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- Former City Council President Hennessy Files Serious Ethics Charges Against President Mandel, Adelson, and Torres
- Requests Investigation into Potential “Quid Pro Quo” Between City and Tom Suozzi’s Law Firm
- District Attorney Kathleen Rice Notified
Former City Council President Jim Hennessy has filed ethics charges against City Council Members Scott Mandel, Fran Adelson, and Len Torres with the Long Beach Ethics Board and contacted the Nassau County District Attorney, Kathleen Rice. Hennessy is asking Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice and the Long Beach Board of Ethics to investigate potential ethics violations, financial disclosure violations, and what appears to be a “quid pro quo” between the city, under City Manager Jack Schnirman and the Harris Beach, PLLC, who names Former County Executive and current candidate for County Executive Tom Suozzi, a member of the firm’s Corporate Practice Group.
In the complaint, Hennessy makes a number of allegations. First, Hennessy alleges that Mandel, Adelson, and Torres may have received a free gift of services, valued at over $10,000, from the Harris Beach, PLLC which was required to be reported to the Board of Ethics and the State Board of Elections but was apparently never reported, according to city and state ethical disclosures reviewed by Hennessy under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). Furthermore, if Mandel, Adelson, and Torres did pay for the legal services of Harris Beach, PLLC, they did not report their business relationship as required by the city’s ethics law and state campaign financial disclosure laws. According to the complaint, either way, Mandel, Adelson, and Torres broke the law by either not paying for the legal services and not disclosing it, or paying and not disclosing the relationship.
According to Hennessy, the Long Beach City Charter, the Long Beach Code of Ordinances and the Long Beach Code of Ethics are very clear. Every year, by May 15th, each officer of the city must disclose, in writing, certain relationships that person has with any firm such as Harris Beach, PLCC who does business with the city. Section 13 of the Long Beach City Charter states, “No officer or employee shall solicit or receive any pay, commission, money or thing of value, or derive any benefit or advantage, directly or indirectly, from any contract with the city or supplies sold to the city or by reason of any improvements, alterations or repairs required by authority of the city, except his lawful compensation or salary as such officer or employee.
Furthermore, Section 18, Paragraph 3(a) of the City’s Code of Ethics, regarding “Gifts and favors” states as follows: “No officer or employee of the City of Long Beach, whether paid or unpaid, shall accept or solicit any valuable gift, whether in the form of services, loan, thing or promise or any other form, from any person, firm or corporation, which to his knowledge is interested directly or indirectly in any manner whatsoever in business or professional dealings with the city or any agency thereof.”
Mandel, Adelson, and Torres were represented by Harris Beach, PLLC from December 2011 through January 2012 in litigation to prevent former Police Commissioner Tom Sofield, Sr., from collecting his earned retirement payout. Secondly, Hennessy further alleges that in February 2012, only 21 days after Harris Beach PLLC, Mandel, Adelson, and Torres withdrew their legal claim, thus settling the litigation, the city under the recommendation of City Manager Jack Schnirman hired the same firm (Harris Beach, PLLC) and the very same attorney in the firm (Kevin M. Corbett) to assist the city in forming a Local Development Corporation (LDC). The city then paid Harris Beach, PLLC over $13,000 to form the LDC.
Hennessy is asking the Long Beach Ethics Board and the Nassau County District Attorney, Kathleen Rice, to investigate whether or not Mandel, Adelson and Torres’ failure to disclose the free legal representation provided by Harris Beach, PLCC, constitutes a violation of the City of Long Beach Ethics Code and City Charter or any criminal law. Hennessy is also requesting an investigation to determine if a quid pro quo occurred between the city, under Jack Schnirman, and Harris Beach PLLC whereby Mandel, Adelson, and Torres obtained free legal representation from Harris Beach, PLLC in return for funneling city business to Harris Beach, PLCC and paid for with taxpayer money.
According to Hennessy and documents he obtained through the Freedom of Information Law it appears the city’s decision to hire Harris Beach, PLLC to form the Long Beach Local Development Corporation (LBLDC) was done without any Request for Proposals from any other firms and during the first days of the new city council administration, in early 2012, the very same time that Mandel, Adelson, and Torres litigation was being settled.
According to Hennessy, “It appears that in December 2011 and January 2012 Scott Mandel, Fran Adelson, and Len Torres obtained free legal representation from Harris Beach, a politically connected law firm, and they failed to disclose the gift of services to proper authorities. Then, only 21 days after that case was settled, on February 21, 2012, Council Members Mandel, Adelson, and Torres voted to hire that same firm and the very same attorney to form the Long Beach Local Development Corporation at a taxpayer cost of nearly $14,000! If, after a thorough investigation these allegations are found to be true, Mandel, Adelson, and Torres’ conduct may very well constitute serious violations of the ethics law as well as criminal law and are a malicious and illegal use of taxpayer money -especially during a so-called fiscal crisis.”
Hennessy continued, “It appears that Mandel, Adelson, and Torres may well have not only violated the law by not disclosing the gift to the proper authorities but they also violated the public trust by funneling taxpayer money to a politically connected firm that provided them with free legal representation only 21 days beforehand.”
“Given the facts and the evidence it appears that the use of Harris Beach, PLLC by Mandel, Adelson, and Torres and the hiring of Harris Beach, PLLC by the Mandel, Adelson, and Torres as Council Members may be connected,” said Hennessy, “Its just too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.”
If an investigation finds these allegations to be true, its demonstrates that from the very moment Mandel, Adelson, and Torres were elected they may have planned to obtain free legal representation and then conspired with City Manager Jack Schnirman to funnel public taxpayer money to the politically connected law firm to return the favor. “This appears to be a classic political quid pro quo, at the taxpayer’s expense” added Hennessy.
According to Hennessy, “There are just too many coincidences surrounding the matter of Harris Beach, PLCC, the Long Beach Local Development Corporation, and even the new Long Beach Board of Ethics. For example he continued, “On August 7, 2012 Council Members Mandel, Adelson, Torres, and Schnirman disbanded a Board of Ethics that had been in existence for eight (8) years and replaced its members with their own hand-picked team of Long Beach Democrat Clubhouse political friends and cronies. Coincidentally, the very same night they appointed their friends to the new Ethics Board Mandel, Adelson, and Torres voted to officially form the Long Beach Local Development Corporation that Harris Beach, LLC was paid over $13,000 to form. Is it a total coincidence that the very same night the city formed the LBLDC they also completely revamped the Long Beach Ethics Board, packing it with their friends and political supporters?”
Hennessy added. “I only hope that the new members of the Board of Ethics can see past their political loyalties and friendships with Mandel, Adelson and Torres to objectively review the facts and render a decision that is just, moral and in the interest of the residents of this city rather than their political friends in the clubhouse,” commented Hennessy. “And to make sure they are objective, the District Attorney, Kathleen Rice, should review the matter as well,” he added.
“If true, it’s actions such as these that make people, distrust their elected officials and give moral and ethical elected officials a bad reputation,” added Hennessy.
Click here to see documents regarding the complaint