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July 13, 2017 / Brooklyn news / Party Line

Oberman trumped by Campaign Finance Board

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Failed city council candidate Igor Oberman — the general manager of Trump Village West in Brighton Beach — may have to cough up $25,000 in fines to the city for using the apartment complex’s money to fund his 2013 campaign, according to a petition filed by the city’s Campaign Finance Board on May 16, and obtained by this paper through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Oberman was the president of the co-op back in 2013 when he launched his unsuccessful bid to replace term-limited Councilman Mike Nelson (D–Brighton Beach). He faced Brighton Beach district leader Ari Kagan, Community Board 15 chairwoman Theresa Scavo, attorney Natra Bhushan, and Nelson’s ultimate successor, Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Brighton Beach) in the Democratic primary, where he got 1,338 votes to Deutsch’s more than 3,000, according to city records.

In the city’s detailed, 607-page report, it accuses Oberman of using the co-op’s money to pay for his own campaign-touting flyers and banners — some of which featured a photograph of himself with his wife and kid — ads taken out in Russian newspapers, and promotional mailers sent to residents primarily in the council district in which he was running — for which the board recommends he pay back $9,0756, which was first reported by Crain’s.

But Oberman’s campaign insists that he shouldn’t have to pay the fines because the mailers were used to attract young families to move into Trump Village after Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage, the document states.

Oberman and his campaign have a troubled past — he was caught making 182 phone calls and raking in more than $40,000 in donations while at his office as an attorney for the city’s Tax and Limousine Commision. He was fired and fined $7,500 by the Conflict of Interests Board in 2014, but now the Campaign Finance Board’s own just-completed audit says Oberman must still pay up even more.

He was also caught in the middle of a mystery as to who made bizarre robocalls claiming that his fellow Council hopeful Ari Kagan was once in the infamous Russian Soviet-era intelligence service, the KGB. Kagan has admitted he’s the one who alerted the Campaign Finance Board to Oberman’s shady spending after Oberman filed his own (now-dismissed) complaints about Kagan, and is glad to see it play out the way it has, but never accused or blamed Oberman of being behind the disturbing calls.

“He finally drove me crazy and I decided to complain myself, call the CFB board once and for all. He stole money from his own co-op, I call it like it is. The best help for his co-op after Sandy would be not to steal money from his own co-op,” said Kagan. “I’m biased, he filed vicious complaints against me, radio ads against me. He filed complaint after complaint after complaint.”

Oberman also sued a handful of Trump Village West residents in 2014 after they created a defamatory website against him, TV4 United, where dozens of commenters criticized the former co-op board president, who is from the former Soviet Union, for running the place like a dictatorship.

But Oberman’s attorney Laurence Laufer— a former Campaign Finance Board big shot — claims he’s since spoken with staff at the board and there’s no doubt in his mind that the thousands of dollars in violations will be dropped.

“Keep in mind what a petition is, a petition is like a parking ticket — it may be right, it may be wrong, and when you reply, they may decide there’s no violation or penalty — in other words, that you did nothing wrong,” said Laufer. “In this case, based on developments since the answer was given, I am confident that that’s exactly how this case will end — with no violations or penalties on the allegations described in the Crain’s story.”

A spokesman for the Campaign Finance Board says it does not comment on a specific campaign’s audit process before it’s complete. Oberman’s conference at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings is scheduled for Aug. 3, according to an agency spokeswoman.

• • •

Borough Park Councilman David Greenfield called out his fellow pol — and apparent foe — Sheepshead Bay Councilman Chaim Deutsch on social media for wrongfully taking credit for his parking meter idea.

“Had a good laugh today when I read @ChaimDeutsch press release taking credit for ‘his’ parking relief that Mayor & I announced 6 weeks ago,” Greenfield wrote on Twitter on June 28.

Greenfield, together with Mayor DeBlasio and the Department of Transportation, worked to launch a program that would allow residents in heavily Orthodox-Jewish communities to pre-pay parking meters ahead of time before sundown on Friday, before Shabbat begins. It first started in 2011 as a pilot program in Borough Park, but Greenfield and Hizzoner announced its expansion to other areas around Midwood and Flatbush at a Borough Park town hall on May 16.

But Deutsch — who is being challenged in the Democratic primary by Greenfield’s buddy Kalman Yeger — announced he was influential in bringing the meters to Flatbush on June 27, according to the Yeshiva World News.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation confirmed the pilot program initially launched after working with Greenfield, and will be expanded this summer in response to community requests — but Deutsch’s spokesman said residents still have him to thank.

“Unequivoca­lly yes, Flatbush residents have Councilman Deutsch to thank for the introduction of Shabbos parking meters,” said Jake Dilemani.

Deutsch’s campaign would not respond directly to Greenfield’s apparently unpopular tweet, which several users responded to, calling it shameful, and that it made them lose respect for the Borough Park pol.

• • •

Gentile’s goin’ to the dogs!

Bay Ridge Councilman Vincent Gentile, who is vying to become the borough’s top prosecutor, wants the Kings County District Attorney’s office to reform its Animal Cruelty Unit.

Gentile, who received the endorsement of the Empire State Humane Voters, says Acting DA Eric Gonzalez’s animal-cruelty unit is just not sufficient and doesn’t do enough to prevent animal hoarding, animal abuse, and neglect — or dogfighting.

“The Brooklyn DA’s office, despite what Gonzalez says, simply does not prioritize animal cruelty and the crimes associated with it,” said Gentile’s campaign spokesman Samuel Powers. “Vincent Gentile’s proposal would create a fully staffed, well-funded Animal Cruelty Unit that is on par with our colleagues in Queens and Staten Island, and would dwarf the minimal resources that are currently being spent on prosecuting animal crimes in the current Brooklyn DA’s office.”

But Gonzalez’s office already has such a unit and is dedicated to prosecuting animal cruelty cases — such as the woman who hoarded 180 rabbits in Gowanus, said his campaign’s spokeswoman.

“District Attorney Gonzalez understands the importance of prosecuting animal cruelty cases,” said Lupe Todd-Medina. “To that end, his office recently convicted a woman of animal cruelty after the city removed almost 180 rabbits she was hoarding in a vacant lot in Gowanus.”

• • •

Endorsement round-up:

Bay Ridge City Council hopeful Justin Brannan locked in the endorsement of the Transport Workers Union and Public Advocate Tish James.

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Crown Heights) received support from 1199SEIU, the largest healthcare union in New York , and the council’s LGBTQ caucus endorsed her last month.

And the City University of New York’s Professional Staff Congress endorsed a candidate for the majority of all 51 council districts, but has not yet made an announcement for Councilman Mathieu Eugene’s (D–Flatbush) district, where he faces challenges from Brian Cunningham, Pia Raymond, Rose St. Albord, and Jen Berkely, or for Cumbo’s district, where she faces Ede Fox and Jabari Brisport.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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