Talk about setting somebody up for a fall.
Former state Sen. Seymour Lachman says that a bizarre personal injury suit filed against him in 2010 may have been an act of retaliation by then-Coney Island Councilman and current Congressional contender Domenic Recchia, whom Lachman once threatened to challenge for Council.
The suit was brought by octagenarian couple Jane and Leonard Beninson — the latter a paid consultant to Recchia’s 2001 Council campaign — who hired Theodore Pavlounis as their attorney.
Until last year, Recchia and Pavlounis had their law offices in a building Recchia owns at the corner of Gravesend Neck Road and E. Second Street, which was also the headquarters for the ex-councilman’s campaigns. The two lawyers were not partners, but shared space and resources, according to Carmine Guiga, who was a legal intern under Recchia, but also did work for Pavlounis.
Pavlounis also worked on Recchia’s campaigns for Council, and was the treasurer for his failed 2008 bid for Congress.
The suit initially alleged that Mrs. Beninson had tripped and injured herself on the sidewalk outside Lachman’s Bensonhurst home on Sept. 21, 2009 — but Pavlounis later submitted an amendment claiming that was a typo, and it was actually Mr. Beninson who had taken the spill. Lachman — who represented parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island from 1996 until 2004 — said he and his wife had long known the elderly Beninsons from Bensonhurst political circles, and were shocked that the couple had not approached him directly about the incident before calling in the lawyers.
“I was personally hurt by it — that they didn’t come in to tell us,” the former pol said.
Lachman suspects Recchia was behind the lawsuit.
“It was very odd. Either they were old and forgetful of what was going on,” he said, “or they were controlled and manipulated by the councilman at the time.”
Lachman was served papers by Guiga — who was Recchia’s legal intern at the time. Guiga was also a veteran of Recchia’s 2001 and 2005 campaigns, and was still getting paychecks from Recchia’s 2008 Congressional campaign in 2010 when the lawsuit was filed.
Lachman is a longtime friend and mentor to Recchia foe Assemblyman Bill Colton (D–Bensonhurst), though he endorsed Recchia during his rookie run for Council in 2001. But in 2008, in a rage over Recchia’s support for extending term limits, Lachman told reporters he might challenge the councilman for his job. The ex-senator also encouraged then-councilman Michael McMahon of Staten Island to seek the vacant Congressional seat that Recchia was pursuing, even though Recchia had the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic establishment.
Recchia dropped out of the 2008 Congressional contest, and Lachman decided against challenging him for Council. But Lachman said rumors persisted that he would campaign for Recchia’s vacant seat in 2013, or even run for the Congressional seat now occupied by Rep. Michael Grimm (R–Bay Ridge), which the ex-councilman is aiming for. The retired pol suggested the Beninson lawsuit might have been a way to discourage him from running, or retaliation for a perceived wrong.
“There are people who said to me that Domenic was looking over his shoulder, afraid I might run for an office in the area in the future,” Lachman said. “If he was vindictive, why was he vindictive? It might have been because I had encouraged Mike McMahon to run for Congress.”
Lachman, now a professor at Wagner College on the Rock, said he has no intention of ever running for office again.
Both Recchia and Pavlounis declined to comment. Mrs. Beninson said her husband has since passed away, and would not discuss the lawsuit.
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Borough President Adams has big plans for the future — the surprisingly near future — and they involve Mayor DeBlasio’s chair at City Hall.
“DeBlasio’s just keeping the seat warm for me for eight years. Maybe four,” the Beep told a recent gathering of borough religious leaders, according to several of the attendees.
But when invited to clarify his statement later, Adams graciously reaffirmed his open-ended support for hizzoner.
“I’m a DeBlasio guy, and I’m with him for as long as he wants to be mayor,” he said.