Hours after getting expelled from the New York City Council for pleading guilty to tax evasion, Council Member Chaim Deutsch said he was weighing legal action in response to Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s “sudden decision” to expel him from office.
“Councilman Deutsch is evaluating all of his legal rights and options in the face of this sudden decision by the Speaker,” said Henry E. Mazurek, an attorney for the lawmaker who's represented Southern Brooklyn since 2014.
Mazurek, however, could not immediately explain what legal recourse he has in keeping his seat. His office did not return a request for comment.
The expulsion leaves the district, home to some 170,000 residents in the neighborhoods of Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Homecrest, Trump Village, Luna Park, Brightwater Towers, and Midwood, without representation for at least six months. Under Council rules the office’s constituent services unit will remain in place to help residents in the district.
The decision came after the Council reviewed charging documents released by federal prosecutors last week in which Deutsch admitted to tax evasion. Prosecutors said Deutsch lied in a personal tax return filed in 2016 that included “false and fraudulent information” tied to outside income he earned through Chasa Management, the construction firm he worked for while serving on the Council.
Deutsch admitted to not paying a total of $82,076 in taxes between 2013 and 2015, two years before lawmakers were barred from earning outside income. Under the terms of a plea deal, Deutsch agreed to pay the taxes plus any interest owed.
“The Council has concluded that the office of the 48th Council District has been vacated under the operation of law,” Johnson said, citing the state’s Public Officers Law that mandates a lawmaker vacate office if they’re convicted of a crime that violates their oath of office. “He is no longer a member of the City Council.”
The decision, which did not require a vote, signaled a shift for Johnson, who initially opted not to remove Deutsch, and instead urged him to resign. A spokesperson for Johnson said that, "Upon further review and in consultation with the Law Department, the Council found that this crime constitutes a violation of his oath of office."
Deutsch, who will be sentenced in July, is now the second member of the Council to be expelled from office during Johnson’s tenure, following the expulsion of Council Member Andy King, who was found guilty by the Council’s Ethics and Standards Committee for inappropriate behavior while in office. It also represents the seventh Council member since 2013 to leave before fulfilling their entire term, with many opting for another public office or the private sector.
Because the seat is left empty in Deutsch’s last year in office and less than three months before a primary, a special election will not be called, in accordance with the City Charter. This will allow the winner of the November election to immediately fill Deutsch’s last two months in office before they begin their term. A similar scenario is playing out in Queens, where former Council Member Costa Constantinides resigned from his post last month.
Candidates for the 48th Council District seat include Amber Adler, Binyomin Sev Bendet, Steven Saperstein, Hesy Tischler, and Mariya Markh.