Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The surprise firing of power broker William Rapfogel: four Forest City Ratner angles, including Barclays Center charity event and campaign support for Tish James challenger

There are several Forest City Ratner-related angles to the surprise firing yesterday of William Rapfogel, longtime CEO of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, in what the New York Times headlined Power Broker, Fired, Faces Inquiry on Political Donations, the New York Post headlined Shelly pal booted in ‘kickback’ scam, and the New York Daily News called Sheldon Silver ally William Rapfogel is fired as CEO of Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty because of 'financial irregularities'.

The powerhouse social service agency blamed "financial irregularities and apparent misconduct in connection with the organization’s insurance policies" and sources told the Times could involve improper campaign contributions.

Rapfogel's closeness to Assembly Speaker-for-Life Silver, as well as his good reputation among other lawmakers, meant his agency received significant support from the city and state. Now there are questions about exactly how that came about, and whether it will continue.

The Forest City angles

1) Given that Forest City Ratner joined with the Met Council on a bid to redevelop the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, the departure of Rapfogel--surely highlighted as a key executive in the bid package--casts a major shadow on that bid.

2) The Barclays Center chose to give the Met Council--and a music camp--profits from a  2/28/13 cantorial concert. Shouldn't investigators look into any ulterior motives, like buffing the developer's relationship with Silver as a prelude to that Seward Park bid?

3) The position of Rapfogel's son Michael, a Forest City VP of External Affairs who's the developer's chief legislative liaison, has to become a little uncomfortable, though he is of course not responsible for his father's actions.

His mother Judy is still Silver's top aide, and that has to be the key legislative relationship. But the name Rapfogel is now associated with an emerging scandal. I've written at length about the ties between Forest City, Silver, and the Rapfogels.

4) What role might Forest City--or knowledge of its interests--have played in the distribution of campaign contributions? 

As the Times reported:
Two people briefed on the investigation said the lawyers were concerned that Mr. Rapfogel might have been overpaying the council’s insurer, Century Coverage Corporation of Valley Stream, N.Y., and then directing the insurer to make political contributions to his favored candidates. 
The Daily News quoted a source as saying that arrangement went back to 2009. If true, there's no glaring pattern.

Given the Met Council's broad interest in good relationships with elected officials, it makes sense that such donations--if directed by Rapfogel--were spread broadly, such that mayoral candidates Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio scrambled to return them.

But why, for example, would way-out-of-district resident Deborah Auletta, a Century employee, give $175 to Delia Hunley-Adossa's longshot 2009 challenge to popular 35th District Council incumbent Letitia James, the leading Atlantic Yards opponent?


At this point, I'm speculating, but... if Rapfogel was whispering suggestions to the company, it's not implausible that he might have gotten an idea from his contacts at Forest City. They didn't give money to Hunley-Adossa. But they surely had an interest in her candidacy.

More on the investigation

The Times reported:
[Rapfogel's] conduct is now being investigated by the state’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, and comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, as part of a new anticorruption task force.
Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. DiNapoli would not say what their concerns were, and the Met Council said in a statement only that it had retained a lawyer to investigate “financial irregularities and apparent misconduct in connection with the organization’s insurance policies.”
Rapfogel apologized for unspecified “mistakes” and expressed deep regret. The Times noted:
Mr. Rapfogel has been a well-respected figure in New York’s Jewish community and in its political world. He was an aide to Mayor Edward I. Koch and to the city comptroller Harrison J. Goldin; before the council, he worked as executive director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and of the local branch of the American Jewish Congress.
According to Rapfogel’s lawyer, neither Silver nor Judy Rapfogel knew about the conduct at issue.

As the Jewish Week noted:
According to its web site, Century Coverage provides "insurance and risk management products and services to businesses, organizations and individuals," and was established in 1951. Its CEO, Joseph Ross, was a co-chair of Met Council's annual Builder's Lunch event in August, 2011, according to Met Council's web site.
Note that, in 2008, the Builder's Luncheon honored Bruce Ratner.

A high salary

Rapfogel has also been subject of headlines regarding high pay for nonprofit directors. As the Forward reported in Feburary 2012:
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order, which would cap at $199,000 the amount of state dollars that could be used for an executive’s salary, would likely not impact most Jewish institutions because they don’t rely exclusively on state cash, experts said.
But New York Jewish charity officials are pushing back anyway, because they question the focus on compensation at charities.
...William Rapfogel of the New York-based Metropolitan Coucil on Jewish Poverty, earned $435,000 in 2009, including benefits and deferred compensation, and his organization took in nearly $100 million in government funding, including contracts with state agencies. But his salary wouldn’t be impacted, either, as he can be paid out of other revenue streams.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:05 PM

    other revenue streams mean stealing from Met council by taking money from insurance companies??

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous2:32 PM

      Met Council scandal
      Regarding the criminal probe of William Rapfogel former CEO of the Met Council who is accused of pocketing funds and directing campaign contributions to favored pols in a kickback scheme.
      The surface is only being scratched.
      However much more will be coming out including possible testimony from myself and others who worked with me during the time I led the National Association for the Jewish Poor a volunteer not for profit setting up Jewish Poverty programs for the elderly poor in the south/south east Bronx, Harlem, Brownsville and Jamaica areas which are the inner urban areas which have been decaying for years. William Rapfogel/Met Council was instrumental in destroying our volunteer organization and he with others were known to us as the poverty pimps of the 1990s. He brought much pain and despair to many poor elderly Jews throughout his tenure. There is no surprise with the people in the know that he is finally in trouble. The only surprise is what took them so long. Any not profit poverty program where an executive takes over $8,000 dollars a week is not a poverty program but a profit sharing company running as an undercover profit corporation. Only here, little William did not have to make any initial investment that we know of. The board of directors need to be held accountable as well. The only way to do that successfully is to hold public hearings. The pay to play scandals are still with us. Our community must set up the first Jewish compliance organization to check on cheats who rip off the government and steal precious donor resources that our poor truly need.

      The other scandal which is brewing is that many people knew of this and allowed it to continue and facilitated it. I wonder if William Rapfogael will go down alone if he eventually winds up facing jail time? Torah Quote: “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdoff - Justice Justice You Should Pursue!

      Over the years I have reached out to try and speak with the Board of Directors but they weren't interested in listening. I have recently met with an attorney along with several other Jewish communal organizational people where we are contemplating bringing a class action against William Rapfogel and the Metropolitan Coordinating Council on Jewish Poverty as much funds were being coordinated to at least William Rapfogel.

      Perhaps now our volunteer organization along with others can get a fair shot at the funding process and continue the important work of helping our poor without being hampered by the Met Council through their political considerations and kickbacks.

      Rabbi Gary Moskowitz, former NYC Police Officer and Director of the National Association for the Jewish Poor who is currently authoring his book, “Chasing Justice” with a chapter dealing with these issues entitled, “Jewish Laundry”.

      Rabbi Gary Moskowitz - Director of the National Association for the Jewish Poor
      Authoring Book Chasing Justice – I Am My Brother’s Keeper
      www.martialartstherapy.org
      917-916-4681 Gavriael@aol.com

      Delete