Behind the Curtain
According to the foundation’s public tax forms filed with the IRS, the nonprofit’s backbone consists of a board of directors culled from some of Long Island and the region’s most prominent law, real estate and investment banking firms. Some are also heavy campaign contributors.
Here’s the big secret:
- Gene Bernstein, of Melville-based NIC Holding Corp., is listed as one its directors. So are Marc Feinberg and brothers Marc and Eric Blumencranz of BWD Group LLC in Jericho. [Full disclosure: BWD Group is the Press’ current insurance liability broker.] Eric serves as Foundation treasurer.
- Stephen L. Hammerman is also listed as a director on the IRS form. Hammerman currently serves as an executive officer and senior special counsel for the New York office of London-based international law firm Clifford Chance US, LLP, according to his executive profile and bio on Businessweek.com. He is a former independent director of embattled global insurance giant American International Group and served as Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters for the New York Police Department and as former vice chairman and general counsel of Merrill Lynch & Co., it reads.
- Tariq R. Shaikh and Anish Berry of the Diagnostic Imaging Group in Bethpage are also directors. Berry is the company’s president and Shaikh is its chief operating officer. Both were appointed by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano last year to the county’s Human Rights Commission. Berry was also appointed by Mangano to the Nassau County Board of Health, which, among other responsibilities, inspects radiological facilities that conduct mammographies—his does.
- Martin Greenberg, founder and chairman of the board of Manhattan-based Sterling Commodities Corp.—one of the largest members of the New York Mercantile Exchange and the Commodity Exchange—is also a director. He is a former chairman of the Commodity Exchange, current board member of the New York Board of Trade, and has a room named after him at the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University.
- Federico Amorini, of Farmingdale-based Amorini and Associates is listed as the foundation’s counsel.
Manhattan-based firm Spielman Koenigsberg & Parker, LLP is listed as the “paid preparer” of the foundation’s tax documents.
All did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Press for this story, except Bernstein, who happened to answer the phone on a follow-up call. He could not explain why the police department wouldn’t release his name, telling the Press he has the foundation “listed on my own resume.”
Bernstein acknowledged receiving the police ID and shield, explaining that he thought it was an honorary type of thing, given like a plaque. He added that he did not expect to receive favorable treatment because of it.
“I haven’t asked for anything,” he insists.
Bernstein also refused to identify the names of other Foundation directors and contributions made to the group.
While the IRS records do reveal the group brought in $91,000 its first year, they do not include a breakdown of individual contributors or list the names of other Foundation members. The Press has learned that its top director, however, has ascended the ranks of the police department since fundraising efforts have kicked off.
NCPD Foundation president Robert P. Codignotto, a financial advisor and local branch manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., a St. Louis-based regional brokerage and investment banking firm, was recently appointed NCPD assistant commissioner by Mulvey, who tells the Press Codignotto was a good supervisor and would be a “good ambassador.”
Mulvey’s office refused requests for Codignotto’s bio and qualifications. According to the Nassau County Comptroller’s Office, the position todate is unpaid. Karl Kampe, executive director of the Nassau County Civil Service Commission, tells the Press there exists no job responsibilities or specifications for the title.
Along with Mulvey, Sheikh and Berry, Codignotto has been actively involved in raising funds for the Nassau County Law Enforcement Exploring Board, a youth-orientated nonprofit organization aimed at promoting careers in law enforcement in young adults—and one of the other groups listed in the March 2010 memo whose members were issued police identifications.
Codignotto’s appointment to such a high level in the department while simultaneously serving as the Foundation’s president doesn’t pass the smell test for Jon Shane, an assistant professor at John Jay College and former captain in the Newark Police Department.
“That sounds like a conflict of interest to me,” says Shane. “It sounds like the bylaws were worked in such a way that a person occupying that position in the foundation would be independent of the police department. You don’t want to raise a conflict of interest, but maintain independence of the organization.
“Nonprofit groups have a history of doing these things and when they are less than 100 percent transparent it gives rise to the idea that something untruthful is happening,” he continues. “When I hear those things happen, I get squeamish, because I don’t see what the point is in not being forthright if you have nothing to hide.”
Bill O’Reilly, host of FOX News’ The O’Reilly Factor and a native Long Islander, is also an advocate of the Foundation, and was a speaker at a December fundraiser hosted by Greenberg in Mill Neck.
Oddly, following Press calls to Codignotto and other board members, O’Reilly’s assistant phoned the Press’ editor-in-chief, unsolicited, in January, offering that the television talking head did not receive any preferential treatment from Mulvey regarding his involvement with the group.
Funny thing is, the Press never asked. His name had never been brought up in relation to this story until the assistant’s phone call.
“I have never received preferential treatment from the Nassau County Police Department,” O’Reilly subsequently told the Press in response to a request for comment for this story earlier this month.