May 6th - 12:21 pm
ICYMI, this was today’s morning memo:
Et Tu, Shirley?
Since the revelation that former Bronx Assemblyman Nelson Castro had been working as a double agent for federal prosecutors for almost the entire duration of his four years in office, the most popular political parlor game in Albany has been trying to guess who else might be wearing a wire.
Queens Assemblyman David Weprin even joked to the New York Times that it had become de rigueur upon meeting colleagues to “feel them up and down” – in a joking sort of way, of course.
Little did he know.
Last week, we learned Castro was not alone in his undercover activities. Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, also of Queens, had also been working for the feds after discovering she would be slapped with corruption charges.
It looks like prosecutors hit pay dirt with Huntley – netting a much bigger fish than the one Castro managed to reel in (freshman Assemblyman Eric Stevenson, who is scheduled to be indicted in federal court today).
Former Minority Leader John Sampson turned himself in this morning to the FBI to face corruption charges in connection with a bribery deal that also involved Huntley and his own embezzlement of some $440,000 from the foreclosure sales of four Brooklyn properties for which he was the court-appointed referee.
Court documents reveal that Huntley, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in January, recorded meetings with nine different people, seven of whom were elected officials and two others who had previously worked as a consultant or staff member to a public official.
It turns out that Sampson is the lawmaker identified in those documents as “Senator #1,” who sought help from Huntley for a businessman who was offering bribes in exchange for help to expand his business at Kennedy International Airport, which is in Huntley’s district.
Sampson set up a meeting between Huntley and the businessman, and Huntley subsequently contacted airport authorities on his behalf over the next two months, receiving $1,000 for her efforts. The money was ill spent, however, because despite the bribe, the businessman did not receive a lease for additional space from the Port Authority.
This is not the only incident involving Sampson that has caught the interest of federal investigators. They’re also reportedly looking into the Brooklyn Democrat’s relationship with Edul Ahmad, a Queens real estate broker whom Sampson represented as a client through his legal practice.
Ahmad pleaded guilty in federal court in October to a mortgage fraud scheme and has been the focus of a loan scandal involving Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks.
It’s ironic that Huntley is the one to take Sampson down. Back in 2010, he defended her against LGBT advocates who were furious that he agreed to support her and other Democrats who voted “no” on the gay marriage bill.
At the time, Huntley was facing a primary challenge from gay-marriage supporter Lynn Nunes. Sampson gave Huntley $9,500 from his own campaign cash and tried unsuccessfully to prevent the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s largest LGBT organization, from endorsing Nunes.
Nunes was not successful at ousting Huntley in the September primary. She won roughly 70 percent of the vote in that race.
Unlike with Castro, whom the feds allowed to stand for election three times, knowing all the while he was 1) a crook, and 2) splitting his time between representing his constituents and trying to catch fellow crooked colleagues in the act; Huntley only ran for re-election once, and was defeated in a primary by former NYC Councilman-turned-Sen. James Sanders.
It’s unclear if there will be more charges stemming from Huntley’s work on behalf of the US attorney’s office, but most observers agree this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s certainly bad news for the Senate Democrats, who have been trying to argue since last year’s elections that they are no longer the dysfunctional and trouble-ridden conference of the past.
And it’s especially bad news for those who are close to Sampson and might have something to hide. Sen. Malcolm Smith, the Queens Democrat who replaced Sampson as conference leader during the infamous 2009 coup, is battling his own corruption charges.
But there are one or two others – elected officials and former Senate staffers – who must be pretty darn concerned these days.
May 1st - 12:54 pm
Queens Councilman Dan Halloran, who has been charged with participating in Sen. Malcolm Smith’s scheme to bribe his way into the NYC mayors race, announced this afternoon that he won’t seek re-election this fall so he can devote his time to “clearing my name and restoring my reputation.
“It has been the greatest honor to serve this beautiful district, in which I am proud to have lived my entire life,” Halloran said in a statement.
“For these last four years, our community has been fortunate to have had my incredible Council District 19 staff working hard to resolve issues between the citizenry and their City government. We owe them a great debt. They continue work diligently in the people’s interest, and it saddens me that these dedicated public servants have suffered along with me.”
“Regrettably, I must now focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation, while I continue to discharge my sworn duties as a member of the New York City Council. After much thought, I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign, so I will not to pursue another term in the Council.”
Halloran said he looks forward to his day in court and remains confident that he will be vidicated. He thanked his supporters and said he’ll be “forever grateful” to them.
The corruption charges Halloran faces are not the only scandal he’s dealing with at the moment.
The embattled councilman was recently revealed to have had not one, but two extramarital affairs with young women - one a Council intern and the other his former deputy chief of staff. NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn has taken a zero tolerance approach with Halloran and has ordered an ethics probe into his conduct.
Another former Halloran employee, his ex-Chief of Staff Chrissy Voskerichian, has filed with the city’s Campaign Finance Board to run for his seat this fall. She’s reportedly running as a Democrat. And the Queens GOP has already dumped Halloran from its line, backing attorney Dennis Saffran instead.
Also running as a Democrat is former Cuomo administration aide Austuin Shafran, who released the following statement on Halloran’s announcement:
“Councilman Halloran’s decision to not seek re-election is the right one for the people of our district. They deserve a full-time Councilman who is focused on working for the people of Queens, not his own legal defense. It’s time we put this stunning lack of integrity behind us and rebuild the public’s trust through effective, honest and dedicated service.”
