Brooklyn's Catholic bishop made a rare political donation last month to a City Council candidate whose mother has power over a plan to save several parochial schools, the Daily News has learned.
The donation came a month before DiMarzio and Mayor Bloomberg announced the city plans to convert some struggling Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens into charter schools.
Chapey's mother is a member of the state Board of Regents, which has the power to approve charter schools.
"I guess religion has a place in politics now," said Glenn DiResto, a retired NYPD lieutenant who is running against Chapey in a special election for the Council seat vacated by new state Sen. Joseph Addabbo.
"It creates a suspicion of impropriety. This is politics as usual," DiResto said.
Another candidate, Lew Simon, called the contribution a "conflict of interest."
"I've never seen the church speak out on a candidate before," Simon said.
"You can't make the connection," said DiMarzio, who said he has known Chapey for the past five years. "It doesn't exist."
The donation is actually worth $772, because it qualifies for a $522 match with taxpayer money under Campaign Finance Board rules.
It appears to be the 64-year-old bishop's first donation to any city, state or federal candidate, a search of campaign finance records shows. DiMarzio said he had donated to "very few" candidates "back in New Jersey" but couldn't remember their names.
A search of New Jersey campaign finance and lobbying records did not reveal any donations from DiMarzio.
The plan to convert four Brooklyn and Queens Catholic schools into charter schools is still fluid, but the diocese plans to establish a nonprofit to oversee them. They could no longer offer religious education.
The proposal faces a number of legislative hurdles, and the state would need to pass a law for the plan to go through.
"The bishop is a citizen, and he's participating in the democratic process," said Chapey, a local Democratic district leader. "There was no discussion about charter schools. Absolutely and totally not. N.O. No discussion. That would be evil."
DiMarzio stressed that his donation was made as a private citizen. He said he doesn't expect Chapey to vote along church lines if she's elected."She's not the regent," DiMarzio said. "Her mother is. She is a very good parishioner of the diocese.