Nassau County Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) became the second New York State Senate candidate to drop out of his bid for higher office after being linked to wide-ranging criminal allegations.
Davidoff Hutcher & Citron (DHC), the Manhattan-based law firm where the eight-term county lawmaker was a partner until June, alleged Tuesday in a lawsuit that Denenberg fraudulently billed a client for about $2 million worth of work never performed. Hours later, Denenberg released a statement saying that he will hire a lawyer, counter sue and drop out of the race.
“In his campaign, Denenberg’s slogan is ‘Nobody Works Harder,'” the lawsuit says. “Certainly, that is not evident from the fake bills he created, falsely claiming to have worked hard for both DHC and his client. It is only true if one credits him with working hard to abuse the trust and faith of his coworkers and clients, who would have been far better off having never met Denenberg.”
Denenberg was running against freshman Nassau Legis. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) for the eighth state Senate District seat left vacant when ex-Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) retired last year.
Denenberg’s bombshell came two months after Anthony Senft, a Conservative Islip town board member, ditched his plans to run for another state Senate seat amid the growing toxic dumping scandal that erupted earlier this year. Senft, who was the town parks’ liaison, initially bore the brunt of the criticism. Prosecutors have been investigating who illegally dumped tens of thousands of tons of carcinogenic materials at four different locations, including public parks, although charges have yet to be announced.
Shortly after returning from a yearlong absence while he served overseas, Republican Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci announced he’ll replace Senft in the race against Democratic candidate Adrienne Esposito for the seat being vacated by Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is seeking a rematch against U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton).
The two races are pivotal as GOP leaders seek to regain a majority in the state Senate. Republicans wasted no time in seizing on the news.
“David Denenberg would fit right in with Albany Democrats’ cesspool,” state GOP spokesman David Laska said in a statement. “You’ve got to wonder: Where do Democrats keep finding these people?”
The lawsuit against Denenberg, which was first reported by the New York Daily News, includes claims of fraud, breach of duty, interference with business relations, unjust enrichment and racketeering—an allegation prosecutors use against members of organized crime.
The suit claims that if the alleged scam was disclosed sooner, the lawmaker would not have earned $360,000 annually plus bonuses while he led the firm’s intellectual property practice from July 2006 to June 2014 from its Garden City office.
The firm said that it has forwarded the allegations to federal prosecutors. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York did not respond to a request for comment.