NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is under investigation by the federal government for payments made to him by the tiny, lower Manhattan law firm of Goldberg & Iryami, P.C., specializing in tax certiorari cases, the NY Times reported.
A Tax Certiorari firm represents commercial and residential property owners in administrative and judicial proceedings protesting real property assessments. Typically, the firm receives a third of the amount that was saved.
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According to the Times, Goldberg & Iryami paid Silver a “substantial” amount of money over the past decade, for work which Silver may not have been qualified to perform, and the feds are curious to find out just what it was the Speaker of the Assembly had done for the money, and whether or not the money was declared in his tax returns.
The investigation began last April, with an inquiry by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, after NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo disbanded a panel that was examining corruption in the state Legislature, the Wall Street Journal reported. The panel was looking into lawmakers’ sources of income, which they’re allowed to have under the law, but they must be disclosed fully.
Goldberg & Iryami employs only two lawyers, and operates out of a small office in a rundown building at 42 Broadway, near the bottom of the island. The senior partner, Jay Arthur Goldberg, 75, who served on the City tax commission under Mayor Edward I. Koch, has been representing the Lower East Side “Jewish co-ops” along Grand Street, near the East River Park, for some 25 years. He has also represented hundreds of properties across New York City, according to records from the city’s tax commission.
Goldberg has made six donations to Mr. Silver’s reelection campaigns over the years, totaling $7, 600, according to campaign finance records. Not a lot, by anyone’s account. And so it appears the feds suspect the very influential Silver was diverting vast amounts of real estate Tax Certiorari their way. That, in itself, is hardly ethical or legal according to state laws. So it comes down to how they phrased the deal and how much money they gave the Speaker.
Silver is a personal injury attorney by trade, who doesn’t really have much to contribute to the cases Goldberg & Iryami handle — other than being their “rain maker.”
And that, for a State Assembly Speaker, can be the stuff that leads to federal prison.
Sheldon Silver is the last hope of the religious Jewish community of the Lower East Side, which has been dwindling over the years and have depended on his strong budgetary support over the years. Silver’s life style is rather humble, compared to other legislators, living as he does in a red-brick co-op apartment (and also owning a summer home upstate). His combined income, from the Assembly and his legal work (which he is allowed to do in NY State) is roughly $600, 000 a year (although we could be wrong, should the feds dig up new stuff).
Over the years, Silver has made powerful enemies in the media. The NY Post and the NY Daily News have been trying for years to catch him in a scandal (years ago, Silver accepted a Las Vegas junket, which the Post and the News are touting each election year). And the NY Times has targeted him as part of their ongoing campaign to “throw out the bums.” But Silver’s community, which includes Hispanic and Chinese residents, has been sending him back to Albany every two years, with about 80 percent of the vote.