Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Forest City Ratner, unnamed/unindicted, cited as giving indicted man consulting job after he got Yonkers Council Member to change vote on Ridge Hill

A federal investigation of corruption in Yonkers has led to three indictments in connection with two real estate projects, one of them Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill.

And while Forest City Ratner is neither named nor indicted, the investigation is ongoing and, at least as presented by federal prosecutors, the developer's conduct seems suspect. (An indictment, of course, is an allegation based on evidence, not a conviction.)

Update: FCR says it's not a target

"Forest City Ratner Companies has cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney's Office during the course of its investigation and will continue to do so. In addition, Forest City has been advised by the U.S. Attorney's Office that neither the company nor any of its employees is a target of the investigation," said Ed Tagliaferri, Senior VP, Dan Klores Communications, in a statement.

Note that the U.S. Attorney's Office would not comment when I earlier asked the same question. After I received the statement from Tagliaferri, I asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to confirm that "neither the company nor any of its employees is a target," and was told there was no comment.

As for what "not a target" can mean, consider this from TPM Muckraker:
The phrase makes the politician sound practically exhonerated [sic], when really, prosecutors tend to wait to send out a “target” letter until shortly before an indictment is issued.
Or this from the Chicago Sun-Times:
By saying Daley is not a target, it means they don't have a case against him, which isn't the same as saying they aren't trying to build one.
Contract in exchange for influence to change vote

FCR is cited as agreeing to provide Zehy Jereis, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, a $60,000 consulting contract after he got Yonkers City Council Member Sandy Annabi once a fierce opponent of the Ridge Hill project, to change her vote.

She once said that Forest City Ratner was “probably richer than God” and was “robbing the city blind,” and served as the lead plaintiff in a 2005 lawsuit objecting to the city's approval process--but then did an about-face a year later.

According to prosecutors, the sequence of events that included the changed vote mean Annabi, the former Democratic Majority Leader of the Yonkers City Council, has been charged with conspiracy, bribery, extortion, false statements, and tax crimes. Also, Jereis, the former head of the Yonkers Republican Party, and Anthony Mangone, a Westchester County attorney, were charged with conspiracy, bribery, and extortion.

(Mangone was apparently not involved with Ridge Hill. Here's coverage of the case on LoHud.com.)

From the press release

The Ridge Hill Development Project

The "Ridge Hill Development Project" was a project proposed by a large developer ("Developer No. 2") to develop an 81-acre tract of land to establish retail shopping, restaurants, office space, hundreds of residential housing units, and a hotel and conference center. ANNABI was an outspoken critic of the proposed Ridge Hill Project and voted against both the project and legislation that would allow the project to move forward despite her opposition. ANNABI, with two other City Council members and others, also filed a civil lawsuit to effectively block the Ridge Hill Project. As the City Council was considering the Ridge Hill Project, Developer No. 2 made repeated and unsuccessful efforts to convince ANNABI to vote in favor of the project.

On June 2, 2006, JEREIS was introduced to representatives of Developer No. 2, after which JEREIS told representatives of Developer No. 2 that he could arrange a meeting between them, ANNABI, and JEREIS to discuss the Ridge Hill Project. JEREIS and representatives of Developer No. 2 also had an agreement in which Developer No. 2 would give JEREIS a consulting job sometime after ANNABI formally voted in favor of the Ridge Hill Project. After two meetings held in less than two weeks, ANNABI reversed her opposition to the Ridge Hill Project and issued a press release -- drafted by JEREIS and representatives of Developer No. 2 -- informing the public of her support for the project.

Specifically, at a City Council meeting on July 11, 2006, ANNABI voted in favor of the zoning change necessary for the Ridge Hill Project. Shortly after ANNABI changed her vote on the Ridge Hill Project, JEREIS received the promised consulting contract from Developer No. 2 worth $60,000 over one year.

Secret Payments To ANNABI And Efforts To Conceal The Crimes

...Since at least 2004, ANNABI has received from JEREIS, MANGONE, and others more than $160,000 worth of secret payments designed to influence and reward her for favorable official action or inaction on matters pending before the City Council as specific opportunities arose.

2 comments:

  1. Can you comment whether the various payments to those indicted(apart from the consulting job)originated with Ratner?

    ReplyDelete
  2. The indictment doesn't say so.

    ReplyDelete