City: Gentile broke campaign finance rules

Gentile: I didn’t boot Cassara over the bike lane!
The Brooklyn Paper / Jori Klein

Councilman Vince Gentile violated city law by overspending on his re-election campaign in 2009, the Campaign Finance Board ruled on Thursday, hitting the veteran lawmaker with nearly $26,000 in fines.

The board slammed Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) for agreeing to a strict spending limit of $161,000 in his race against Bob Capano in exchange for receiving $88,550 in public matching — then spending $18,000 more than the limit, city officials claim.

“Exceeding the expenditure limit is one of the most serious violations … and undermines the purpose of the Campaign Finance Program,” the board wrote in its ruling.

Gentile was also hit with $1,025 in fines for a litany of other city campaign financing abuses, including accepting corporate contributions, over-the-limit contributions, and failure to report daily pre-election expenditures.

But Gentile’s overspending illegal contributions apparently helped: he trounced Capano in a 60-percent to 40-percent romp.

Gentile said the overspending was caused by bad math, and that he would payback the money.

“A mistake was made with a misplaced decimal point,” he said. “We presented our side before the board, respect their decision and will pay the fine.”

A campaign worker punched in the wrong numbers when adding up the cost of a 2009 fundraiser — which threw off Gentile’s campaign figures, said Robert Bishop, Gentile’s lawyer, explaining that Gentile, who earns $112,500 a year, couldn’t pay the fines right away and would have to start a new campaign account so he could hold some kind of “help me pay off my debt” fund raiser.

“We’re dealing with someone who is a civil servant; he’s not rich or wealthy,” Bishop told the board.

For his part, Capano raised $45,000, according to Campaign Finance Board officials. Fresh from his second straight campaign loss, Capano turned his back on politics and became a manager of a supermarket, but he has since been hired as district director by newly minted Rep. Bob Turner (R–Sheepshead Bay).

Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at [email protected] or by calling him at (718) 260-4507. You can also follow his Tweets at @dsmacleod.