Thursday, March 27, 2008

Former Co-Op City board president gets 6 months in jail in plea deal

Daily News
BY DORIAN BLOCK
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, March 27th 2008, 4:00 AM
http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/bronx/2008/03/27/2008-03-27_former_coop_city_board_president_gets_6_.html

A former Co-op City board president was sentenced to six months in prison Wednesday for accepting $10,000 in kickbacks from a painting company she illegally granted a multimillion-dollar, federally funded contract.

Iris Baez, 59, also was ordered to return the $10,000 she accepted and was sentenced to one year of supervised release after her prison sentence.

Yesterday's sentencing in federal court marked the end of Baez's tenure of more than 20 years as the matriarch, behind-the-scenes powerbroker and, for a time, president and secretary of the massive Mitchell-Lama housing complex along the Hutchinson River Parkway in the northeast Bronx.

Baez originally was charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery concerning a federally funded program for granting $3.5 million to Stadium Painting from August 2000 to July 2002.

Baez never submitted a proposal or created a formal contract for the job because the work was awarded on a "probationary basis," said the U.S. attorney's office. She had faced up to 15 years in prison before her plea deal.

Othelia Jones, current president of Co-op City's Riverbay Board, said that although she doesn't condone Baez's crime, she sympathizes with how much the woman has been punished for her corrupt deeds.

"She has suffered enough," Jones said. "She was the matriarch here. She wielded a lot of power here, and that's all gone. People that were involved with her don't want to be involved with her anymore. She's really suffered."

Jones said the 15,000-unit development needs to recollect itself and focus on its cogeneration plan to produce its own energy. She fears that elections for the board in May will be clouded by others trying to force out anyone whom Baez supported in the past.

"I'm sure they are going to milk this for all it's worth," she said.

Co-op City has had a history of corrupt leadership during the past decade.

In October, a former Riverbay employee pleaded guilty to delivering a $5,000 bribe to Riverbay officials in April 2002.

And last spring, Charles Rosen, the former executive director of the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club at Co-op City, pleaded guilty to stealing more than a million dollars from the charity.

Jones said she believes Riverbay has turned a corner, and promises she is only doing legal, honest work for the community, which is in need of repair.

"It's time for us to move on, and I hope the community just lets it be and doesn't keep stirring it up," Jones said. "We have things to do."

No comments: