There is a major fight brewing between New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Councilman Simcha Felder over an allegation of the unlawful use of discretionary funds. Between 2002 and 2006, the office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave $1.1 million to the Orthodox Agudath Israel of America and $400,000 to Ohel Children’s Services. Such use of funds is only allowed at the request of a council member and Bloomberg has said that it was requested by Felder – who has denied any such request.
Putting aside the questions of illegality in the transfer, there should be greater attention to the existence of these discretionary funds which can be used to curry the favor of powerful groups. Bloomberg has personally donated $200,000 to Agudath Israel and a former top aide to the mayor is reportedly a lobbyist for Ohel. Such funds invite corruption and special dealing. With cities struggling to meet budget obligations, $1.5 million is not small change and there is an obvious concern that well-connected groups are receiving special treatment.