Congressmember Michael Grimm’s ex-girlfriend, Diana Durand, pleaded guilty to campaign finance fraud connected to his 2010 election campaign. She admitted to using straw donors to funnel extra contributions to Mr. Grimm’s election campaign. U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said, “We and our partners in the FBI are committed to protecting the integrity of the electoral process and will aggressively pursue anyone who attempts to circumvent federal campaign financing laws.”
Ms. Durand reimbursed people to donate, thereby skirting individual campaign contribution limitations. The straw donors made donations of money which came from other people. She funneled thousands of illicit dollars into two election campaigns in 2010. She faces a maximum prison sentence of two years. Her attorney told reporters that she refused to testify against Mr. Grimm and that she denied he had any complicity in the campaign finance scheme.
Mr. Grimm must prepare a defense in his own criminal case. A federal indictment alleges he skimmed more than $1 million in profits from a Manhattan restaurant he owned before running for Congress. It alleges he hired undocumented workers and filed false tax returns. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The 20-count federal indictment for fraud and tax evasion doesn’t include charges of campaign finance fraud from his 2010 campaign.
There is a rumor that the congressmember wants a plea deal before facing trial in October. Reports claim Mr. Grimm would be willing to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges on the condition of no jail time. Mr. Grimm, a Republican, representing Staten Island and Brooklyn, is seeking reelection despite the indictment. Domenic Recchia, former chairperson of the City Council Finance Committee, is campaigning to unseat Grimm and is pledging to increase investment in Staten Island’s infrastructure if elected.
Mayor de Blasio settled some more contracts. An agreement with nurses and healthcare workers incorporates terms of the UFT contract that provided teachers with an 18 percent wage increase over nine years.
The NYS Nurses Association and 1199 SEIU/United Healthcare Workers agreed to contracts with delayed retroactive pay increases. The delay gives the city time to pay and saves money because the increases are not compounded.
City Hall is walking a fine line between fairness and fiscal responsibility. Mayor de Blasio said, “I understand that there has to be a certain level of fiscal responsibility, and this contract offer(s) that kind of fiscal framework.” Congratulations, Mr. Mayor. You are restoring responsible and respectful relationships between the city and its workers. Finish the remaining labor negotiations so you can concentrate on other issues.
The CSA, a union representing 6,000 school principals and administrators, has no contract although it must work under the UFT contract.
President Ernest Logan urged the city to resolve “a major stumbling block” in its contract negotiations: 1,900 of his newest members, promoted teachers, will be ineligible for retroactive pay, to which they would have been entitled, as teachers, under the UFT contract, and will be ineligible for retroactive pay under a CSA contract since they were teachers at the time. Meetings with Bob Linn, New York City director of labor relations, on the issue, failed to resolve it and no new sessions are planned. It is rumored that the CSA, with fewer members than the UFT, will get less attention in its contract negotiations.
A senior teacher now earns $119,565 while a new assistant principal earns $98,000 and a new principal earns $113,000. CSA members have expressed frustration with the negotiation impasse since they are responsible for supervising teachers and must perform new administrative duties due to the UFT contract but without compensation. Logan said his members are “being asked to do some things to make this system work and they feel that people are not working with them.”
Public servants are part of the public and the respect and professionalism demanded of them must be reciprocated from City Hall. There are limits on what a municipal worker should expect to be paid but the longer an agreement is delayed, the more compensation a worker will reasonably demand.
The city is in a position to be fair and remain fiscally responsible. Most municipal unions have been reasonable and willing to compromise. Mayor de Blasio must finish the task so he can focus on the people’s education, economic and safety concerns.