The federal bribery and corruption trial which centers of Forest City Ratner's Yonkers Ridge Hill development project has been playing out for over week in a Manhattan federal court room. This is the case where the alleged bribee, former Yonkers councilwoman Sandy Annabi, was indicted, and the briber, Yonkers GOP operative and Annabi cousin Zehy Jereis, was indicted, while nobody associated with the beneficiary of the bribe—Bruce Ratner's Forest City Ratner company—was indicted.
Yesterday Ratner operative Scott Cantone testified (his testimony will continue on Monday, February 27th, and will be folllowed, most likley, by Forest City Ratner's former fixer/lobbyist Bruce Bender's testimony). And boy did his testimony lead to some serious head scratching. As Norman Oder retells it in his extensive reporting on yesterday's hearing, Forest City Ratner knew what it was getting by agreeing to give the
no show job $5,000/month to Jereis:
So, if the Feds have a problem with the briber and the bribee, how about the company that agree to reward the briber? Forest City claims it "isn't suspected of any wrongdoing." We note, though, that they aren't suspected of any rightdoing either.
...At the end of the day's questioning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry Carbone asked a pointed question: "If Zehy Jereis had not produced Sandy Annabi's vote, would he have been hired by Forest City Ratner?"
"It's hard to say, but probably not," responded Cantone, Senior VP for Government and Political Affairs, in the matter-of-fact tones that marked his testimony.
The result, a seeming reward for Jereis, skates close to a violation of parent Forest City Enterprises' Code of Legal and Ethical Conduct:
2. No bribe, kickback or other improper payment or promise of same shall be authorized, approved or made, directly or indirectly, by or on behalf of FCE in connection with any of its business.
The term "improper payment" is ambiguous, but it can't be too proper to hire someone to do nothing. "Between June 2006 and the present, what of any value did [Jereis] bring to Forest City Ratner," Carbone asked.
"Besides providing access to Council Member Annabi, nothing at all," Cantone replied, raising the question, yet unanswered, of why Forest City kept paying him...
We're still scratching our heads.
More coverage of the trial:
Official: Annabi meeting led to job
The Journal News by Jonathan Bandler
The meeting Jereis arranged got Annabi to switch her vote and eventually led the company to give Jereis a $60,000 consulting contract, a Forest City Ratner official testified Thursday in the federal corruption trial of Annabi and Jereis.
Scott Cantone, senior vice president for government and public relations, said officials were worried about how hiring Jereis would look so soon after the deciding vote and were concerned about what he could actually do for them.
But still they gave him the job, which, as it turned out, he was not very proficient. Jereis didn't provide any good leads for new retail development and only filed the reports they required of him months later after it was publicly revealed he was under investigation, Cantone said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Halperin asked the executive what the company had gotten from Jereis.
"Aside from providing access to Sandy Annabi, nothing at all," Cantone replied.
'No-$how' Ratner woe
NY Post by Rich Calder
An executive for one of New York City's top developers testified yesterday that the firm handed a Yonkers political crony what amounted to a $5,000-a-month no-show job.
Forest City Ratner – whose Big Apple projects include Brooklyn's controversial Atlantic Yards development – hasn't been charged with any wrongdoing but is featured in the fed's ongoing Yonkers corruption case.
Scott Cantone, FCR's senior VP for government affairs, testified in Manhattan federal court that the firm hired then-Yonkers Republican Party chairman Zehy Jereis as a "consultant" in 2006 because Jereis was the only one who could swing a key vote their way to push through a stalled $650 million mixed-use development called "Ridge Hill."
The Real Deal, Forest City Ratner testifies it paid political insider to swing vote on Westchester development
Though Forest City Ratner is not charged with any wrongdoing, this marks the second recent corruption case, after the Sen. Carl Kruger trial in December, in which the developer has been named.