When the story first broke on Monday about N.Y. anti-poverty and political bigwig William Rapfogel being fired from his longtime post as head of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the exact nature of the allegations were unclear.
So it was possible to think that this was a Robin Hood-type case of someone doing bad for the greater good.
But the latest stories in the New York Daily News and New York Post suggest that Rapfogel was pocketing money at the expense of Met Council — and, by extension, the low-income residents of New York that he was supposed to be serving.
Sources said Rapfogel is under criminal investigation for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in a scheme he allegedly concocted to inflate the council’s insurance bills so he could keep the overcharges for himself.
Investigators also are looking at whether Rapfogel directed officials from Century Coverage Corp. of Long Island to funnel some of the ill-gotten gains to the campaigns of favored politicians.
The Daily News quotes an unnamed source as saying Rapfogel pocketed “six figures worth of cash” over several years.
According to the reports, Rapfogel earns in the neighborhood of $400,000 per year; and his wife, Judy, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s chief of staff, makes about $160,000.
This is an earthquake in the Jewish communal world of New York, with Rapfogel and Met Council playing the lead role in fighting poverty among Jewish residents of the city.
But this could prove to be an even bigger story in the world of New York politics.
The Post quoted Rapfogel’s lawyer as saying Silver and Rapfogel’s wife had no knowledge of the scheme. Yet, with Silver already facing heat on other fronts, it’s hard to see the tabloids and Republicans letting the issue drop.
One final observation: Don’t forget, it was just a few weeks ago that the longtime CEO of the 92nd Street Y, Sol Adler, was also booted over a scandal. Adler has not been accused of stealing — just having a longtime affair with his assistant, whose son-in-law did allegedly take part in a kickback-scheme involving the Y’s vendors.
Bottom line: In less than a month, scandals have brought down the heads of the N.Y. Jewish community’s leading anti-poverty organization and its premier cultural institution. Throw in the pending retirement (with no hint of scandal) of John Ruskay from his perch as head of the UJA-Federation of New York, and you’re looking at quite a leadership transition.