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Instead of jeers, Community Board 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano got flowers.
A bouquet of brightly colored carnations and daises with a heart-shaped balloon reading, “We love you,” greeted the disgraced Mill Basin official — who last week was implicated in a broad-ranging bribery scandal involving her patron (and roommate) state Sen. Carl Kruger — at Wednesday’s Community Board 18 meeting, her first public appearance since the bombshell accusations were made.
Kruger (D–Brighton Beach) has been accused of swapping his political clout and government connections for close to $1 million in bribes from deep-pocketed lobbyists and developers. The payoffs came to Kruger from Turano’s son, Michael, who was outed last week as Kruger’s accomplice and lover.
Throughout the meeting — where the Kruger–Turano scandal was not mentioned publicly — the usually talkative Turano, 73, hid behind those flowers and said little.
It is unclear who paid for the floral tribute to Turano, who has been the board’s well-paid district manager for the last 22 years. Board Chairman Sol Needle claimed the flowers came from the board, but several members said they were never told about the flowers or asked to chip in for them.
Turano, her two sons, and Kruger all flop together in a multi-million dollar Mill Island home paid for by Kruger’s bribes, court documents show.
Turano hasn’t been charged, but U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s corruption probe continues — and investigators are looking into seizing Turano’s home, he said.
The district manager is featured prominently in the criminal complaint, where FBI investigators accuse her of advocating for developer Aaron Malinsky’s Canarsie Plaza, a project that Kruger was getting paid to promote.
The complaint states that another developer had put proposed a supermarket and home improvement store at the Canarsie Plaza site in 2004, but Turano shot it down, claiming, “Decisions are not made in this community unless they are presented to elected officials.”
A year later, Turano recommended that the board approve Malinsky’s proposal to build a shopping center at the site, which is now anchored by a BJ’s.
“This will be a good development plan,” she told the board. “This will be good for increased job opportunities, a nice place for people to shop and add to the beautification of the area.”
Two weeks later, Malinsky sent $5,000 to the bogus company run by Turano’s son, the federal complaint states.
Yet these astonishing accusations had little affect on board members, a number of whom either owe their positions to the many beneficiaries of Kruger’s political and financial good will over the decades or are longstanding members of the Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club, where Kruger got his start.
Needle and other board members tried to protect Turano throughout the night.
At the start of the meeting, Needle requested that the 63rd Precinct bar media photographers from entering the Kings Plaza Community Room, but a reporter from NY1 called NYPD headquarters in Manhattan to lodge a formal complaint, and Needle backed down.
Once the meeting ended, a beefy board member flanked Turano as local powerbroker Frank Seddio, who was Community Board 18’s district manager before becoming an Assemblyman, surrogate court judge and democratic district leader, led her to his car. Seddio and Turano grew up together in Canarsie and Turano was hired as a youth coordinator in the early 1980s, board members said.
Turano appeared anxious as she hurried past reporters at the end of the night, refusing to respond to questions about the scandal or if she would step down as district manager — something many at the board thought was unnecessary.
“Why should she step down? She hasn’t been charged, so she hasn’t done anything wrong,” board member Gardy Brazella said. “All you can do in situations like this is pray for her and hope for the best.”
But the smooth face of support for Turano is starting to show some worry lines. One board member called — though not publicly, yet — for her to step down during the investigation.
“If there’s even a hint of impropriety on her part, she should at least take a leave of absence until everything is cleared up in the courts,” said board member Neal Duncan. “Our district manager is named in court papers and that puts the board in a bad light.”
The 50 members of each community board are responsible for hiring and firing their district manager and support staff. Needle refused to comment on the Kruger scandal or questions about Turano stepping down.
“Dottie has always been an excellent district manager,” Needle told us. “She’s been with us for a very long time and she’s done a lot of good for the communities she served.”
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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