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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Maimonides Medical Center subpoenaed in Dov Hikind probe

Maimonides Medical Center has been subpoenaed in a state probe of advertising payments made to a company owned by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a hospital spokeswoman confirmed.

The payments are being investigated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Commission, a group of law enforcement officials that the governor empaneled this year to investigate wrongdoing in the state Legislature, following a rash of corruption scandals. A spokeswoman for the hospital said Maimonides, a major hospital in Brooklyn, was fully cooperating with the subpoena requests.

In July, Crain's reported that Mr. Hikind, the longtime Borough Park powerbroker who is Maimonides' local assemblyman, had routinely failed to disclose payments made to his advertising company, DYS Production. The company is paid for advertisers' commercials and promotion on the assemblyman's weekly radio program, The Dov Hikind Show. Other advertisers besides Maimonides also pay Mr. Hikind's production company and could be subjects of the commission's scrutiny as well.

After Crain's inquired in July about the omission of the payments from Mr. Hikind's required annual financial disclosures, he amended the forms dating back to 2006 to reflect his income from the advertising company. 

Only for 2012 did Mr. Hikind have to list the approximate amount, and he checked the box showing it was between $5,000 and $20,000. Public records don't show where the rest of DYS Production's money went. A spokesman for Mr. Hikind did not return a request for comment on Tuesday about the subpoenas.

Maimonides, which is in Mr. Hikind's district, has long advertised on his popular politics show, and voluntarily disclosed in July that it had paid Mr. Hikind's company $65,000 for its most recent year of advertising.

Maimonides has thrived as other nonprofit hospitals around the city have shuttered, and has lobbied state lawmakers, including Mr. Hikind, for money. Records show that in 2011 the hospital spent $470,000 on lobbying, with about three-quarters of the money going to industry lobbying associations.

Barry Ensminger, the hospital's vice president of external affairs, said in July that the institution's relationship with Mr. Hikind posed no conflict. "The reason we advertise on the radio show is that it's very widely listened to in the Orthodox community," he said. He added that Mr. Hikind's show accounts for a small part of the hospital's advertising budget.

Two years ago, Mr. Hikind's son-in-law, Rabin Rahmani, a doctor in his early 30s and just off a residency and fellowship at Maimonides, raised eyebrows among colleagues by landing the post of director of medical education and research at the hospital's gastroenterology division. A hospital spokeswoman said at the time that Mr. Rahmani was exceptionally qualified for his post.

Other aspects of Mr. Hikind's radio show also overlap with his public office. Political candidates have often paid Mr. Hikind's company, appeared on his show and been endorsed by him during the same election campaign. The show is co-hosted and run by Dov Cohen, an $80,000-a-year full-time aide in Mr. Hikind's Assembly office, and has shared space with Mr. Hikind's longtime political club, the United New York Democrats. 

The club often paid the rent on the space between 2006 and 2009, but as its campaign account was shut down in recent years, payments were made from Mr. Hikind's own campaign fund to the building's landlord. Campaign funds cannot be used for a candidate's personal or business expenses.

State lawmakers, however, have resisted turning over information about their sources of outside income requested by the Moreland Commission. Late last week, attorneys for both the state Assembly and state Senate told the commission that lawmakers would be unwilling to submit information beyond what they believe the law requires. 

A spokeswoman for the commission, however, called that position "legally indefensible" and said the commission would seek other avenues for getting the information. The spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment Tuesday.

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