Republican City Council candidate Bob Capano is charging that his Democratic opponent, Justin Brannan, is violating the law by taking a job with former boss Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) — the term-limited lawmaker both candidates seek to replace in an election this fall.
“This secret recent hiring of Mr. Brannan by Councilman Gentile does not pass the smell test” said Capano in one of several press releases calling out Brannan for his new gig. “Mr. Brannan is now working in the exact office he is running for — this is wrong. Do we really believe he will not use his influence in this office for his own political advantage? How do we know there will not be exchanges of government favors for political donations to Mr. Brannan? This is why voters are tired of political insiders like Justin Brannan.”
But there is nothing wrong with what Brannan is doing, and suggesting anything otherwise is a misdirection, Brannan’s spokesman said.
“This is simply more Trump-style tactics from a third-rate candidate desperately looking for attention. Justin Brannan is a lifelong Bay Ridge resident with a demonstrated commitment to this community and the record in public service to match,” said campaign rep Jon Greenfield. “Justin recently joined Council Member Gentile’s office as Deputy Chief of Staff to assist his former boss of five years to continue important community work during the Council member’s final months in office. In doing so, he took a significant pay cut from his previous job with the Department of Education. To suggest that this is somehow illegal or improper is simply ludicrous.”
At the heart of Capano’s complaint is a local law that no public servant, other than an elected official, who has “substantial policy discretion” is allowed to do campaign-style fund-raising. The city outlines which positions are subject to the rule on a so-called “policymaker list,” which mainly includes members of agencies such as the Parks Department or the Department of Transportation, but also lists staffers for the Borough President and the Council Speaker’s chief of staff.
The Conflicts of Interest Board, which rules on such matters, would not comment specifically on Brannan’s situation unless a formal complaint is filed and adjudicated, but a rep said individual council staffers are not typically barred from mounting their own campaigns.
“The individual chiefs of staff for Council members [have] not historically been on the list, and the board has not historically required them to be on that list,” said rep Wayne Hawley.
Capano said he plans to file a complaint.