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April 17, 2012

Ex-Forest City officials Bender and Cantone launch consulting office, cite "existing and future clients"

Atlantic Yards Report

Bruce Bender and Scott Cantone, formerly the two top government relations officials at Brooklyn-based developer Forest City Ratner, have finally launched Bender Cantone Consulting, which they call "a full service public affairs firm specializing in governmental relations, public policy, political consulting, strategic communications and community outreach." (The BenderCantone.com URL doesn't work yet.)

Word of the move emerged two months ago, perhaps not coincidentally before both testified in the federal corruption trial that led to the convictions of former Yonkers Council Member Sandy Annabi, a Democrat, and her political mentor and close friend, Zehy Jereis, chairman of the Yonkers Republican Party. A jury agreed that Jereis's nearly $200,000 in payments to Annabi were intended to influence her vote, including her flip on Forest City Ratner's Ridge Hill retail/residential project.

Bender and Cantone, unable to get a meeting with Annabi, finally got one via Jereis, who promptly asked for a job. Forest City strung him along until after Annabi's vote, then hired him for an essentially no-show job, ultimately paying him $15,000. "We were between a rock and a hard place," Bender said on the stand.

Neither Forest City nor its staffers were charged, but even a pro-development type like Crain's New York Business columnist Greg David criticized the company's "See no evil, hear no evil" posture.

Bender and Cantone, however much their reputations may have been dinged, said in a mass email Monday that they "look forward to utilizing this experience for the benefit of our existing and future clients," so their connections--built up not merely at Forest City but at the City Council and Mayor's Office, not to mention Brooklyn's powerful Thomas Jefferson Democratic Club--apparently still bear fruit.

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Posted by steve at April 17, 2012 9:07 AM