Borough President Markowitz says he will not immediately return thousands in campaign contributions from a developer who was arrested earlier this month in a federal investigation into bribing a prominent south Brooklyn state senator.
The Beep said he’s taking a wait and see approach before returning more than $20,000 that developer Aaron Malinsky and his unindicted family members and business partner gave to Markowitz since 2005.
“A determination will be made pending the outcome of the case,” said Markowitz’s spokesman Mark Zustovich.
Markowitz’s patience is a far cry than his colleagues in the United States Senate.
Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said last week they would be returning the $250 that each received from Malinsky last August. The money will go to “worthwhile causes,” the pair said.
And New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said this week he will donate to charity $10,500 of the $33,000 in campaign donations he’s received from Malinsky.
Non-Brooklyn borough presidents Scott Stringer of Manhattan and Ruben Diaz of Bronx have also received money from Malinsky and his family. Stringer has taken in 31,950 since 2004, and Diaz has gotten $12,800 since 2009.
It is unclear whether Diaz will retun the money, but late on Thursday, Stringer announced that he would donate his portion to charity. And government watchdogs urged Markowitz to do the same.
“I think it’s interesting that Schumer and Gillibrand feel the need to give back $250,” said Susan Lerner, the head of Common Cause New York.
And other government officials have quickly distanced themselves from Malinsky and his PA Associates. Last week, the company was fired from a supermarket project at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and sacked from its work on a mall at the CityPoint tower in Downtown.
It’s no wonder why. In a federal complaint unsealed on March 9, Malinsky was one of eight people charged with funneling bribes to state Sen. Carl Kruger, a Markowitz ally, who in turn threw his weight behind the developer’s projects in Mill Basin and Canarsie.
Malinsky, his relatives, and P/A partner Paul Slayton contributed $21,550 to Markowitz, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. The contributions begin at roughly the same time that Malinsky was unveiling a plan to develop the $65 million Canarsie Shopping Plaza Shopping Center on city-owned land at the corner of Avenue D and Remsen Avenue.
The borough president knows about campaign finance scandals.
In 1988, Markowitz, pleaded guilty to election fraud in his 1985 race for borough president. In the plea deal, Markowitz admitted that he had laundered $25,000 through his personal bank account to disguise contributions from the Hyfin Credit Union, whose treasurer was later convicted of stealing from the credit union
Markowitz was ordered to pay a $7,500 fine and perform 75 hours of community service. He avoided jail.
Given that history, Lerner said that Markowitz has to go above and beyond.
“He needs to be very proactive to show that he’s learned from his mistakes,” she said.