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Attorney: Councilman was asked to record activities

Democratic councilman Michael Fagen responds to a presentation

Democratic councilman Michael Fagen responds to a presentation by an external auditor regarding Long Beach's struggling finances. (Feb. 6, 2012) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Long Beach City Councilman Michael Fagen was asked to keep a record of his activities as a city official so his political enemies could use it against him, Fagen's attorney said in court Thursday.

Fagen is on trial on larceny charges that stem from what prosecutors have said was his illegal collection of more than $15,000 in unemployment checks while he was working as a city councilman.

Fagen's attorney, Marc Gann of Mineola, said his client's work hours illustrate that he is a part-time employee who was eligible for the money he collected during the first nine months of 2010.

Gann said city officials at the time asked Fagen, a Democrat, to keep a detailed diary of his work activities so they could portray him as a full-time worker to investigators. Long Beach then was controlled by the Republican Party; Democrats took over last year after winning control of the city council.

"There are labor laws that require all full-time employees be treated equally," Gann said while questioning Long Beach Comptroller Jeff Nogid.

Gann said Fagen initially turned in a less-detailed log, but officials told him to include more information. The finished log was submitted into evidence as part of the trial.

Prosecutors said in court that Gann's defense was flawed, citing Nogid's testimony that all elected officials must keep a log if they wish to apply for the state pension system. Gann said Fagen has not applied to draw a pension, but prosecutors said he is in the midst of applying.

Fagen earns about $20,000 per year as a city councilman, a post the city considers full-time, city officials said.

Gann said the salary reflects Fagen's status as a part-time worker -- he earned less than the state threshold for unemployment benefits, which is $405 per week, the attorney said.

Gann said Fagen frequently works a few minutes a day, citing as an example a day in June 2010 when Fagen's only work action was answering a resident's email about a city street that needed a dead cat removed.

"They're classifying him as they want to," Gann said after the trial wrapped for the day.

It is scheduled to resume at Nassau County Supreme Court on Tuesday, when an official from the state labor department is expected to take the stand. Prosecutors said they expect the trial to conclude by the end of the month.

Fagen faces felony charges of third-degree grand larceny, petty larceny and 38 counts of first-degree filing a false instrument. If convicted, he faces up to 7 years.

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