Is there anything more unsightly than a politician with his hands in the public till?
The latest offender is former city Councilman Steve DiBrienza, who served 16 years until term limits — and a subsequent failed run for public advocate — took him off the public payroll.
Or did it?
This week, The Brooklyn Paper learned that DiBrienza still has a cozy relationship with his former colleagues, who have been happy to funnel money to this invisible public servant’s charity — an astounding $1.19 million over the past seven years.
The charity’s principal expense? Salaries.
We don’t know exactly how much went into DiBrienza’s pocket because antiquated rules don’t require the identification of anyone earning less than $50,000. But we do know this: over the years, federal tax records show that DiBrienza and his cronies have pocketed hundreds of thousands of your cash.
DiBrienza, who is running to win back his old seat now that his replacement, Councilman Bill DeBlasio, is seeking higher office, told The Brooklyn Paper this week that his “Neighborhood Assistance Corporation” runs sports leagues and anti-graffiti programs.
Problem is, the group’s Fort Hamilton Parkway office — which is in space shared with DiBrienza’s law firm and real-estate office — is almost always shuttered. Worse, no one other than DiBrienza would confirm that the group does what DiBrienza says it does. The athletic director at one of the schools that supposedly benefitted from DiBrienza’s largesse told The Brooklyn Paper he hadn’t seen the former councilman in years and certainly would have known if DiBrienza had done anything to justify the money that the Council has given him to spend as he sees fit.
Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights), for example, requested $15,000 for DiBrienza’s group right after DiBrienza endorsed him for Congress in 2006.
Yassky told The Brooklyn Paper that this out-of-district donation to DiBrienza’s group was not a kickback or a quid-pro-quo, but voters will certainly raise their eyebrows.
That appearance of impropriety is the core of why DiBrienza’s candidacy for his old seat is so troubling. Here is a well-connected politician who is out of office, yet remains addicted to one of the central perks of holding office in this city: the hundreds of thousands of dollars of virtually unregulated cash that the Council doles out every year.
Voters in the 39th District do have a choice: they can reject Steve DiBrienza.