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Councilwoman Dickens Can't Back Up Claim She Used Own Cash for Constituents

By Gustavo Solis | February 9, 2016 10:58am
 City Council Members, including Inez Dickens, voted to give themselves a $36,000 raise last week.
City Council Members, including Inez Dickens, voted to give themselves a $36,000 raise last week.
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Facebook/Inez Dickens

HARLEM — After touting her personal philanthropy for her constituents as a reason why she deserves a $36,000-per-year raise last week, Councilwoman Inez Dickens' office admitted Monday they have no record of how much she's actually spent.

Last week, during a public hearing days before City Council members voted to give themselves a 32 percent raise, Dickens defended the figure by saying the representatives are “on the street” and often give their own money to less fortunate constituents.

“I can personally give you a count of how often I have had to write checks,” she told a commission Wednesday, before joining other elected officials in the Council who voted for their own salary increase.

But when asked for a tally of how many checks she writes, her Chief of Staff Lermond Mayes told DNAinfo on Monday that the councilwoman does not keep count.

Dickens cited two cases in which she helped families bury loved ones — two sons and a daughter — during her 2013 campaign. She also asked the owner of an unnamed funeral home for reduced costs and has asked other elected officials for financial support on behalf of families.

“I didn’t do it for publicity and I know the families personally so I respect their rights to privacy,” she wrote.

The councilwoman went on to defend the raise, which brings her salary to $148,500, by saying that, like every New Yorker, people who run for the city council are entitled to a fair wage.

“In all professions people seek higher pay and better benefits. Are elected [officials] not allowed the same respect?” she said.

“Ours is not merely a full time job but more like a marriage where you work at it 24/7 to try to do the very best you can. We are constantly at the forefront between government and our communities.  This is why I supported the increase.”

The median household income in Harlem was $36,112 in 2012.