LOWER MANHATTAN — For Alan Gerson — a former city councilman for Lower Manhattan besieged by a litany of disasters surrounding his failed 2009 campaign — a fine of nearly $50,000 for campaign finance violations is something of a lucky break.
Gerson, who served in the City Council from 2002 to 2009, was facing fines of more than $100,000 from the Campaign Finance Board, for violations related to improper documenting of funds in his 2009 election campaign. A judge recently cut that fine in half, citing Gerson's "extraordinary misfortune."
The ex-city councilman has argued that there was never any intentional wrongdoing — he simply had a surprising number of awful events throw his campaign into disarray.
Those catastrophes include: the arrest and conviction of his campaign manager on charges of child pornography and molesting the players in a Little League team he coached; the death of Gerson's mother, who was also his campaign secretary, as well as the deaths of his campaign treasurer and his campaign special counsel, according to court documents.
Gerson himself also became ill, contracting swine flu during the campaign.
The former councilman took his case before an administrative law judge, who recently decided Gerson’s situation did warrant at least some leniency, and recommended reducing his penalties to $49,722.
“Though most campaigns and candidates suffer setbacks, the unique combination of extraordinary misfortune that befell [Gerson] strongly favors a reduced civil penalty,” wrote Administrative Law Judge Kevin Casey in his Feb. 16 opinion.
Gerson, whose former seat is now held by Margaret Chin, had initially faced more than $400,000 in fines, but the Campaign Finance Board dropped that to $111,774 because of his hard-luck argument.
Some of the campaign violations Gerson has been hit with include keeping more than $500 in a petty cash fund, and not counting consultant fees as part of his campaign expenditure limits.
A spokesperson for the Campaign Finance Board said that the five-member board will still need to vote on the judge's recommendation, something that will happen in the next coming months.
Gerson's lawyer did not immediately return request for comment.