Mayor and His Team
De Blasio plans legal defense fund to cover all his probes (NYP) de Blasio on Friday said he plans to set up a legal defense fund to cover the costs of his lawyers in state and federal investigations of his administration and fundraising.  “We have not yet set that up. When we do we have to raise money into it according to a set of rules. We have to disclose, we absolutely will disclose the money.”* De Blasio Puts Out 'Fact Sheet' on Upcoming Meeting withFederal Prosecutors (NY1) "The administration has released all it will provide at this time concerning these voluntary meetings," a line from the fact sheet reads  When pressed about about his discussion with the U.S. attorney's office, which has not yet happened, de Blasio promised to let New Yorkers know once it's behind him. "We will tell you when it's done," de Blasio said. "You don't have to ask each time. We guarantee when that happens we will tell you when it's done."

The Judge in the Case That NY1 is Suing the Mayor to Release It Special Agent's Emails Said There Was A Possible "Conflict of Interest" Between the Mayor and his Lobbyist Aides Berlin Rosen

NY1 has an obligation to investigate if there is conflict of interests between the mayor and the lawyers who are both handling the mayor’s defense against pay to play and who he owes over a million dollars to at the same time the firm lobbies the mayor for dozens of real estate lobbyists

Press Only Reports On A Mayoral Flacks "Fact Sheet"
Earlier in the day, City Hall released a “fact sheet” outlining his effort to cooperate with state and federal authorities — disclosing that he had neither sought nor been offered immunity.  The document largely repeated earlier statements from Hizzoner and his reps, including that he and his staff have cooperated fully with the probes and that no one did anything wrong. The statement also said that the mayor — who had met with investigators from Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office — would meet with US Attorney Preet Bharara’s team in coming days.  Though both state and federal grand juries are hearing evidence in criminal probes into the de Blasio Administration over fundraising, the mayor repeatedly refers to the investigations only as “reviews.”

Press Ignores That the Mayor is Creating A PAC to Raise Funds for Eliminate A Campaign Issues That the Tax Payers Are Not Paying for His Lawyers 
“The Mayor has never been informed that he is a target of these reviews,” the statement said, while not addressing whether he has been told he is not a target. The statement also said that “no taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the Mayor’s individual compliance with these reviews.”   Others under investigation, however, are getting lawyers that could cost taxpayers more than $11.6 million.

Why Has the Press Not Asked de Blasio Why Wolfe and Offringer Both Under State and Federal Investigation are Working in His Campaign?

Top de Blasio aide Emma Wolfe and fundraiser Ross Offinger, who’s now working as a consultant on the mayor’s 2017 re-election campaign, are also targets of the DA’s probe, according to public reports.

True News is Proud That The NY Post Finds Our Research Important But They Must Understand That Interlocking-Directorates of Kramer Levin de Blasio's Lawyers Who Lobby Him Run to Its Core of the Shadow Govt Pay to Play Just Ask Judge Lobis
The corruption cloud over Mayor de Blasio just got darker (NYP) More: The mayor’s attorney at Kramer Levin is Barry Berke, who also represents the Campaign for One New York — a group de Blasio set up but that was supposed to be independent. CONY’s fundraising on behalf of de Blasio is also under investigation.  The conflicts mushroom: In 2014, de Blasio withdrew the nomination of another Kramer Levin lawyer, Marcie Kesner, to the Landmarks Preservation Commission because she’d have to recuse herself from too many land-use cases. And Berke is also the mayor’s rep on the Lincoln Center board of directors and his ex-campaign treasurer.  As David Grandeau, a former executive director of the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, puts it: “If you give money to the defense fund, you’re benefiting the mayor [and] that would be problematic for those that are lobbyists or their clients.”

