Community board manager on trial for allegedly stealing $38K in raises
A long-term Brooklyn community board district manager, already in hot water at the time for his job performance and personal conduct, spent three years giving himself secret and illegal raises, prosecutors alleged at trial Wednesday.
Craig Hammerman served Brooklyn Community Board 6 for more than a quarter-century when he allegedly began giving himself raises using the electronic signatures of the chairpersons of the board without their knowledge. He gave himself raises in 2015, 2016 and 2017, before getting caught, prosecutors said. One of the chairs at the time, Sayar Lonial, said he gave Hammerman his electronic signature out of convenience, but would not have approved Hammerman using it to get raises.
“I don’t think I would have [given Hammerman a raise],” Lonial testified Wednesday before Supreme Court Justice Donald Leo in Brooklyn Supreme Court. “The premise of the merit raise is doing a very good job. And I think in the tenure that I served as chair of CB6, I don’t think that the district manager’s work was ‘a very good job.'”
District managers for community boards work as full-time, paid employees, while board members — the chairperson included — are unpaid volunteers who often work separate full-time jobs. CB6 covers Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope and Red Hook.
Hammerman’s trial began just weeks after another Brooklyn community board came under fire when it was revealed that their district manager used a city grant to buy a $26,000 SUV.
While Lonial recognized that Hammerman had once been extremely good at his job, he felt the district manager’s attention had waned in recent years. Hammerman routinely forgot to send out letters to different city agencies on the positions taken by the board, which Lonial testified rendered the board — already purely advisory — “somewhat meaningless.”
“The defendant was well-paid for his work. He was making well over $100,000 per year,” said Assistant District Attorney Katherine Zdrojeski. Despite that, in total, Hammerman gave himself more than $38,000 in raises he did not merit, she said.
Hammerman is on trial for forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, offering a false instrument for filing, grand larceny and falsifying business records. He was arrested on May 14, 2018, and faces seven years in prison.
He took a leave of absence from his community board job in the summer of 2017 after he was arrested in a separate case for stalking his ex-girlfriend — charges that were later dropped.
At the time, his total salary was $121,931.
That was when Lonial and other members of the board decided to do an internal review of Hammerman’s performance as district manager. They went through his computer and found documents suggesting he had given himself raises, Zdrojeski said.
Joyce David, Hammerman’s lawyer, presented her client as a long-term worker in the community, who was used to doing things his own way. She also noted that Hammerman was not even the highest-paid district manager in the city.
“My client is used to being given free reign because he was trustworthy, there was no reason not to trust him. There was never a hint that he tried to benefit himself financially through his job,” she said.
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