Charity in potential kickback scandal got $26M from state

William Rapfogel speaks during the Met Council's 40th William Rapfogel speaks during the Met Council's 40th anniversary celebration in Manhattan on April 25, 2013. Photo Credit: Michael Priest

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ALBANY -- The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the large charity now engulfed in a potential kickback scandal, has received $26 million in state payments since 2008, according to records reviewed Wednesday by Newsday.

That includes about $3 million in spending requested by the State Assembly, which employs the wife of the power broker at the center of the scandal, William Rapfogel. Over roughly the same time, the New York City Council has earmarked about $10 million in "member items" or pork-barrel spending to the charity, records show.

Met Council fired Rapfogel on Monday as its chief executive after officials discovered "financial irregularities and apparent misconduct in connection with the organization's insurance policies." The state has launched an investigation that is seeking to determine whether Rapfogel made overpayments to Century Coverage Corp., a Valley Stream-based insurance company, that triggered kickbacks to the chief executive and campaign contributions to political candidates.

Rapfogel's wife, Judy, is the longtime chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). William Rapfogel issued a statement Monday saying he regretted his "mistakes." His lawyer later said that "whatever Willie did, neither his wife nor Speaker Silver knew anything about it."

Silver has said he was "stunned" and "saddened" by the news, noting the charity has historically played a critical role in helping those in need.

Met Council relies overwhelmingly on government funding, a review of records shows. In fact, $90.4 million of its $112.5 million in revenue came from government grants, according to its financial statement for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2012. That's up from $86.4 million for the same period in 2011.

State records show Met Council receives funds from a wide variety of agencies, including the departments of health, mental health, aging and criminal justice services. Since 2008, the state has paid the charity $26.3 million through dozens of grants, according to records obtained under a Freedom of Information request. Since 2008-09, the Assembly has directed $3 million to the charity, state comptroller and Assembly records show.

According to the attorney general's New York Open Government website, Silver has sponsored nearly $1.9 million in member items awarded to the charity since April 2006. He was the sole sponsor of $480,000 in member items and co-sponsor of another $1.4 million. Contacted Wednesday, an Assembly spokesman referred to Silver's previous statement.

Meanwhile, the New York City Council has awarded $10 million in member items to the charity since July 1, 2008, according to its website. A City Council spokesman couldn't be reached immediately for comment.

With Matt Clark and Mark Harrington

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