Former District Director of the Community Board defends bogus pay increases in court • Brooklyn Paper

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A former director of the Gowanus Community Council testified in Brooklyn Supreme Court on June 11 that he believed he had permission to use the signatures of his colleagues to grant himself several salary increases.

Craig Hammerman, the former District Director of Community Board 6 for 27 years, faces up to seven years behind bars after using the John Hancock of two former board chairmen in several letters to the city to get salary increases.

Hammerman testified before Supreme Court Justice Donald Leo to tell the jury that he was allowed to use signatures for community council business, as he did in four bogus letters to the city, between May 2015 and October 2017, which increased his salary. from $ 105,180 to $ 121,931.

“I believed I had the power to act on my own,” Hammerman told the jury. “I didn’t think I had to ask.”

One of the letters was reportedly signed by former president Gary Reilly, who admitted to the jury on June 7 that he had given Hammerman a scan of his signature. He said he assumed Hammerman would only use him for day-to-day business such as stocking up office supplies or correspondence with liquor license applicants the council deals with on a regular basis.

“I thought it was implied it was for convenience,” Reilly told prosecutor Adam Libove.

Reilly admitted that the two men never discussed the formal limits to Hammerman’s use of the signature, but told the jury he was unaware of his involvement in salary decisions.

“I didn’t know I had anything to do with the increases back then,” he said. “It never came.”

Yet in May 2015, the Bureau of Management and Budget – the agency responsible for allocating the city’s funds – received a letter, which was reportedly signed by Reilly, asking for a 5% increase in Hammerman’s salary. and two other employees of the board of directors, according to Eileen Galarneau, the representative of the city who approved the increase.

During his trial testimony, Reilly said he had never heard of the letter and had neither written nor signed it.

Hammerman admitted he didn’t get Reilly’s express permission for the letter, but said he felt it was his responsibility to use the signing to essentially give himself a raise.

“It was the tradition, custom and practice of the board to pass increases without the explicit approval of the board,” he said.

Reilly, a lawyer, had served as chairman of the board – a quasi-government volunteer organization that covers Gowanus, Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront, and Red Hook – for just over a year in 2015 and resigned the following year when he moved to the upstate, he told the court.

After his resignation, Reilly was replaced as chairman by Sayar Lonial, whose signature appears on three other documents related to the salary increases, which Lonial also knew nothing about.

Members of the civic group uncovered their manager’s ploy during an internal review, which ultimately led to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez’s legal action against him in May 2018, the newspaper reported at the time.

The internal review took place while Hammerman was on a six-month hiatus after his 2017 arrest for stalking, which authorities later dropped.

The presiding judge banned prosecutors from questioning Hammeran about the stalking arrest during his testimony at trial, in which he claimed his salary increase measures were supposed to benefit the two other paid council employees. – the deputy director of the district and the director of the office.

“I wanted to make sure my staff received it,” Hammerman said. “It was almost irrelevant to me.”

But despite Hammerman’s stated disinterest in his personal pay raise, he had everything to gain.

The four false documents in total led to an annual salary increase of $ 16,751, which also increased Hammerman’s municipal pension by nearly $ 10,000 a year, an official with the city’s pension system told the court. .

Hammerman’s retirement benefits have gone from $ 60,499 to $ 70,134, which he is expected to receive each year from age 62 until his death, according to Bruce Farbstein of the city’s Employee Retirement System.

The district director is one of the few paid positions on the board that is made up almost entirely of volunteers, including the president.

During their various rounds of the witness stand, Reilly and Lonial appear to differ on whether Hammerman deserves the raise in the first place.

Lonial told the court that, had he been asked, he would not have approved Hammerman’s request for a raise. In contrast, Reilly said he believed Hammerman had done a good job as a district manager, which he wrote on Hammerman’s LinkedIn page in 2011, where he wrote that the board had lucky to have a director with so many years of experience.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to the work of CB6 to have a District Manager of Craig’s caliber. We’re lucky to have it, ”Reilly wrote on the business-focused social media site. “Craig has a wealth of institutional knowledge on the issues that affect our community, the history of our neighborhoods and the ways forward in the city’s bureaucracy.

At the end of his term, Hammerman was the third highest paid District Director of the borough’s 18 community councils, second only to Dottie Turano of Community Board 18, who grossed $ 154,725 in 2017, and Gerald Esposito of Community. Board 1, which raised $ 126,882.

The average salary of managers in the five boroughs was $ 92,000 at the time, according to Galarneau.

The latter tip recently got into hot water when it spent $ 26,000 to buy an SUV using a $ 42,500 grant from the council meant to increase the city’s 59 cash-strapped boards, reported The City.

Hammerman’s trial is ongoing. If found guilty by the jury, Hammerman could face seven years in prison upon conviction for the pay rise program.

No consent: Former board chairman Gary Reilly testified in court that he didn’t sign a letter to the city asking for a raise for Hammerman and didn’t even know he was he had the power to sign it.

Photo by Kevin Duggan

Daniel E. Murphy