Igor Oberman, who ran in the Democratic primary and then in the general election as the Working Families Party candidate to replace former Councilman Michael Nelson, raised more than $40,000 from donors while using his work phone at Taxi and Limousine Commission job, a Department of Investigation report claims.
Oberman served as an attorney for the commission, but was using the office to make calls for support during his City Council campaign, a violation of city rules, according to the report obtained by Crain’s Insider.
Oberman faced off against Democrat Chaim Deutsch and Republican David Storobin. Deutsch ultimately won the race by a wide margin.
The report also raises questions about his relationship with his campaign’s consultants, the Advance Group, which was simultaneously hired by the co-op Oberman runs, Trump Village 4.
Last April, records show, Mr. Oberman signed off on a six-month, $45,000 lobbying contract with the Advance Group for the portion of the massive Coney Island co-op he runs a part of, Trump Village, at the same time the Advance Group was running Mr. Oberman’s political campaign, separately earning $73,000. Mr. Oberman says the lobbying expenses were entirely legitimate and separate from the campaign.
Both Mr. Oberman, president of the board of directors of Trump Village West, and the Advance Group face separate investigations from the city Campaign Finance Board into their practices during the 2013 election cycle.
The contract between Trump Village 4 and Advance was terminated in September, when Oberman lost the primary.
Separately, the Department of Investigation report, which was forwarded by a source, states that despite a warning not to do so, Mr. Oberman had “excessively used TLC resources” to conduct his political campaign, operate a realty business, and other business related to Trump Village, the massive Coney Island co-op of which he runs a part. Troves of campaign documents were found on his work computer, according to the report.
Mr. Oberman’s $82,500-a-year city job had been to oversee the prosecution of consumer-initiated complaints concerning the agency. But of the 1,900 calls Mr. Oberman made during a five-month period at the beginning of 2013, fewer than one-quarter were related to government business, an examination of phone records found. Mr. Oberman declined last summer to be interviewed by investigators, the report states. Mr. Oberman was dismissed from his job last September, according to a TLC spokesman.
Oberman denied the allegations to Crain’s.
Early in the race, Oberman seemed like a strong contender, having raised more than $94,000 during the first significant campaign disclosure period – $20,000 more than the next candidate. However, allegations later surfaced that Oberman had abused his role as president of the board of the 1,144-unit Trump Village 4 to aid his campaign, including in using the co-op’s funds to send out thinly-veiled campaign materials bearing his face – an allegation still being investigated by the Campaign Finance Board. (Disclosure: Trump Village 4 ran an ad on Sheepshead Bites during this time. It was paid for by Trump Village and designed by Sheepshead Bites. It did not depict Oberman whatsoever – although the material it linked to did feature his name and face.)
The candidate was also the target of allegations from his rivals that he had filed phony complaints with the Campaign Finance Board to mire his opponents in paperwork. By the September primary, five complaints had been made targeting three candidates. It appeared as if four of those complaints came from one campaign – Oberman’s – and were dismissed. The fifth was against Oberman himself, and is the complaint still under investigation by the agency.
Opponent Ari Kagan, who filed that complaint, also accused Oberman of suppressing Russian votes by sending out phony mailers with incorrect polling sites.