Council Member Proposes City Contract for Her Campaign Manager

Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Tasha Diaz attempted to award a $30,000 city contract to a government employee that also operates as her political campaign manager. The plot was eventually discovered and rejected by the approvals board of which she is a voting member. Nevertheless, the lack of disclosure of these ties leaves the duo exposed to several penalties.

The Board of Contracts and Supply

As defined by the City Charter, “all non-competitively bid contracts […] shall be awarded by the Board of Contract and Supply.” The Mayor (or his Deputy) presides over his appointed City Engineer and Commissioner of Finance, together with the elected City Council President and Majority Leader in these bi-weekly meetings.

Their meetings review dozens of proposed contracts across all departments, and they consequently decide on up to hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding for each. All contract requests list the vendor, requestor, term of service, and a brief scope of work.

On the Sept 26th, 2023 meeting of this board, the fourth item on the agenda contained an annotation that the City Council-sponsored item was pulled from consideration at their own request. The contract named Aces Consulting and Communication LLC as a new vendor to the City Council effective immediately. Specifically, this proposal tasked the consulting firm to “provide and design governmental mailers for the City Council.” The cost for this six-month contract listed professional fees in the sum of $30,000 drawn from the City budget’s general fund. However, a vote on this item never occurred when members discovered who owned Aces Consulting.

Frankie and company

Aces Consulting and Communications LLC was recently incorporated on July 31st, 2023 by Frank (Frankie) Jereis. The 22-year-old law school student is from a prominent family with deep ties to City Hall. Frankie along with his mother, Saida, and father, Zehy, are all registered to vote at the same address as Aces Consulting.

Frankie and his mother, Saida, both have employment within city government and are members in the Yonkers Democratic Committee. Saida has held government positions across numerous departments for years. And her son, Frankie, became the secretary for the Human Rights Commission in March of this year. Like many in government, they are also active in their local political party. Saida serves as the 5th Ward Democratic Co-Leader, and Frankie likewise as the 2nd Ward Co-Leader.

The Jereis family’s political interests do not end there. In fact, Frankie’s father, Zehy, may be the most prominent political persona in Yonkers. Zehy made a name for himself as the youngest Chairman of the Yonkers GOP in the 1990’s. And in ’98, he pled guilty to election fraud charges. A little over a decade later, a federal court sentenced Zehy Jereis to prison for bribery and extortion when he paid a City Council member to flip their vote on the Ridge Hill shopping center proposal.

Tasha Diaz Petitions
Nominating petition for Tasha Diaz showing Frank Jereis as the campaign contact – Westchester Board of Elections

Zehy has since returned from prison and back to the political arena. And his son, Frankie, appears to be following in turn. This year, multiple political campaigns operate under the management of Frankie; most notably that of Council Member for the third district, Majority Leader Tasha Diaz.

The Majority Leader

This first term for Tasha Diaz has generated numerous headlines. She was a deciding vote that allowed the Mayor’s veto to override an expansion of the affordable housing ordinance. Then, she unexpectedly became Majority Leader after only serving on the council for two years when a power struggle ousted the most senior, Corazón Pineda-Isaac. Later that year, her fiery speech during the meeting to extend term limits contributed to the rowdiness of the crowd that saw community advocate Hector Santiago punched in the face by a police officer.

And now, it seems she faces scrutiny for her part in a scheme to defraud the government of taxpayer money. As Majority Leader of the City Council and voting member of the five-person Board of Contracts and Supply, she alone had the authority to add this item to the agenda and bring the $30k contract for her campaign manager to a vote.

Ethics Code

The oft-ignored ethics section in the City of Yonkers Charter outlines numerous offenses related to awarding and receiving public money as a city employee. A general concept conveys that all such enrichment is forbidden. The charter enumerates this in a few ways:

However, not all of these violations fully materialized because officials discovered the fraud before they awarded the contract. Meaning, COY-employee Frankie Jereis never got the money, so never formally breeched most of these ethics rules.

Nonetheless, violations related to this solicitation of funds are applicable. At no time did Jereis or the sponsor of this contract and his political client, council member Tasha Diaz, ever disclose the ownership of Aces Consulting. And that itself, is a clear violation.

Any City officer or employee who has, will have, or later acquires an interest in any actual or potential contract with the City shall publicly disclose the nature and extent of that interest.

Yonkers City Charter C1A-13: Interests in Contracts with the City.

The lack of disclosure may imply ignorance of the ethics code. But, Jereis’ legal education and his family’s history in government betrays that defense. And the Majority Leader’s office has a competent staff–including lawyers–to advise on these conflicts.

Lastly, another violation potentially exists related to the origin of this ruse. One person asked the other to participate in this transfer of government funds. And that ask, knowing its ethical breeches, is called, inducement.

Enforcement

At this point, since the covert transfer of taxpayer funds to a city employee/political operative was thwarted, some may consider this matter resolved. Nevertheless, the lingering potential violations still warrant investigation. Therefore, a thorough inquiry by the Inspector General and an independent review by the Board of Ethics provide the necessary function to resolve this questionable action.

Through this comprehensive, honest, and transparent process, other improprieties may be uncovered and justly punished. And in so doing, the City of Yonkers may find that history repeats itself in regards to dirty money between a Jereis and a member of its City Council.

Mark Parolisi, Kisha Skipper, Phil Zisman, and others contributed to this story.

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