BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Spring Valley – County Executive candidate and former Spring Valley justice David Fried is no stranger to suspicious campaign contributions, but his latest might resound even louder than his previous associations with convicted felons.
Campaign filings from the 2009 10 day post-primary and 2009 11 day pre-primary, both of which preceded his judgeship, showed Fried had received contributions from Empire Management, a company owned and operated by Joseph Klein, a locally-known businessman who had been fined thousands for safety violations in multiple towns.
The donations, which totaled $625, were in the form of office space at 4 Municipal Plaza, a property owned by Klein. According to Fried, campaign contribution rules prohibit justices from knowing the identities of their donors and left him in the dark about the donations.
“It only becomes known to the judicial candidates after the fact,” Fried told the Journal News after a press conference.
Klein’s company manages housing in Clarkstown, Haverstraw, Ramapo, and Stony Point and has been cited for safety violations at many of those properties. In 2009, Klein was tasked with paying $20,000 in penalties for 14 unsafe properties in Spring Valley and was threatened with jail if he did not comply.
Klein also raked up $5,000 in fines from the Town of Clarkstown. He is so well known by housing and court officials that Village Attorney Kevin Conway termed him the village’s “number one offender.”
Contrary to Fried’s claims, current Spring Valley Justice Alan Simon claimed Fried knew about the contribution, or at least should have when he was using his office at Municipal Plaza. Simon explained that he had “immediately recognized the space” when Fried offered to share it with him.
“I informed David that I was not going to be part of this arrangement and told him directly that accepting this office space would be highly improper, as not only was Mr. Klein and Empire Management one of the biggest housing violators in Spring Valley, but also that there are many cases involving Mr. Klein that are before the Spring Valley Court,” Simon said.
Fried’s campaign manager Stephen Papas said that contrary to Simon’s claims, the conversation between Fried and Simon dealt primarily with storage of campaign supplies at the Klein-owned building.
“Never did it come up that this was Joseph Klein’s building,” Papas said.
Fried’s opponent, Legislator Ed Day, explained to the Times that the donation undermines Fried’s stated support for stronger code enforcement and throws his objectivity as a judge into question.
“Accepting such donations from a known slum lord shows a decided conflict of interest from Mr. Fried in his judgeship, as well as belies his claims of supporting code enforcement,” Day stated in a press release.
Day also explained to the Times that Klein’s notoriety in Spring Valley should have been a red flag, considering that “everybody knows” about Klein’s improprieties.
This is the fourth known instance of a Fried campaign taking money from shady sources. Earlier in 2013, Fried pledged to donate $10,000 he had received in 2006 from Moses “Mark” Stern, a Monsey real estate developer who pled guilty to mortgage fraud and served as an informant in the corruption case against Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and former Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret.
Fried also took money from Gregg Brie, who was convicted of stealing $2 million in various moneymaking schemes, and Richard Lipsky, who was convicted of bribing former state Sen. Carl Kruger.
In both the Klein and Stern cases, Fried has sought to downplay his associations with the shady men, but other sources have contradicted his accounts. For example, in early spring, then county executive candidate Ilan Schoenberger told the Rockland County Times that widely spread rumors Fried used office space from Stern in the 2006 Assembly race were, in fact, true.
The Rockland County Times did not publish Schoenberger’s accusations at the time because he was Fried’s opponent. He has since endorsed Fried.
The issue of Fried’s association with Joel Klein came to light because this week Fried proposed a plan to combat illegal housing.
Fried’s plan is as follows:
– – Build a partnership between county, town, Fried promises to enhance efforts to identify suspect buildings and quickly act on warrants to inspect such properties.
– – Countywide standards and a shared inter-municipal database between towns and villages to identify repeat violators.
– – Track troublesome landlords over jurisdictional boundaries.
– – Heavier fines. “There’s little incentive not to break the law when the amount in extra rent collected with illegal subdivisions is far greater than the fines. To many landlords, the fines are just the cost of doing business.”
– – Work with the Rockland County Magistrates Association and the Office of Court Administration to create a continuing judicial education course, convening all judges to provide quality education on the nuances and realities of this critical public safety issue.
– – Punish repeat offenders more severely.
– – Create disincentives for complicit contractors. Have the Office of Consumer Protection, which regulates licenses in coordination with the County Attorney, draft appropriate legislation for the County Legislature’s consideration, which will achieve this goal.