February 5, 2013 | 1809 views
Guilty verdict for Fagen
City: Councilman is forced to step down under state law
Embattled Long Beach City Councilman Mike Fagen — whose campaign theme in 2009 was fiscal responsibility and ridding Long Beach of the “friends and family” culture that permeated City Hall — was convicted on Tuesday of charges that arose from his collection of more than $15,000 in unemployment benefits while he was a member of the council.
After a week of deliberations, a Nassau County jury convicted Fagen, 56, of 18 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and one misdemeanor count of petit larceny. He was forced to step down from the City Council, and faces up to four years in prison at his April 8 sentencing.
The jury was unable to reach verdicts on the top charge, one count of third-degree grand larceny, and 20 additional counts of offering a false instrument for filing.
“Elected officials are expected to put their communities and constituents first, not look for ways to pad their wallets at the expense of those they represent,” District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. “Mr. Fagen violated the trust of Long Beach residents.”
Prosecutors said that an investigation had been conducted by the D.A.’s office and the New York State Department of Labor’s Office of Special Investigations, after both agencies were notified by the City of Long Beach. Fagen was indicted by a grand jury last February.
Fagen, who remained free on bail, did not return a call seeking comment. His attorney, Marc Gann, said that he intends to appeal after Fagen’s sentencing, and he hopes Fagen will only receive probation.
“Generally, when a jury deliberates as long as they did, you would think that there’s reasonable doubt,” said Gann. “Certainly, from that perspective [the verdict] surprised me.”
During the trial, in Nassau County Criminal Court, Gann asserted that Fagen’s nearly $20,000 annual income as a councilman — for what was largely considered part-time work — was low enough for him to remain eligible to collect unemployment benefits. He also argued that Fagen was “set up” by the previous Republican administration, including former City Manager Charles Theofan, in an attempt to remove Fagen from office and to keep him from talking about the city’s troubled finances.