The NY Post Says The Fact That de Blasio Has Not Paid His Law Firm and They Are Lobbying Him for Their Clients Sets Up Some Shady Ways
The idea that the law firm is, in effect, extending him credit is troubling enough, since that can be seen as a “favor” — just as any lower-than-usual rates it charges would be. But how can a mayor up to his eyeballs in corruption probes try to keep such key info secret, especially when he insists he has done nothing wrong?  What makes the secretive deferred-payment deal particularly problematic is that the law firm, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, also lobbies city agencies on behalf of clients with business before the city. So de Blasio may return those favors in some shady way. (NYP)

Federal Rat Rechnitz Attended Fund Raiser At Kramer Levin Office in 2013
By Dec. 3, 2013, weeks before Mr. de Blasio took office, Mr. Rechnitz was sitting in a conference room packed with other potential donors at the Midtown law firm Kramer Levin. There, according to a person who also attended the meeting, the mayor spoke to the group before leaving the room. Those in attendance were then asked for contributions. (NY Times)

Kramer Levin Pushing Tall Building On Two Bridges Community and Protesters
Waterfront Developers Reject Demand for Longer CommunityEngagement Process (DNAINFO) Developers bringing three massive residential developments to the Two Bridges waterfront have rejected a demand from neighborhood representatives to allow more time for community engagement before the city kicks off its official review of the projects' anticipated impact, stating they believe it would be "counterproductive."  Kramer Levin Lobby for Two Bridges Associates Limited Partnership City Planning, Department of (DCP), City Planning Commission (CPC), Mayor, Office of the (OTM), Borough President - Manhattan, NYC Council Members, Community Boards * Out of the mouths of attorneys: Kramer Levin’s leaders onland use, rezoning (Real Deal) 

  Kramer Levin, whose real estate condo practice is co-headed by Jay Neveloff and Jonathan Canter, took the top spot in 2015, with seven projects valued at $7.3 billion, up 73 percent year-over-year.

Neveloff A Trump Attorney Runs the Real Estate Department for Kramer Levin
For those in the industry who lack close ties to Trump, there are numerous potential middlemen that could help gain access, sources say. One is Trump’s attorney Jay Neveloff, who heads the real estate department at Kramer Levin. Asked for comment, Neveloff said he is certain Trump will not be susceptible to special interests (Atlantic Yard Review).

List of Kramer Levin Clients That They They Lobbied de Blasio's City Hall List in Formation 

137 Centre Street, LLC
Roseland Development Associates, LLC
VIDEO: Roseland Ballroom Being Gutted to Make Way forApartment Tower
The Shubert Organization, Inc., Seaver Realty LLC, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, DH VERNON LLC. Lenox Terrace Development Associates  Lenox Terrace ResidentsFighting Against Proposed Commercial Rezoning (DNAINFO), Urban Strategic Partners, LLC, The Core Club 55th Street LLC, Douglaston Development, SJC 33 OWNER 2015, LLC, MIP One Wall Street Acquisition LLC, The Archdiocese of New York, South Street Seaport Limited Partnership, NY 70th St. LLC, Design Center Inc., 94th Street Property TIC, 172-174 East, LLC,   DH VERNON LLC, 771 Washington Street Investor LLC, 458 LLC, 137 Centre Street, LLC, Graduate Center Foundation Housing Corporation LIC, YWA-Amsterdam LLC, 21E12 LLC, 245 Fieldston LLC, RFR Holding Corp, MIP One Wall Street Acquisition LLC, DiamondRock Hospitality Limited Partnership for the benefit of DiamondRock NY LEX Owner, LLC., 249 W 28th Street Properties, LLC, Brickman 95 Morton LLC, The Archdiocese of New York, FPG Cobble Hill Acquisitions, LLC

