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The three candidates who have raised the most funds so far in the race to replace City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) next year are getting campaign donations from people with whom they have business or employment connections, campaign finance records showed.
Dale Nussbaum, a former school speech pathologist and the wife of Queens Tribune associate editor Michael Nussbaum, has raised the most money among the five candidates.
Although the city Campaign Finance Board lists Nussbaum as an undeclared candidate, she was one of five participants in a Fresh Meadows forum for hopefuls running for Weprin's seat.
The district covers Hollis Hills, Queens Village, Little Neck, Douglaston, Bayside, Bellerose, Floral Park, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park, Hollis, Holliswood and Fresh Meadows.
She raised $60,845 through July 15, followed by Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich ($36,189) and teacher and former reality show contestant Dave Kerpen ($29,960), according to filings with the city Campaign Finance Board.
Nussbaum could not be reached for comment.
She received five maximum contributions of $2,750 each, including donations from Flushing businessman Thomas Chen, CEO of Crystal Windows in Whitestone, and former Flushing Assemblyman Jimmy Meng.
Besides working as a speech pathologist for the city Department of Education, Nussbaum was the former director of community assistance for the Central Labor Council, the union once headed by disgraced former Flushing Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin.
Nussbaum received a $500 contribution from the Central Labor Council in February, according to campaign finance records. She also got a $250 donation from Michael Schenkler, the Queens Tribune's publisher.
But Nussbaum was not the only candidate to receive contributions tied to employment or business connections.
Friedrich received $1,000 from Mindy Goldstein, a vice president of National Co-Operative Bank. The bank loaned Glen Oaks Village a $39 million mortgage.
He also received $500 from East Coast Dormers owner Scott Boerckel, a Long Island Company that installed pre-fabricated dormers at Glen Oaks Village about two years ago.
The dormers cost between $150,000 and $200,000 apiece, and Friedrich said about 17 or 18 of them were installed at the co-op.
But Friedrich denied that the contributions by both Goldstein and Boerckel were given in exchange for the business they received from Glen Oaks Village.
He said Goldstein has been a friend of his for 15 years and that while he could not speak for Boerckel, he suggested he contributed to the campaign because he believed in his "style of leadership."
"It's not as if [Boerckel's] making a contribution because he wants to be the only company" to install dormers at Glen Oaks Village, Friedrich said, noting that another company was recently approved by the co-op to do such work. "If you're a citizen of the United States, you have a right to contribute to a campaign."
He also said Glen Oaks Village residents have the option of using other firms for the dormers, although East Coast Dormers has been the only company so far to install the dormers at the co-op.
"We don't do business with East Coast Dormers. It's not like we're hiring them," he said. "We don't dictate to people who they can use."
A spokesman for the city Campaign Finance Board said such contributions are not illegal, but they may create the appearance of a quid pro quo arrangement.
"There could potentially be the very serious issue of perception," said spokesman Eric Friedman.
Kerpen also has such contributions.
His marketing business, theKbuzz, was hired by the Shops at Atlas Park to create a promotion for the Glendale shopping center to attract more customers.
Kerpen received $1,000 from Damon Hemmerdinger, principal of ATCO Properties, the company that developed Atlas Park. He also got a $125 donation from Elka Shapiro, Atlas Park's marketing director, and $100 from Avi Itkowitz, ATCO's director of operations.
He said those contributors donated because they support his candidacy and denied that they were given in exchange for the work he did for Atlas Park.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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