MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A state Senate candidate from Long Island has dropped out of the race, after being accused of doctoring false documents that helped him collect big bonuses from his former law firm.
David Denenberg, a Long Island Democrat and Nassau County legislator, said in a statement that he would vigorously defend himself against the allegations in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by his former law firm.
But Denenberg added he is dropping his aspirations for higher office.
“While these charges are extremely serious, the timing, politically, should raise many questions,” Denenberg said in a statement. “I look forward to cooperating with U.S. attorney’s office to establish the truth. Unfortunately, given the political calendar, it is impossible to continue my campaign for state Senate.”
Tom Connolly, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said with the election just six weeks away, there appeared to be no way for Denenberg’s name to be removed from the ballot. However, Jay Jacobs, chairman of the Nassau Democrats, said he was exploring the possibility of employing a technicality in state election law that might allow them to replace Denenberg.
The firm, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, said in a lawsuit Tuesday that Denenberg, who has served as a county legislator since 1999, created at least $2 million in fictitious client bills, falsified expenses and forged the signatures of federal judges on phony court documents.
He had been running against Republican Michael Venditto, also a Nassau legislator.
New York Democrats were hoping to pick up the Senate seat in an effort to get majority control of the legislative chamber. The position was vacated when Republican Sen. Charles Fuschillo resigned.
Peter Kauffmann, a spokesman for the state Democratic party, declined to comment.
A strategist said Tuesday that the allegations were critically bad news for Denenberg.
“This will certainly hurt Denenberg,” Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said. “It makes him look incompetent and corrupt at the same time. Democrats in Albany have been perceived as both inept and corrupt over the years so this does not help him at all.”
The law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. It told the New York Daily News, which first reported on the complaint, that the firm also referred the matter to the prosecutor. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The firm, which said it employed Denenberg from 2006 until his firing last June, did not identify the client in the court papers. It said Denenberg had served as head of the firm’s intellectual property practice.
“Mr. Denenberg’s actions concerning billing irregularities involving one of his former clients together with phony expense submissions left us no choice,” the firm said in a statement. “Internal reviews conducted both by our client and DHC, and subsequent confirmation by Mr. Denenberg, conclusively established that he acted on his own and without the knowledge of anyone at DHC.”
The firm said in the lawsuit that for eight years, it believed the bills created by Denenberg “were real, and represented charges legitimately billed to and owed by the client for legal services rendered.”
It said that as a result of the alleged false billings, Denenberg was paid a 25 percent bonus on top of his annual salary, which was $360,000 by 2008, according to the court papers.
The lawsuit also claimed that on at least one occasion, he prepared a phony order from a U.S. District Court, granting his client’s motion for summary judgment and dismissing the claims with prejudice.
“Denenberg had the temerity to sign this ‘order’ in the name of a United States Federal District Court Judge,” the lawsuit said. “Importantly, the court issued no such order. This order is illustrative of the lengths Denenberg went to conceal his misconduct, and defraud both DHC and his client.”
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