Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Fresh Dirt on Dems from Judge

Fresh dirt on Dems from judge

June 24, 2003 - NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Another Brooklyn judge is ready to tell prosecutors how she was strong-armed by Democratic Party bosses now under investigation for running an alleged pay-to-play scam.
Housing Court Judge Marcia Sikowitz will meet this week with investigators to complain about the pressure to use party-favored consultants during an unsuccessful bid for Civil Court, sources told the Daily News.

Sikowitz will tell Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes that Jeff Feldman, executive director of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, pushed her to hire Branford Communications and William Boone, a confidant of party chairman Clarence Norman, according to one source close to the judge.

Hynes is investigating allegations that the Brooklyn party made deals with the vendors a condition for party backing.

Sikowitz was under "terrible pressure from Brooklyn Democrats to raise money" so she could hire the consultants, another source said. It made her campaign more expensive than it should have been.

Sikowitz's testimony is expected to echo that given two weeks ago by former Civil Court Judge Karen Yellen, who told Hynes she was pressured to spend campaign funds on the same vendors.

David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, said Sikowitz would not comment "due to the ongoing investigation." Hynes' office also declined comment.

Sikowitz, who contacted prosecutors to set up the meeting, lost her race for Civil Court last year despite the party's backing.

Pricey 'literature'

Campaign records show Sikowitz paid more than $12,836 to Branford Communications for "literature." The records show no payments to Boone.

One source familiar with Sikowitz's campaign said Branford failed to do the full amount of work called for but was paid nevertheless.

"That's a lie," said Branford's attorney, Richard Guay, who said the money Sikowitz paid to his client represented her share of the cost of a joint mailing Branford did for Sikowitz, Yellen and a third judicial candidate, Robin Garson.

Sikowitz paid $5,100 more than the others because Branford fronted postage expenses for her that the others paid themselves, Guay said.

Feldman declined to comment. But Roger Adler, a lawyer for Norman, said, "I have a healthy sense of skepticism regarding those who suddenly remember things about a race held years ago who now want to be seen as a victim."

Efforts to reach Boone were unsuccessful.