Bloomberg says use of funds was legit
Mayor Michael Bloomberg denied Tuesday that his administration did anything improper when it steered more than $1 million to two Orthodox Jewish non-profits in the name of a city councilman who says he never requested the money.
“It didn’t circumvent any rules,” Bloomberg said. “I think our recollection of who asked for what is very different.”
The mayor was responding to a report that from 2002 to 2006, his office funneled $1.5 million in discretionary funds to the non-profit groups Agudath Israel of America Community Services and Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services and attached the name of Councilman Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) to the requests.
The money could only legally be allocated at the request of a council member. In the report, published Tuesday, Felder said he never asked for it. Bloomberg officials insisted that Felder was misremembering.
Agudah Israel’s executive vice president, David Zweibel, said his group has received such funds going back to the early 1990s and always dealt with the mayor’s office directly.
“I was never aware of any efforts we would make through city council members for mayoral funds,” Zweibel said. “It was done through the mayor.”
Felder’s spokesman said he was unavailable but confirmed Felder’s assertion that he never requested the money.
The mayor’s fund doled out nearly $20 million over the years to organizations suggested by council members. Last year, it was discontinued in the wake of the slush fund scandal in the city council.
Both charities singled out Tuesday have continued to benefit from government largess.
In the current budget, the city council allocated $338,500 to Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services and $364,452 to Agudath Israel of America Community Services.
In both cases, Felder was one of the council members who allocated most of the money.
Last year, Agudath Israel got $430,000 in federal money earmarked by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens), according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.