On April 27, 2016 Real Deal Reported Kramer Levin's Berke Was the Lawyer for the Jewish Home Lifecare Development Two Days Later Real Deal Said Another Lawyer Was Handling the Case On May 6th the Daily News Reported That Berke Was the Lawyer for Both the Development and the Parking Lot That Was Part of the Project 
In a fight with Public School 163 parents — an Upper West Side school fighting to stop the owner of a toxic lot and developer who want to put a nursing home nearby — Kramer Levin represented both the owner of the W. 97th St. parking lot, PWV Owners LLC, and Jewish Home Lifecare, the nursing home group that wants to build the 20-story facility. (NY Daily News, (May 6th 2016) * Judge Says More Environmental Review Needed on UWS NursingHome (Manhattan Express)  According to Marty Rosenblatt, a neighbor who arranged for expert lead testing on the site, the mayor’s favor for the JHL project may stem from his close relations with Kramer Levin Naftalis and Frankel LLP, a law firm that represented JHL in the past and currently represents Joseph Chetrit, a real estate developer with a big investment in the 97th Street development being approved. In late 2011, Joseph Chetrit partnered with Larry Gluck of Stellar Management, who owns the parking lot on West 97th Street that would be replaced by the nursing home, to complete a land swap deal for JHL’s current campus on West 106th Street, which like the West 97th site is between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues. Many observers believe Chetrit, a well-known developer, plans to construct a tall luxury condo development on JHL’s former campus.  Kramer Levin, Rosenblatt noted, represented JHL on the nursing home project during its appearances before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals in 2015. (Manhattan Express)

Kramer and Levin is Pushing A Toxic Lot According to Judge Lobis Development On the Upper West Side
De Blasio’s law firm also represents controversial UWS developer he backed (Raw Deal, April 27, 2016) Kramer Levin is working on both the mayor’s corruption probe and Jewish Home Lifecare’s nursing home project The law firm aiding Mayor Bill de Blasio in his fight against a federal campaign finance investigation is also working with Jewish Home Lifecare, the developer of a controversial 20-story nursing home on the Upper West Side, which de Blasio has supported.The firm is working with JHL on its 97th Street project, in which the developer hopes, among other things, to dig up a lead-tainted parking lot adjacent to P.S. 163. Residents have fought the project for years. It passed an environmental review last year, but that review was vacated by the New York Supreme Court in December.  The developer is seeking to overturn that ruling. De Blasio’s office filed an amicus brief on that case in March. “That is an example of where the relationships bump into one another and it would be best to keep them apart,”

Suit linked to mayor’s campaigncontroversy could disrupt land-use rules (Real Deal April 29, 2016) The mayor’s office filed a friend of the court brief in favor of the developer, Jewish Home Lifecare, setting off accusations that de Blasio simply wanted to help out the law firm representing the developer, Kramer Levin. The firm is also representing de Blasio in the federal investigation into whether he funneled contributions to candidates in the 2014 state Senate election to avoid contribution limits. City officials told the website that Kramer Levin attorney and longtime de Blasio ally Barry Berke wasn’t involved in the lawsuit, though the firm does represent the developer in other matters. Greenberg Traurig is representing the developer in the lawsuit. The city’s brief claimed that the lawsuit could “upset the consistent and predictable process developed over decades by the city for reviewing potential environmental impacts of projects and programs throughout the city.” The brief argued that Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis’ ruling in favor of the parents and students would “insert an arbitrary threshold for adequacy into the environmental review process.”  The appeals court is slated to hear the case in June

Nursing-home associates donate to Mark-Viverito’s re-election (NYP)  Nearly two-dozen associates of an upper Manhattan nursing home donated to a City Council member’s re-election campaign after she got the facility a unique exemption from local construction rules.  A total of 17 trustees, four staff members, an associate and a lobbyist for Jewish Home and Hospital — many of whom don’t live in the city, let alone uptown — contributed to Melissa Mark-Viverito’s 2009 council campaign, online records show.  Their combined $7,825 in donations made up 10 percent of the total that Mark-Viverito — currently the front-runner for council speaker — raised for the race.  Many of their grants were matched with public funding at a rate of 6 to 1, making them worth much more.  While there’s no evidence Mark-Viverito’s campaign solicited the contributions, the donations all came after she got the nursing home the right to construct a building at 120 W. 106th St. that would exceed the height limit under a rezoning plan.  It was the only facility to get a carve-out after the center, now known as Jewish Home Lifecare, spent $100,000 on lobbying directed at council and community-board members.

