This will make for an awkward Thanksgiving dinner.
A Bensonhurst councilman accused his cousin-in-law who represents Sheepshead Bay in Council of feeding the media false reports about his wife being denied a job with the city’s public advocate, days after the former introduced legislation to axe the watchdog office.
Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Bensonhurst) blamed Councilman Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay), who is married to his cousin Sara, for the anonymously sourced reports in publications including the New York Post that claimed Yeger’s wife, Jennifer Berger, didn’t get a job with current Public Advocate Letitia “Tish” James’s office earlier this year, which led him to introduce the bill as payback.
Rather, Berger declined a job offer from James’s office after being let go from her previous position as legislative assistant to former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito when current Speaker Cory Johnson (D–Manhattan) assumed the role, according to Yeger’s spokesman.
“She has her own professional career. Earlier this year, she was recruited and offered a position, which she declined,” said Jay Ackerman.
And the claim that Berger didn’t get the gig with James doesn’t hold water considering her previous work on James’s campaign for public advocate — an office voters reelected her to last year after first appointing her to the position in 2013 — and the fact that the former Fort Greene Councilwoman and Yeger are old friends, according to Ackerman.
“Tish and Kalman are friends for well over a decade, and he thinks the world of Tish and her public service,” Ackerman said.
Yeger on Wednesday introduced a bill in Council that, if passed, would let voters decide via a future ballot whether to keep or abolish the office of public advocate, and on Friday he rejected the idea that the legislation is in any way connected to his wife.
“The bill has nothing to do with her interaction with the office,” he said.
The legislation has been in the works for some time, according to Yeger, who said he chose to introduce it following James’s victory in the general-election race for New York State attorney general, because she must now vacate the office in January to move to Albany.
“I’ve been working on this bill for a long time and I wanted to wait until after Tish’s election,” Yeger said. “Now seemed like an opportune moment to talk about this position because it was about to become vacant,” he said.
Berger currently works as a special assistant in the mayor’s office, a role she assumed in August and earns $115,000 a year for, according to city records.
A rep for the public advocate’s office refused to comment on whether James previously offered Berger a position, or if she applied for a job there.
“The public advocate’s office does not discuss personnel matters,” said Delaney Kempner.
The anonymously sourced reports published Thursday in the Post and on the website Kings County Politics alleged that Berger applied to be James’s liaison to the Jewish community, but didn’t get the job because she demanded $40,000 in extra pay and flexible hours.
But Deutsch — who did not comment to the Post about Berger’s history with the public advocate’s office, but did tell the paper he thought the watchdog role should stay in tact — vehemently denied being the source.
“This is false. My only conversation with the Post about this subject was when a reporter called me to ask for a comment. I declined to comment, as was accurately reported in the Post article,” he said. “This has nothing to do with me, and I respect the right to privacy of all of my colleagues.”
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