6/3/14

DOI: Hynes, Kamins Face Possible Criminal, Ethical Charges

A report by the New York City Department of Investigation, in a case that grew out of former Brooklyn District Attorney Charlie Hynes' failed 2013 re-election bid, implicates Hynes in the use of forfeited drug money to pay campaign consultant Mortimer Matz.

Between 2012 and 2013, Hynes paid Matz's firm over $200,000 for "public relations and communications services."  During that time, DOI investigators found, Matz served primarily -- if not exclusively -- as Hynes' campaign consultant. 

According to DOI, Hynes' office typically issued two or three checks a month to Matz’s firm from state asset forfeiture funds, paying the firm about $1.1 million in forfeited money from 2003 to 2013. State law requires that asset forfeiture funds be used only for law enforcement purposes.

The New York Times obtained the 27-page DOI report, referred to State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office and other agencies, which concludes that Hynes violated the City Charter and Conflict of Interest Board rules, and could face criminal charges for misuse of public funds and official misconduct.

The DOI investigation, which began last November with complaints from two government sources and continued this year under new commissioner Mark Peters -- who once ran against Hynes -- is based on a review of thousands of emails to and from Hynes’ office email account during the 18-month period leading up to the 2013 general election.

The emails show Hynes, in office for more than two decades, summoning every resource at his command: senior staff members, colleagues, and available funds, to defeat Democratic challenger Ken Thompson.  

The emails detail how Matz, Hynes' veteran public relations consultant and a trusted office insider, scheduled a NY1 appearance, prepared information for Hynes' use in submissions to newspaper editorial boards considering endorsements, and assessed rival Thompson's spending on consultants.

According to DOI, Hynes carried on an active daily correspondence with a group of senior staffers in his office who acted as his campaign team, choosing campaign stops and planning regular Thursday meetings with various labor, community and religious leaders.

Also implicated in the DOI investigation is Barry Kamins, administrative judge for New York City’s criminal courts, found to have violated the Judicial Code of Ethics by offering Hynes campaign and legal advice and discussing criminal cases that Hynes' office was prosecuting.

According to the DOI report, Kamins, a former Brooklyn assistant DA and a long-time friend of Hynes, was actively engaged in Hynes' campaign, working his connections to the New York Times and the New York Law Journal to help Hynes get placements and advising Hynes on how to attack the professional qualifications of onetime primary challenger Abe George and how to structure debates with Ken Thompson, who emerged as Hynes' primary rival.

Kamins even gave Hynes legal advice on a lawsuit brought by George when the controversial Brooklyn D.A. reality show was aired during the campaign.

Kamins has been been suspended from his job. The State Commission on Judicial Conduct will investigate and make its recommendations to the State Court of Appeals, which has the authority to remove him.

The New York Times article.

Hynes has gone to ground, refusing interviews [Daily News.]

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