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Scandal-tarred ex-city official fails to win judgeship • Brooklyn Paper

Scandal-tarred ex-city official fails to win judgeship

Former School Construction Authority trustee Paul Atanasio was blamed for the death of a teenager felled by a brick in 1998. Now, Atanasio, seen here at a 1999 hearing on the death, wants to be a Supreme Court judge.
File photo by Tom Callan

The people have spoken — and they don’t want a disgraced city official in judge’s robes.

Former School Construction Authority trustee Paul Atanasio, who left his post amid a patronage scandal after a teenager’s death in 1998, failed to win a seat on the Supreme Court in voting on Tuesday.

Initial numbers from the Board of Elections show that Atanasio, a Bay Ridge attorney running on the Conservative line, received a paltry 3,463 votes with 95 percent of borough tallied — putting him seventh out of eight candidates vying for the six available seats on the bench.

More than 181,000 borough residents turned out to vote, even though there were no legislative races in the borough.

Turnout was lower than four years ago — the last time Supreme Court judgeships were up for grabs. Back then more than 301,000 voters pulled levers for judicial candidates.

This year, voters re-elected sitting Supreme Court judges Lawrence Knipel (20,353 votes), Betsy Barros (33,500), and David Friedman (35,607 on the Democrat and Conservative lines) were re-elected to new 14 year-terms. In addition, acting Supreme Court Justice Rachel Adams (31,195 votes) and Civil Court Judge Johnny Baynes (23,323) won permanent seats at Brooklyn’s Supreme Court, which handles criminal and major civil cases.

Carl Landicino, former election lawyer and legal hatchet man for the Kings County Democratic Party, also won a judgeship after getting 30,957 votes.

Atanasio left the School Construction Authority after a school rehab project he gave to a colleague’s husband went horribly wrong and a 17-year-old girl died.

City officials said that Atanasio gave a supervisory position to the husband of longtime colleague Fran Vella Marrone, the president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association — only to have that patronage appointment end tragically when a few months into the rehabilitation project at PS 131 in Borough Park, a brick crashed down on Yan Zhen Zhao, killing her.

City investigation determined that a “lethal combination of incompetent contractors, halfway safety measures and laissez-faire supervision” led to the girl’s death and pointed a finger at Gary Marrone, Atanasio’s pick for the job.

Atanasio had told investigators that he had nothing to do with Marrone’s hiring — but several other School Construction Authority officials contradicted that account. One of the School Construction Authority members even told investigators that he warned Atanasio that “he would have exposure” if he hired Marrone for the job.

Atanasio ran once before for Supreme Court — in 2007 — and lost. That time, at least, he got 4,800 votes.

Calls to Atanasio, currently a lawyer and treasurer for the state Conservative Party, were not returned.

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