Mon, Jul 12, 2010
Posted: 2:32 AM, July 12, 2010
A former employee of the Working Families Party says he was so disturbed by the labor-backed group’s practices that he walked out after only one week on the job.
In an exclusive interview, Brooklyn resident Patrick Crooks said he was encouraged by higher-ups to falsify signatures and addresses on petitions supporting the left-wing party’s push to repeal a state law that took rent regulation out of the city’s hands and gave it to the state.
“I saw that everyone else was doing it [putting down fake signatures] and my field manager was encouraging it . . . just so it looked like other people had been signing . . . But from my second day onward I decided not to do it . . . It just didn’t seem right to me,” Crooks, 26, from Maryland, told The Post.
Crooks’ charges come amid a probe of the WFP by the feds and the city Campaign Finance Board. He revealed a litany of shady practices that prompted him to quit, including:
* Being misled about the type of work he was hired to perform — fund-raising and canvassing instead of policy work;
* Getting a paycheck from the party’s former political arm, Data and Field Services, although the job posting he responded to was for the WFP, and
* Receiving instruction to collect money and signatures in buildings that had “no trespassing” signs and only leave if forced out by police.
“By my first day, I was very jaded,” Crooks said.
Mike Boland, executive director of DFS, disputed Crooks’ accusations.
“Like all of our employees, [Crooks] was strictly prohibited from entering residences uninvited or faking any documents,” Boland said. “It quickly became clear that Mr. Crooks was not qualified for the job and he was told he was going to be let go. We are disappointed that [he] has chosen to respond to his dismissal in this way, but we wish him luck.”
A WFP source told The Post that some canvassers put their own names down first to give the appearance of more support. The source said the practice is only carried out with petitions for causes, not voter registration.
Crooks graduated in 2008 from Frostburg State University in Maryland with a degree in political science, and had volunteered with the presidential campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama.
He moved to the city in 2008, after landing a constituent-services job in the Queens office of former City Councilman Eric Gioia, a Democrat who has been critical of the WFP.
High bills later forced Crooks to return to Maryland, but he recently spotted a WFP ad online and applied. He started working for $300 per week June 28, but says he quit July 5.
He said he was told he was hired primarily for policy work, but ended up doing nothing but fund-raising.
Crooks also found out when filling out paperwork that he would be working for DFS, a former corporation that recently became a not-for-profit, rather than the WFP. DFS provides election and fund-raising services for the party.
Both groups are under federal and city Campaign Finance Board investigations.
The two groups have formed separate boards and taken other steps to ensure their independence from each other.