By Raanan Geberer and Associated Press
After City Councilmember Chaim Deutsch (D-Brighton Beach-Manhattan Beach-Gravesend-Midwood) was expelled on Tuesday following his guilty plea to federal charges of evading $82,000 in taxes, his expulsion did not provoke a storm of social media comments the way some political events do — but some people weighed in.
As Deutsch was an Orthodox Jew, an outspoken advocate for his community and the head of the Council’s Jewish Caucus, many of the comments revolved around the basic question, “Is this good or bad for the Orthodox Jewish community,” with comments on both sides.
Deutsch was ousted from the 51-member body after City Council leaders determined that his guilty plea meant he was automatically expelled.
“Mr. Deutsch confessed to a crime and violated his oath of office. He is no longer a member of the City Council,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a news release.
In the release, Johnson explained that under the New York State Public Officers Law, “a public office is deemed vacant if the holder is convicted of a crime involving a violation of his oath of office.”
The Council also said that his seat would remain vacant until November and a new election. He would have been term-limited out at the end of the year anyway, which may explain why there wasn’t a stronger outpouring of comments.
Deutsch, 52, pleaded guilty last week to filing a false tax return for the year 2015 in connection with outside income from his real estate management company.
“As an elected official and community leader, Deutsch had a particular responsibility to follow the law,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. “Instead, over a multi-year period, Deutsch concealed his true business income to avoid paying his fair share of taxes.”–>
Deutsch faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine when he is sentenced in July.
Deutsch, who was first elected to the council in 2013, had maintained that he could serve out his term despite his guilty plea. Henry Mazurek, an attorney for Deutsch, said on Twitter that his client is “evaluating all of his legal rights and options in the face of this sudden decision by the speaker.”
Mazurek added, “It is a sad day when those in charge think it is better to keep an empty seat in City Council than to give continued voice to Mr. Deutsch’s constituency.”
Also on Twitter, Shai Franklin, a former Jewish community executive, said, “I have just unfollowed Chaim Deutsch. He confessed to federal tax fraud and is now removed from his seat, and I encourage his remaining followers to do the same.”
“This Space Available” tweeted, “If he were not a frum (observant) Jew, he would not have been removed from office.” However, another user, Jake, disagreed, “calling out criminals is not turning on Orthodoxy.”
And Naftuli Moster, a liberal Orthodox Jew who wants ultra-Orthodox yeshivas to provide an adequate secular education, said “Your constituents would be better off without you! Who needs a representative who is fighting to deny kids an education?” Moster was referring to Deutsch’s support for “yeshiva independence” from state educational standards.
Alex Gold, in return, said to Moster, “Mr. Deutsch, represents his constituents and their needs You on the other represent the liberal left and anything that comes out of their mouth.”
Of course, there were also the usual posts that reeked of hostility. Javier Soriano tweeted, “Chaim Deutsch is a Zionist Democrat. Zionist Republicans and Zionist Democrats are the same s—t.”
As a councilmember Deutsch was often criticized by members of the gay community. According to Gay City News, he attacked primary opponent Theresa Scavo in 2013 because she was endorsed by the National Organization for Women, which he said “has an agenda with gays and lesbians.” In April 2017, he also voted against a resolution calling on the Department of Education to provide support to protect LGBTQ students.
Also, in 2017, Republican opponent Steve Saperstein accused Deutsch of ignoring the homeless problem in his district, saying that Deutsch was not providing adequate security for homeless shelters in the area, the Eagle reported at the time.
On the other hand, Deutsch was a strong advocate for anti-hate crime legislation and vigorous prosecution of hate crimes in his area.
He also was praised for his advocacy for veterans as chair of the Council’s Veterans’ Committee. Just last week, Jason Loughran wrote on Facebook, “I’d like to take a moment to recognize Chaim Deutsch for all the great work he’s done to support the NYC Veteran Community as the veterans’ chair in the City Council.”