Three Years Ago True News Said Berlin Rosen Relationship With de Blasio Was Corrupt Now A Judge Cites Apparent Conflict of Interests on Their Relationship
Judge raises concerns over de Blasio’s ties to consultant (NYP) A Manhattan judge on Tuesday expressed concern about the apparent conflict of interest in the mayor’s confidential relationship with a political consultant who has business before the city.“ It’s hard enough for me to accept this position if it was just the notion of a consultant, but we also have a consultant with possible conflicts. So we have kind of two hurdles,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joan Lobis said.  Lobis is deciding a lawsuit filed by The New York Post and NY1 for access to emails between Mayor de Blasio and his longtime adviser Jonathan Rosen.  The mayor has said their communications are not subject to the Freedom of Information Law because the   statute exempts “consultants.”  But Judge Lobis said “one of my deepest concerns about adopting the mayor’s position is I don’t know where you draw that line” of who is a consultant and who isn’t.

Rosen has not been officially retained as a consultant to de Blasio and is not on the payroll. But he is “the only outsider” invited to high-level City Hall meetings about matters like zoning regulations while he represents developers, NY1 attorney Doug Maynard said.  “Anybody can be a consultant without any contract or relationship with an agency. How does that give you the right to exempt emails?” she asked. Consultant acted as member of de Blasio admin, email dump shows  City lawyer Jeffrey Danowtiz claimed that Rosen should be considered a consultant because he has given advice and guidance to the mayor over “many, many years.” Danowitz also said the city has already handed over communications between the two that involve Rosen’s clients who have city business.  Judge Lobis told Danowitz that “at the minimum” she may want to review all the emails to make sure the mayor’s not hiding anything. Maynard said the city has conceded that Rosen has certain conflicts of interest by making the disclosures, yet, “they don’t seem to accept the consequence that Mr. Rosen’s position is inherently conflicted.” “The conflict resides in Mr. Rosens’s business interests,” he said. The public has a “right to understand…the murky intersection between [Rosen’s] business interests and city interests,” Maynard argued.
How True News Investigation Exposed the Campaign for OneNY Interlocking Directories Story

The Mayor in 2014 Had to Dismiss His Own Nomination to BSA From the Same Law Firm That Now Represents Him in the Federal and State Investigation of Pay to Play Corruption Because of A Conflict of Interests That He Now Says Does Not Exist 

The mayor’s office rescinded the nomination of Marcie Kesner from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.  The firm where Ms. Kesner works, Kramer Levin, had enough clients with business before the city that there was concern she’d have to recuse herself from LPC votes often.  “Marcie Kesner is exceptionally well-qualified to sit on the LPC, and the Conflicts of Interest Board had issued a guidance letter signifying approval of her future appointment,” de Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell told the Observer “However, upon receipt of the COIB guidance letter and consideration of the effect of her Kramer Levin LLC her firm’s client representations on her ability to fully participate in the LPC’s deliberations, it was mutually agreed between the Mayor’s Office and Ms. Kesner to examine other opportunities within the administration that could fully benefit from her considerable experience.” NY Observer 2014
NY Times Failed Kingdom Local Mission Elect de Blasio Protect Real Estate Developers

