The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“Commission”) today announced that as part of its long-running probe into donations made to the Campaign for One New York (“CONY”) by entities lobbying the City of New York, it has reached three additional settlement agreements. The agreements with Brookfield Financial Properties, LP, Toll Brothers, Inc., and Greenpoint Landing Developers, LLC bring the total settlements associated with this investigation to more than $100,000 for alleged Lobbying Act violations. The Commission’s investigation relating to donations to CONY is continuing.
The Commission’s Lobbying Act gift regulations prohibit lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts to a public official or to third parties on behalf of or at the designation or recommendation of a public official. CONY was a not-for-profit corporation formed in late 2013 by Bill Hyers, Stephanie Yazgi and Ross Offinger, three former campaign officials of Mayor Bill de Blasio (“the Mayor”) for which the Mayor sought and obtained support for his legislative and policy objectives. Offinger, who had served as a fundraiser for the Mayor’s campaign, became CONY’s treasurer and chief fundraiser.
Brookfield Financial Properties, LP agreed to pay $30,000 to settle the Commission’s investigation prior to a scheduled hearing on the matter. In the settlement, Brookfield, which had retained lobbyists to lobby the City of New York at the time of the alleged violation, stipulated and agreed that in April 2015, Brookfield donated $50,000 to CONY after a recommendation made by, or on behalf of the Mayor, to one of Brookfield’s executive officers.
In its settlement agreement, Toll Brothers, Inc. and its subsidiary Toll Brooklyn LP (collectively “Toll”) agreed to pay $15,000 to settle the Commission’s investigation prior to a scheduled hearing on the matter.
Toll, which had retained lobbyists to lobby the City of New York at the time of the alleged violation, stipulated and agreed that in March 2015, the Mayor personally asked a Toll executive to contribute to CONY; in April, Toll donated $25,000.
The third settlement is with Greenpoint Landing Developers, LLC, a limited liability company affiliated with Park Tower Group, Ltd., which had retained lobbyists to lobby the City of New York at the time of the alleged violation. An executive of Park Tower Group who was also working on the Greenpoint Landing project attended a meeting with the Mayor and Ross Offinger, when Offinger spoke about fundraising for the Mayor’s priorities. Offinger later provided details to that executive for donating to CONY. Park Tower Group then made a $50,000 donation to CONY. Greenpoint Landing agreed to pay $20,000 to settle the Commission’s investigation.
Each of the parties to these settlements have fully cooperated with the Commission by providing statements and requested information.
These settlement agreements are the latest to arise out of an investigation beginning in 2015 in which the Commission learned of lobbyists and clients of lobbyists who, while actively lobbying New York City officials, including the Mayor, donated to CONY at the request of either the Mayor or Ross Offinger in violation of the gift restrictions in the Lobbying Act and related regulations.
In April 2018, the Commission settled allegations of Lobbying Act violations with James Capalino, individually and on behalf of his business, James F. Capalino and Associates, Inc., as well as with New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (“NYCLASS”), its co-founder and president Steven Nislick, and board member Wendy Neu. Capalino paid a $40,000 fine, admitting he himself contributed $10,000 to CONY and secured another $90,000 in contributions from nine clients who had retained him to lobby the City, the Mayor, and his senior staff. NYCLASS, Nislick, and Neu agreed to pay a $10,000 fine over $75,000 in donations made by Neu and $50,000 from Nislick. In both cases, donations were made following direct solicitations by the Mayor.