Lafazan failed to report a $100K loan received from billionaire couple for 2 years

Lafazan failed to report a $100K loan received from billionaire couple for 2 years
Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan (Photo courtesy of Joshua Lafazan via Facebook)

By Celeste Hadrick

Although Nassau County requires public officials to disclose their debts, Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan for two years did not report a 2020 loan of as much as $100,000 that he received from a billionaire couple.
Lafazan, a Woodbury Democrat who lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to Congress last month, waited until last Wednesday to amend his 2021 and 2022 Nassau financial disclosure forms to reflect a “student loan” from billionaire investor Bryan Lawrence and his wife Elizabeth.
By then, Lafazan, who was elected to the county Legislature in 2017, had already lost his primary race for the Democratic nomination to run for the 3rd Congressional District being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove); a political rival had requested a federal investigation into the loan and alleged Lafazan disclosure forms that did not disclose the loan had been circulating for a month.
Last Friday, Lafazan’s initial and amended disclosures were released by the County Board of Ethics pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request.
The county requires elected officials and other county officers to file annual financial disclosures by May 15 of the following year.
The 2021 disclosure, covering the previous year of 2020, shows it was started on April 26, 2021 at 1:41 p.m. and completed on April 26, 2012 at 2:14 p.m.

The amended disclosure shows the same start time but says it was completed on Sept, 7, 2020 at 2:20 p.m.

The amended 2022 disclosure, for the 2021 year, says it was started May 16, 2022 but completed Sept. 7, 2022 at 2:23 p.m.

Nothing was listed under debts on the initial disclosures for 2020 and 2021. The amended disclosures showed this same addition under the section labeled “Debts” in excess of $5,000, “Joshua Lafazan, Student Loan Bryan & Elizabeth Lawrence, Park Ave., NY.NY”
The amount category was redacted.

Neither Lafazan nor the county’s Democratic legislative spokesman responded to an inquiry asking why Lafazan waited so long to disclose the loan.

Lafazan’s amendments to his county forms came more than a month after The New York Post on Aug. 6 questioned the loan.

The U.S. House of Representatives website shows that Lafazan filed two disclosures in May reporting the 2020 loan,  totaling between $50,001 to $100,000.

Since the loan was made in September. 2020 – before Lafazan started his congressional campaign – it would not violate election law limiting individual donations, the Post reported, unless it allowed him to pay for campaign expenses with money that was not his own.

Democratic National Committeeman Robert Zimmerman, who won the primary, asked for a probe by the Federal Election Commission.

“The FEC should investigate whether the initial loan was itself intended to influence and be funneled to the campaign or whether it was simply intended to free up other funds for the campaign,” said Zimmerman’s campaign manager Evan Chernack,” the Post reported.

It reported the billionaire couple also donated more than $20,000 to the legislator’s congressional campaign; $5,800 was returned because it exceeded campaign contribution limits.

But federal election laws are not the only issue.

Nassau County law requires disclosure of all debts more than $5,000.

The County Administrative Code says the Nassau Board of Ethics may impose as much as a $10,000 fine for incomplete reporting on financial disclosure forms, which also can be punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.

In Suffolk County, two officials have been prosecuted in the past 10 years for filing incomplete financial disclosure forms: former IT Commissioner Donald C. Rogers and Republican County Legislator Rudolph Sunderman of Mastic.

In Nassau, no officials have been prosecuted for incomplete disclosure.

Instead, the Nassau Board of Ethics in the past has simply directed officials to amend the disclosures to include the unreported information — after inquiries had been made about the omissions.

This was the case, for example, with former County Legislator Roger Corbin (D-Westbury) who failed to disclose past foreclosures and other debts in 2006.

Corbin subsequently pleaded guilty to federal charges of filing false tax returns, tax evasion and filing false statements and also served time for taking bribes from the developer of a New Cassel redevelopment project.

Meanwhile, the county taxpayer-paid mailing that Lafazan sent constituents touting his legislative record three weeks before the congressional primary cost just under $16,000 in labor and postage, according to legislative Democrats in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The piece headlined “Legislator Josh Lafazan: Cutting taxes and fees for Nassau families,” went to nearly 30,000 households, mostly in the congressional district.

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