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Watchdog: Brooklyn DA to pay fine for meals on public dime

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has agreed to

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has agreed to a $15,000 fine for using taxpayer-funded bodyguards to fetch his meals they paid for out of their own pockets before getting reimbursed. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has agreed to pay a $15,000 fine for using his taxpayer-funded bodyguards to fetch his meals and pay for the food out of their own pockets, according to the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board.

The bodyguards were reimbursed with public money, but sometimes only after a delay, according to the board, which Wednesday disclosed a settlement with Thompson.

For several months, Thompson billed the public for personal meals while he was working, and later paid the money back, according to the settlement.

Thompson, a Democrat elected in 2013, conceded that he used public funds in 2014 and 2015 to cover thousands of dollars worth of lunches and dinners, the settlement said.

The food included sandwiches, hamburgers, coffee, and “maybe an occasional piece of fish,” said his lawyer Michele Hirshman of Manhattan, a former deputy state attorney general. Later, in private practice, Hirshman helped ex-governor Eliot Spitzer avoid prosecution after he was caught patronizing a high-class call-girl service.

Hirshman, who as a federal prosecutor oversaw her office’s public corruption unit, said the bodyguards had not been ordered to pick up the food but “when they were going to get lunch might say to him ‘so we picked you something up.’ ”

She said the bodyguards may not have wanted Thompson to walk out of the district attorney’s offices, near the criminal courts, out of concern for his safety and the need to protect him in public.

According to the settlement, Thompson said he realized in 2014 that billing the district attorney’s office for his daytime meals could break the law. He later changed the policy to allow for his meals to be paid only for nights and weekends. Such reimbursement continued until “I later learned that this practice violated city rules.”

In a statement, the board said it computed the fine based on the fact that Thompson had reimbursed the meal money before the investigation began, balanced with “the high level of accountability required of the chief prosecutor of Brooklyn.”

Hirshman said Thompson is paying the fine, and for her legal services, on his own, not with campaign or public funds.

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