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Fields' aide fleeces homeless guy

In a Newsday piece (or click below for the article), crack reporter Glenn Thrush writes that a staff member for Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, who makes over $60,000 a year, was able to "borrow" $1,100 from a homeless constituent, refused to pay back the loan and now is claiming to wait for some dead relative's money to find its way north in order to pay it back.

But this incident raises several questions:

  • why did it take Denise Outram, Fields' general counsel, an entire working day to figure out something is wrong with this picture? Constituent Pressley goes to the MBP office for help, gets fleeced by a Fields' staffer, and Outram considers it a personal matter? Should Outram herself be referred to DOI for failing to take appropriate action?

  • why would someone making $60,000 be facing eviction on her own? If so, then how could the borrowed $1,100 stave off that eviction?

  • has Fields' office done anything to help get this poor guy back on the public housing waiting list?

  • why would reporter Thrush characterize the embarassment to Fields as "rare" rather than common?

A questionable loan for Fields aide
by Glenn Thrush
April 26, 2005, 10:30 PM EDT

A longtime aide to Democratic mayoral hopeful C. Virginia Fields borrowed $1,100 from a poor and often homeless elderly Harlem man who says he enlisted her help following an eviction.

Jean Hockaday, 58, a casework manager in the borough president's Harlem office, took a loan from Edward Pressley about a year ago but has paid back only $150, according to court documents.

Pressley, 73, said Hockaday told him, during one of several conversations about his housing problems, that she needed cash to avoid an impending eviction of her own.

"She opened herself up to me and she was crying and saying the marshals were coming," said Pressley, a retired handyman who gets about $500 a month from Social Security and sleeps on a couch in his sister's apartment.

"I didn't know her very well," he added. "But I just figured she was working for the Manhattan borough president so she was OK ... She hasn't lived up to her end of the bargain."

The case is a rare public embarrassment for Fields, who can expect greater public scrutiny as she continues her steady climb in the polls.

Hockaday, who earns $60,639, agreed to pay Pressley $1,035 in an April 7 settlement agreement, according to court records. In a letter to the court, she said she hoped to get the cash to repay Pressley with money from an inheritance in Florida.

City Executive Order No. 16 requires allegations of corruption, wrongdoing or unethical behavior against city workers to be reported to the Department of Investigation.

Denise Outram, Fields' general counsel, said she decided the matter wasn't serious enough to refer to DOI after conducting a one-day investigation.

She chose not to call Pressley.

"I determined it was a purely personal matter between two individuals who were friends," she said. "This has nothing to do with the borough president's office."

Hockaday maintains that Pressley has been an acquaintance for years who sought the borough president's help in 2002 to recover several dogs that had been seized after his eviction, according to her lawyer Thomas Donaldson.

Pressley said he's seen Hockaday on numerous occasions, all in connection with attempts to get an apartment.

On Monday, he sat on his sister's couch, rifling through a plastic bag stuffed with crumpled court documents, decade-old utility bills and a recent letter informing him he'd been kicked off the waiting list for public housing for failure to file paperwork.

He showed a reporter $800 in receipts to his lawyer for help recovering the Hockaday loan and for assistance in finding a place to live.

"I've been here for about two months, but I'm going to have to find some place soon," he said.

Outram said Pressley's niece called the borough president's office earlier this year, complaining about Hockaday's failure to repay the loan.

The matter was referred to Outram, who said she immediately interviewed Hockaday, office staff and Pressley's niece, but didn't contact Pressley because he "never called the office himself to complain."

Outram said Hockaday hasn't been disciplined, but added, "I would not advise any staff member to do what she did." No other constituents have registered complaints against Hockaday, she added.

Hockaday has been a close associate of Fields' since the early 1990s. She was district manager of Fields' Harlem district office when Fields was on the City Council.


Yeah but even with all of this Fields is closer to Bloomberg than Freddy is and the gap between Fields and Ferrer is down to 5 points.

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