Exclusive: Bronx DA Returned Campaign Donation From Censured Bronx Judge, Disclosure Records Show

By Kevin Deutsch 

Records show Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark returned a campaign donation made to her election committee by State Supreme Court Justice Mary Ann Brigantti, who hears civil cases in the borough, Bronx Justice News has learned.

Brigantti’s since-refunded $500 donation was made by check on Jan. 15, 2019, and disclosed in campaign finance records filed by Clark’s campaign Tuesday with the state board of elections.

The records show Clark raked in $93,660 in donations between January and late May 2019, despite the absence of any challengers to her reelection campaign. The incumbent DA appears poised to win another term this fall.

The returned donation—made by the Committee to Re-Elect Mary Ann Brigantti, Supreme Court Justice— is not the judge’s first brush with controversy.

Brigantti received an official reprimand in 2013 after the state Commission on Judicial Conduct determined she had “lent the prestige of judicial office to advance her own and others’ private interests and/or failed to conduct her extra-judicial activities so as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligation.”

Brigantti, commissioners found, had repeatedly had staff members pick her daughter up from school and perform babysitting duties at the judge’s home, as well as the courthouse. She also had her secretary ferry her to salon and shopping visits, according to records filed by the commission.

“By repeatedly using her court staff to perform child-care and other personal services, (Brigantti) misused court resources and engaged in conduct that was implicitly coercive and inconsistent with the ethical rules,” the commission said in its final report.

Brigantti was also censured for asking staff members to pray with her during work hours, records show.

The commission, which handles judicial discipline in New York, said Brigantti admitted to, and agreed to stop, the questionable activities, which occurred  between 2005 and 2011, records show.

Brigantti could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday, and Clark’s campaign manager did not respond to an email seeking comment.

First elected a State Supreme Court Justice in 2005, Brigantti works out of the Bronx civil courthouse at 851 Grand Concourse, records show.

Previously, she served as a civil court judge in the Bronx from 1997 to 2004, and a city criminal court judge from 2001 to 2003.

Most Donations From Outside Borough

Clark, a Bronx native and the first African-American woman to be elected District Attorney in New York State, has received most of her 2019 campaign donations from outside her home borough.

Of the 104 individual campaign contributions disclosed in Tuesday’s filings, around 40 percent came from donors with Bronx addresses.

Real estate interests, philanthropists, attorneys, labor unions, and figures in finance continue to be among Clark’s top contributors, the records show.

Her donors include numerous residents of Massachusetts, where Clark sits on the board of Trustees at Boston College Board, her undergraduate alma mater. Among them is John Fish, the Chairman and CEO of  Suffolk Construction and a political power player once deemed Boston’s most powerful person.

Suffolk does business in New York City, where it is looking to expand its footprint. The company, which recently hosted a fundraiser for Mayor Bill de Blasio in Boston, has drawn scrutiny for previous political donations, according to a report published last month in the New York Times.

The Federal Election Commission fined Suffolk $34,000 for donating $200,000 to a political action committee supporting Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA, while it was working as a federal contractor in West Point, The Times reported. The contributions were returned by Priorities USA.

Fish has contributed $20,000 to Clark’s election committee, records show, the most recent of which was a $2,500 check donated on March 15. Suffolk Construction has also donated directly to her campaign.

Clark’s other top donors in the recent disclosure cycle include

  • Chuck Clough, Chairman and CEO of Boston’s Clough Capital Partners. Clough, formerly the Chief Global Investment Strategist at Merrill Lynch & Co., donated $2,000 to Clark’s election committee on March 13, records show.
  • Francis Greenburger, real estate developer and founder of Time Equities, donated $1,000 to Clark on April 3, records show.
  • Philanthropist and environmental advocate Liliane Haub, who records show donated $5,000 to Clark on March 11.
  • Pierre Prosper, former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, who records show donated $5,000 to Clark on April 8.
  • John Catsimatidis, chairman, CEO and president of Red Apple Group, who records show donated $1,000 to Clark on March 12.

Sasha Gonzales contributed reporting.

Update (June 5): Carl Lucas, treasurer for the re-election campaigns of both Clark and Brigantti, said today the disclosure records that showed a returned $500 campaign contribution were the result of a “clerical error” he made. Lucas said Brigantti never donated to Clark. He has since filed an amended report to reflect the correction, Lucas said. Read the full story about Lucas’ response here

About Kevin Deutsch 265 Articles
Kevin Deutsch is a Staff Writer for Bronx Justice News covering the criminal justice system, drugs, and DNA use by law enforcement. An award-winning journalist, Deutsch is the author of the true crime books "Pill City" and "The Triangle." He has worked on staff at the Daily News, Miami Herald, Newsday, The Palm Beach Post, and The Riverdale Press. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, The Village Voice, The Forward, The Independent, Huffington Post, Orlando Sentinel, and the New York Post, among other publications. His numerous television appearances include spots on CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN's BookTV. He has also been featured in The New Yorker. A Bronx resident, Deutsch hosts the true crime podcast "A Dark Turn" on the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network.