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Innocent: Former Community Board 6 district manager cleared of questionable pay-raises in court

Brooklyn Paper
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A former longtime Brooklyn civic leader was found not guilty in Brooklyn Supreme Court on June 14 of using bogus documents to give himself multiple pay-raises from the city, which totaling more than $16,000 annually.

Craig Hammerman, the former longtime District Manager of Community Board 6 — which stretches from Park Slope to Red Hook — was facing seven years behind bars for using two colleagues’ signatures to grant himself four salary bumps over a three-year stretch.

The jury accepted Hammerman’s defense that, because he had been authorized to use the signature for community board business, he was allowed to use them in four raise-requests to the city, between May 2015 and October 2017, to increase his salary from $105,180 to $121,931.

“I believed I had the authority to act on my own,” Hammerman told the jury on June 11. “I didn’t think I had to ask.”

Brooklyn’s top prosecutor disagreed, slapping Hammerman with 17 charges — including forgery — in May 2018, arguing that the raises were illegal.

“This defendant allegedly sought to enrich himself with taxpayer money to which he was not entitled,” District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said at the time. “This was a betrayal of the public trust that cannot be tolerated.”

The board’s former chairman told the jury on June 7 that he had given Hammerman a scan of his signature — which Hammerman used to request a raise in a 2015 letter to the Office of Management and Budget — but he never meant it to be used for pay raises.

“I thought it was implicit that it was for the sake of convenience,” said Gary Reilly. “I didn’t know that I had anything to do with raises at the time.”

Hammerman, along with defense attorney Joyce David, argued that there were no established formal limits on his use of the signatures, and he was under no obligation to inform Reilly — or Sayar Lonial, whose John Handcock appeared on the three other documents in question — of the letters.

“It was tradition, custom, and practice of the board to pass along raises without explicit approval of the board,” he said.

The raises represented a $16,751 annual increase, and also increased Hammerman’s city pension by almost $10,000 per year — from $60,499 to $70,134 — which he is set to receive annually from age 62 until his death, according Bruce Farbstein of the city’s Employee Retirement System.

After the trial, Hammerman lamented the idea that money played into his decision, arguing that it was his 27 years of public service that motivated him.

“I was never in it for the money,” he said. “My record bores that out.”

Hammeram — who watched in court as Lonial suggested that he would not have granted the raises if he was asked — suggested that Lonial’s testimony was more politically motivated than he had let on.

“I don’t think it was about the work performance,” he said. “That was simply used as a mask or a cover.”

Hammerman attributed the ordeal up the toxic working relationship that he saw develop during the tail-end of his community board tenure.

“I think there was a breakdown in communication. We ceased to talk to each other as a human being with kindness and respect,” he said. “I think if people learned how to interact in a more collegial way would, that would have created a different working relationsh­ip.”

The jury found Hammerman not guilty on all 17 counts, allowing him to avoid a possible seven year prison sentence.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.
Updated 4:50 pm, June 18, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Tricia from PPW says:
Of course he got off. They are all crooks!
June 14, 7:19 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I think CB1 and its SUV and who knows what else is more corrupt.
June 14, 8:49 pm
Local from Here says:
This post must be posted for the sake of democracy. I said it before and I'll say it again! That man is a local hero! I love this guy!!! He has been vindicated! Not Guilty! Free at last, free at last. We shall overcome! trump 2020 (in prison)!!!
June 14, 9:51 pm
George Fiala from Red Hook says:
I completely agree with Local. From my vantage point I get to see many people doing supposed community service activities for basically a heir own pocketbook. Craig did his job excellently for many years, it seems he made some enemies who ultimately ended his career of public service. This particular paper sensationalized his cases, basically deeming him guilty before trial, which didn’t help.
June 15, 1:36 pm
Local from Here says:
I love you George Fiala!!!
June 15, 2:44 pm
Tyler from pps says:
Having authorization and it being technically passing the "legal" threshold does not make his anything other than a unethical scumbag.
June 16, 9:55 am
Naked Hiker from Downtown Brooklyn says:
A complete miscarriage of justice here ... shame on those twelve jurors
June 17, 9:04 am
jerry krase from park slope says:
some crooks are better than other crooks. although he was one of the better d.m.s in bklyn
June 17, 9:32 am
Tyler from pps says:
My brother's company had a similar issue... his bookkeeper embezzled $22,000 but she had signature authority on the checking account. So, all he could do was fire her absent any documentation that explicitly said she wasn't allowed to give herself a few thousand $$ every couple weeks. She's still a scumbag thief, just like Hammerman.
June 17, 11:14 am
ujh from Westchester County says:
Using others' signatures on certain documents after consulting with the individuals in question in writing is one thing. Using others' facsimile signatures to request or support one's own salary increase is clearly illegal. Besides and to my knowledge, salaries and salary increases are set by the city.
June 17, 3:03 pm
Frank from Furter says:
There is a difference between not proven and innocent. He surely isn't innocent.
June 17, 4:24 pm
omg from brooklyn says:
This is a decision against community. The guy steals from the very people he has a fiduciary responsibility to serve and he walk on a technicality. The spirit of authority is to use it in a manner that is in the interest of those you serve. Taking a salary that wasn't intended wasn't in anyone's interest but his own. We'll have to rely on poetic justice as he gets shunned from the very community he purported to serve. Give him long stares! Appeal!
June 19, 10:12 pm

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