Recent reports, concerning advertising payments made by Maimonides Medical Center to a company owned by Dov Hikind, have elided the fact that Chirlane McCray, wife of Bill de Blasio, was a key marketing executive at the hospital during the period the payments were made.
Crain’s reported last month that Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Commission, tasked to investigate corruption in the Legislature, had subpoenaed Maimonides as part of a probe into Assembly member Dov Hikind. Hikind, whose district includes Maimonides, has a weekly radio program which sells advertising through DYS Production, owned by Hikind. Hikind failed to mention that he had received income from DYS Production on his financial disclosure forms, and was forced to amend his forms dating to 2006.
Maimonides Medical Center receives substantial funding from the state, and spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying annually. The hospital disclosed that it paid DYS Productions $65,000 in one recent year, though Hikind only admitted to receiving between $5,000 and $20,000 that year. Given that Maimonides receives so much state funding, it seems like a good question as to whether there is a conflict of interest on Hikind’s part in accepting hefty advertising dollars from the institution.
Oddly enough, Chirlane McCray, wife, helpmeet and political strategist to Mayor-presumptive Bill de Blasio, was a marketing executive in charge of communications and major ad buys at Maimonides Medical Center from 2005-2010.
Ilene Tynion, Vice President for Public Affairs at Maimonides, clarified McCray’s role during her time at the Brooklyn medical center, and minimized her possible interactions with Dov Hikind or his advertising company. “Chirlane was the Assistant VP for Marketing, which meant that she managed the relationship with Della Femina Advertising, our outside agency, and handled internal communications, messaging, the employee newsletter; and also external communications, such as an insert in Physician’s Practice magazine, or other ad hoc communications.”
Asked about the hospital’s advertising on Dov Hikind’s radio show, Tynion insisted that while advertising was under Chirlane McCray’s purview, “ethnic and niche marketing” was directed by Maimonides’ Community Affairs department, which operates in a separate reporting line from the External Affairs department, where McCray worked. Nevertheless, Tynion allowed that McCray was “part of the team that participated in in the process. All of us participate in Community Affairs to some extent…she was part of the process.”
Chirlane McCray’s husband is a longtime ally of Dov Hikind, who backed both de Blasio and Bill Thompson for mayor. In 2010, when Simcha Felder left the Council to work for John Liu, Hikind, Blasio and Sheldon Silver backed Joe Lazar to take the seat in what became an all-out proxy war against David Greenfield, who was backed by the Kings County Democratic establishment, headed then by Vito Lopez, and who also received the support of de Blasio foe Lew Fidler.
So was Chirlane McCray helping her husband’s political pal by steering advertising dollars to his radio program, possibly as insurance for Hikind’s support for de Blasio’s eventual run for Mayor? As Maimonides Medical Center continues to insist, the money they paid Hikind was a “tiny percentage” of their total ad budget—perhaps tiny enough that a word from a marketing executive to a community affairs representative would be enough to get those “ethnic or niche” dollars assigned to the local assembly member’s radio show.
The Moreland Commission is looking into it…let’s see what they have to say.