Hikind In Hot Water Over Conflict Of Interest Involving Maimonides Medical Center

Source: assembly.state.ny.us
Source: assembly.state.ny.us

Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s radio show, which broadcasts to a large Orthodox Jewish audience, is growing in popularity. The show attracts exclusive interviews with mayoral candidates and will soon move to a prominent spot on the AM dial.

As Hikind’s influence steadily increases, so does the attention being paid to his financial activities. Crain’s is reporting that Hikind has been promoting Maimonides Medical Center without properly disclosing the income he has received from the hospital, as well as any other income generated by his company DYS Productions.

A hospital executive at Maimonides confirmed that they paid $65,000 to Hikind to promote the medical center. Initially, Hikind’s 2012 records indicated that he received no money outside of the $99,000 salary he receives as assemblyman. After inquiries, Hikind amended his statements, listing that last year his company generated somewhere between $5,000 to $20,000, with no indication as to where the rest of the cash went.

Crain’s described the impact of Maimonides’s direct lobbying of Hikind and other state officials:

Mr. Hikind, who has spoken at ceremonies honoring Maimonides officials, frequently promotes the hospital in his governmental newsletter. Maimonides, which has thrived as other nonprofit hospitals have struggled financially, has touted its ties to elected officials who help secure funding. But hospital officials said Maimonides’ payments to Mr. Hikind’s company pose no conflicts on their end, and that it advertises on his show to reach local residents. Borough Park is a famously insular community.
Dick Dadey, executive director of good-government group Citizens Union, said it makes sense for Maimonides to buy time on Mr. Hikind’s program. The problem is that the assemblyman repeatedly failed to make his outside income public.
“The fact that he didn’t disclose it raises the question of why he didn’t,” Mr. Dadey said. “If there’s no conflict, why not disclose it?”

Crain’s noted that this isn’t the first time Hikind has skated on ethically shaky grounds:

In 1998, he was charged with taking bribes from a social-services group that received state funds. Mr. Hikind was acquitted, though the official who paid him was convicted.

Earlier in the month, we reported that Hikind had secured part-time state-level jobs for his children and friends that pay just enough for them to receive taxpayer-funded healthcare. In this latest report, there is further evidence of Hikind using his radio show and connection with Maimonides to score a plum position for his son-in-law, Rabin Rahmani:

Two years ago, Mr. Hikind’s son-in-law, Rabin Rahmani, a doctor in his early 30s and just off a residency and fellowship at Maimonides, raised eyebrows among colleagues by landing the post of director of medical education and research at the hospital’s gastroenterology division. Dr. Rahmani, Deena’s husband, has promoted the hospital as a guest on Mr. Hikind’s radio show. A hospital spokeswoman said Mr. Rahmani was exceptionally qualified for his post.

The report goes on to describe other potential ethical lapses involved in the operation of Hikind’s radio show:

Political candidates have often paid Mr. Hikind’s company, appeared on his show and been endorsed by him. The show is co-hosted and run by Dov Cohen, an $80,000-a-year full-time aide in Mr. Hikind’s Assembly office, and has shared space with Mr. Hikind’s longtime political club, the United New York Democrats. The club often paid the rent on the space between 2006 and 2009, but as its campaign account was shut down in recent years, payments were made from Mr. Hikind’s own campaign fund to the building’s landlord. Campaign funds cannot be used for a candidate’s business expenses.