Brooklyn Councilwoman Inna Vernikov not too long ago used her authorities e mail account to solicit enterprise for a self-defense firm she has been concerned with, in response to a Day by day Information evaluation of public data.
The primary-term Republican lawmaker’s promotion of the nonprofit firm, Legion Alpha, Inc., drew a stern rebuke from Richard Briffault, a former chairman of town Conflicts of Curiosity Board, who stated her use of a authorities e mail to spice up the agency ran afoul of native authorities ethics legislation.
“That’s a transparent violation of battle guidelines,” Briffault stated, pointing to a piece of the Metropolis Constitution that he famous prohibits her from utilizing “public sources for a monetary achieve of a agency with which she is related.”
Vernikov’s solicitation got here within the type of a Jan. 30 e mail she despatched from her authorities account to constituents in her district, which covers a slice of southern Brooklyn that features Brighton Seaside and Sheepshead Bay.
Within the e mail, Vernikov — who’s a member of the Council’s Ethics Committee — wrote that she has “partnered with” Legion to supply courses in Krav Maga, an Israeli martial artwork, at an area synagogue.
The e-mail included a poster promoting 4 months of biweekly courses for 30 college students at $300 per individual. The message additionally included a hyperlink constituents may click on to join the paid program.
“Area is proscribed and there are just a few spots left for this location,” Vernikov wrote.
Additionally within the e mail, Vernikov wrote that she has served as “a Chairperson on the chief board” of Legion. A biography posted on her Council web site states she nonetheless serves in that position.
Corey Feldman, Legion’s president, stated this previous Thursday that Vernikov is “nonetheless very a lot concerned” along with his group’s Brooklyn chapter.
“We’ve her very a lot to thank for filling that class,” he stated, noting that her promotion was “a giant motive” why Legion stuffed all 30 scholar slots.
A couple of hours after offering these feedback, Feldman referred to as The Information again and stated Vernikov is now not “concerned in an official capability” along with his group.
“However she does assist me loads with the Brooklyn chapter, and bought it off the bottom,” he added.
Regardless of the biography on her Council web site, Vernikov stated she isn’t on Legion’s board. She additionally stated she hasn’t obtained any “monetary achieve” from the group.
“I served in a volunteer capability … and proceed to strongly assist their trigger,” stated Vernikov, who flipped a beforehand Democratic Council seat within the 2021 election after Donald Trump, Jr. and different outstanding Republicans stumped for her marketing campaign.
Briffault stated Vernikov seemingly violated ethics legislation even when she isn’t at the moment concerned with Legion in a proper capability, as the foundations bar public officers from utilizing “any metropolis sources for any non-city goal.”
“So private achieve to the member will not be important” for it to be a violation, Briffault added.
Conflicts of Curiosity Board Govt Director Carolyn Miller, whose company is tasked with implementing metropolis ethics legislation, declined to remark particularly on Vernikov’s Legion solicitation.
“[The law] prohibits the board from commenting on the previous conduct of a public servant till such time because the board makes a last discovering of a violation dedicated by that public servant,” Miller stated.
Vernikov may additionally face an ethics headache over a current discretionary allocation she issued to a bunch she has ties to, Briffault stated, although he added that incident was far much less clear lower.
Metropolis data present Vernikov steered $10,000 final 12 months to a bunch referred to as People In opposition to Antisemitism from the Council’s discretionary pot, which members can dip into to supply funding for nonprofit initiatives of their districts.
Based on tax data reviewed by The Information, Vernikov served as a vice chairman of People In opposition to Antisemitism as not too long ago as December 2021. The group’s founder is former Brooklyn State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who used to make use of Vernikov as a particular assistant and was a outstanding supporter of her 2021 Council marketing campaign.
Vernikov’s Council biography web page states she nonetheless serves as a member of People In opposition to Antisemitism’s board, however her annual monetary disclosure says she resigned from that place “shortly after” she was sworn into workplace in January 2022.
Each Vernikov and Hikind stated final week she has had no position at People In opposition to Antisemitism since early 2022.
Below Council rules, members are prohibited from giving discretionary funds to organizations at which they function staff or board members, no matter whether or not they’re paid. As well as, Council members should not allowed to award discretionary cash to a company the place an “related individual” — like a member of the family or a enterprise associate — serves as an worker if that individual stands to “profit, or seems to learn, from the funding.”
The principles additionally require each Council members and organizations benefitting from their discretionary spending to reveal “any potential conflicts of curiosity” forward of an award.
Neither Vernikov nor Hikind would say in the event that they ever made such a disclosure in relation to the People In opposition to Antisemitism award.
However they each stated in separate textual content messages that “there isn’t a battle” associated to the award.