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DA charges former top-earning CB6 staffer with forging raise authorizations - Brooklyn Paper

DA charges former top-earning CB6 staffer with forging raise authorizations

Hammer of justice: Community Board 6 District Manager Craig Hammerman was arrested twice in one week for charges related to stalking his ex-girlfriend.
File photo by Tom Callan

He’s getting hammered!

The one-time highest-paid employee at Park Slope’s community board faces up to seven years behind bars for allegedly forging documents that netted him a five-figure raise on the taxpayer’s dime, according to the district attorney.

Craig Hammerman, who in October stepped down as the district manager of Community Board 6 after being arrested on stalking charges that officials later dropped, sent four letters requesting a salary hike to the borough president between May 2015 and October 2017 — one that was allegedly signed by former board Chairman Gary Reilly, and three others featuring current Chairman Sayar Lonial’s John Hancock.

But Lonial and Reilly never signed off on their staffer’s illicit pay raise, according to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, who said that Hammerman’s scheme inflated his salary from $105,180 to $121,931 by the time of his resignation.

“This defendant allegedly sought to enrich himself with money to which he was not entitled,” Gonzalez said. “This was a betrayal of the public trust that cannot be tolerated.”

Members of the civic panel — which also serves Gowanus, Boerum Hill, and Red Hook — discovered Hammerman’s alleged forgery scheme during an internal review they launched following his post-arrest hiatus, which lasted roughly six months, a law-enforcement source said.

“His leave of absence then prompted an internal review,” the source said.

Sleuths with the city’s Department of Investigation — an arm of the law that polices local government — then took up the community board’s probe of its embattled former district manager, and their work ultimately led Gonzalez to pursue the forgery conviction, according to a press release announcing the Monday indictment.

Hammerman, however, readily admitted to sending the letters that resulted in his raise — and in salary bumps for other community board employees — but claimed Lonial knew all about it because he told the chairman he would use money from a budgetary surplus to boost staffers’ pay, according to his lawyer.

“Craig told the chairman of the board, ‘We found some money in the budget and we’re using it for raises,’ ” said Joyce David, the same attorney who got Hammerman’s stalking allegations dropped. “They’re going to have a very hard time proving he did anything with a criminal intent.”

The forgery allegations are also grossly exaggerated, according to David, who said that as the community board’s district manager, her client was given access to a digitized version of its chairman’s signature for administrative purposes.

“This was the signature that he was authorized to use for all his dealings,” she said. “The community board members are volunteers, and things come up all the time that need a signature. So instead of having them run around doing stuff, he was issued this digital stamp for his work.”

And Hammerman is simply not stupid enough to illegally inflate his government-issued pay, his attorney said, because anyone can look up his or any other public servant’s earnings with the click of a mouse.

“There’s no way someone can give themselves a raise and have it be a secret,” David said. “It’s posted online!”

Guilty or not, Hammerman’s six-figure salary in 2017 wasn’t even the highest among Brooklyn community-board employees that year. The district manager of Southern Brooklyn’s Community Board 18, Dorothy Turano, collected a whopping $150,362, and her counterpart at Williamsburg and Greenpoint’s Community Board 1, Gerald Esposito, took home a cool $123,304, according to records.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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