Berke From Kramer and Levin Represents de Blasio in the Federal and State Play to Pay Investigations Took Over As His Campaign Treasurer When His Former Treasurer Offinger Became A Federal Target
Barry Berke represents de Blasio in his ongoing federal and state probe into his fund-raising.  Berke, of the high-powered firm Kramer Levin, had been representing de Blasio’s 2013 campaign and will now handle that along with the mayor personally.  De Blasio made Berke his campaign treasurer in January 2014 and designee to the Lincoln Center board of directors. In July 2014, the mayor tried to nominate another Kramer Levin staffer, Marcie Kesner, to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. That appointment collapsed over conflict questions.
At the same time, Kramer Levin has lobbied the office of the mayor, the city Department of Planning and the Board of Standards and Appeals for many real estate interests. (Daily News 2014)

de Blasio Has Not Paid His Law Firm Who Charged Their Client Bernard Kerik $850 an Hour
That’s good news since Berke — who represented disgraced former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik in his unsuccessful battle against corruption charges — charges $850 an hour.

Conflict of Interests Made More Clear by True News and the Daily News: Are You Listening NY1? 
From the Daily News on de Blasio "Conflict of Interests:  De Blasio reveals deal to defer paying legal fees fromprobe until he sets up fund-raising committee (NYDN) he law firm representing Mayor de Blasio in investigations of his fund-raising tactics has been sending bills for nearly a year, but as of Friday has yet to receive a dime. The mayor said he has an agreement with the firm, Kramer Levin Naftalis, to defer payment until he sets up a fund-raising committee to foot the bill. That means the mayor likely currently owes tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars to one of the biggest lobbyist law firms in the city. He declined to say how large the tab is. The firm has said it keeps its lobbying and legal representation separate. Barry Berke, the mayor’s lawyer at Kramer Levin, did not respond to calls.

Records show the Kramer Levin firm in His Criminal Investigation (That He Owes $$$) was lobbying the mayor’s office in 2015 and 2016 on behalf of dozens of real estate developers seeking zoning changes and project approvals  
That includes DDG Development, which hired Kramer in May 2015. Kramer handled DDG’s petition for a zoning change on a luxury condo project in Tribeca before the city Bureau of Standards & Appeals.  On June 23, 2015, the BSA approved DDG’s application, despite vociferous neighborhood opposition about the project’s size. Eight days later DDG wrote a $10,000 check to the mayor’s now defunct non-profit, Campaign for One New York. CONY is now at the heart of the federal investigation.  Asked whether the law firm allowing him to defer payment on legal bills while lobbying his team presented a conflict of interest, the mayor defended the firm.  "They're one of the most renowned legal firms for this type of work. They're an obvious place to turn for legal support,” he said. “And I'm going to continue to make sure that their bills are paid off fully. But any other matters, we have an absolute ability to separate the different considerations. That's what I've said about everything in this reality. We're making decisions on any governmental matters according to the merits."  De Blasio confirmed the arrangement in response to Daily News questions at the Friday press conference, though he wouldn’t say how many hours the firm had billed for or reveal the range of hourly rates.  "I'm not even sure that's a purely appropriate public matter,” he said. “The bottom line is, they have sent bills, they will be paid. It's going to take a while. That is for sure."  He promised to eventually “disclose the money,” but didn’t say whether he would reveal names of donors or whether they had business with City Hall.  Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating whether de Blasio did favors for donors to Campaign for One New York. The News found at least $3 million of the $4.3 million he raised came from entities doing business with City Hall.

Daily News Repeats What True News Said Yesterday de Blasio is Going to the Same Pay to Play Developers Who Funded His CONY PAC That He is Under Investigation For
Bill-able hours (NYDN Ed) Give Mayor de Blasio points for consistency. His zeal to raise money above and beyond limits set by the city’s public campaign finance system gave rise to his Campaign for One New York, which raised millions from firms doing business with the city.  Investigators working with Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara took interest, given signs that those who paid, played, reaping perhaps favorable treatment in reward for their generosity.  And so de Blasio commits to set up a defense fund to pay his lawyers’ way. Eventually. Once the mayor raises more money from who knows whom with who knows what ties to city business.  Meanwhile: His lawyers, whose firm lobbies the city, are floating his way. Since they argue that all the mayor did and will do is above board, what’s to see here?

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