Mar 12th - 2:35 pm
Former Assemblyman Jimmy Meng, the first Asian-American elected to the state Legislature, will serve one month behind bars and pay a $30,000 fine for bribery charges to which he pleaded guilty last year.
Meng, a 69-year-old Queens Democrat, admitted last November that he tried to solicit $80,000 from a businessman under investigation for tax fraud. He was sentenced today in Brooklyn federal court, where he tearfully apologized for the “stupid mistake that I will have to live with for the rest of my life” and said he could not explain his actions.
After he’s released from prison, he’ll serve four months of home detention with an electronic monitoring bracelet and then two years probation during which he must complete 750 hours of community service.
Meng is due to surrender May 3.
Meng was elected to the Assembly in 2004 and served one term before retiring for health reasons. He succeeded by another Asian-American, Ellen Young, who lost the September 2008 primary to Meng’s daughter, Grace Meng.
Grace Meng was elected to Congress last year, and is New York’s first Asian-American member of the House. She was present in the courtroom today.
UPDATE: NY1′s Bobby Cuza, who covered Jimmy Meng’s sentencing, caught up with Grace Meng outside the courtroom and sent the following statement from the congresswoman:
We’re here in support of my father today. He has taken full responsibility for his actions and accepts all the consequences. And our family looks forward to getting on beyond this chapter.”
Feb 7th - 4:23 pm
A panel of seven appellate court judges has unanimously upheld the 2011 conviction of GOP operative John Haggerty of charges related to the theft of $1.1 million worth of Mayor Bloomberg’s money during the billionaire mayor’s third (and final) re-election campaign in 2009.
A refresher: Bloomberg contriubted the cash in question to the state Independence Party, which, in turn, gave it to Haggerty to provide a ballot security program on Election Day. Prosecutors said Haggerty used most of the money – about $750,000 – to purchase his father’s house in Forest Hills, Queens.
In their ruling, which appears below (and starts on page 23), the judges wrote:
“Since the transfer of the money from the Mayor to the Independence Party was the larceny, the evidence also proved defendants’ guilt of money laundering, based on the transfer of the proceeds of the larceny from the Independence Party to the shell corporation.”
“The evidence supports the conclusion that the transfer was designed in whole or in part to ‘conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership or the control of the proceeds’ of the preexisting larceny.”
Haggerty was initially found guilty of second-degree grand larceny and second-degree money laundering by a jury, but received a “not guilty” verdict on the most serious charge against him: First-degree grand larceny.
His sentencing in December 2011 to an aggregate term of one and a third to four years in prison plus with $750,000 in restitution was also upheld by the appellate panel.
Haggerty has remained free while his appeal was pending. During that time, he engaged in some political work, popping up to assist NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich, also a Queens Republican, with his unsuccessful state Senate run last year.
Jan 30th - 3:44 pm
As expected, former Queens Sen. Shirley Huntley has pleaded guilty to a mail fraud charge stemming from her embezzlement over a three-year period of $87,700 from Parents Information Network, Inc. – a nonprofit that received public funds to (ostensibly) help educate parents about the New York City public school system.
According to US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta E. Lynch, Huntley stole the money between October 2005 and October 2008, and falsely certified to the state that the cash would be used, and had been used, to support PIN’s charitable mission.
Instead, Huntley used the money for her own personal benefit and for the benefit of her family members and associates.
“Huntley’s experience and influence were supposed to be used for the benefit of her constituents,” Lynch said. “Instead, Huntley used her knowledge of the system to steal funds intended to help some of her neediest constituents, lining her own pockets at the expense of parents in need, and ultimately their children.”
“She will now be held to account for her crime. This guilty plea underscores our unwavering commitment to hold responsible those who abuse their authority and pursue their own financial interests instead of the public interest.”
Lynch said Huntley ran the nonprofit and controlled its finances. She stole from the organization by writing over $21,000 in checks from the PIN account to herself and a family member.
The former senator used $500 of PIN funds to pay her personal credit card bill and embezzled more than $34,000 from PIN through ATM withdrawals, Lynch said.
Huntley also embezzled funds from PIN by using straw recipients, who posed as legitimate recipients of payments from PIN. She wrote checks for $24,500 to the straw recipients, who cashed the checks and returned substantially all of the funds to Huntley in cash.
In her plea agreement with the government, Huntley agreed to make restitution of $87,700 to the state Department of Education for the funds she embezzled. In addition, Huntley also agreed to make restitution of $1,000 in connection with an unrelated bribery scheme involving a cargo-handling business at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The guilty plea took place before U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein. When sentenced, Huntley faces up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000, in addition to restitution.
A criminal case that was brought against Huntley last summer by AG Eric Schneiderman is still pending in Nassau County Supreme Court.
Huntley, 74, was defeated in last September’s primary by former NYC Councilman-turned-Sen. James Sanders.
Dec 20th - 2:31 pm
The House Ethics Committee announced today it has closed an investigation into Queens Rep. Gregory Meeks’ failure to disclose a $40,000 loan he received in 2007 from a personal friend, Edul Ahmad, after concluding there was insufficient evidence to determine if the loan had constituted an impermissable gift because Ahmad would not cooperate.
Meeks did not reveal the loan in annual disclosure statements filed in 2007, 2008 and 2009. But Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner, an Alabama Republican., and ranking member Linda T. Sánchez, a California Democrat, noted in their joint statement that they could find “no credible evidence that the errors were knowing or willful,” and “unknowing failures to report such items are not uncommon.”
“Such errors and omissions are typically corrected through amendments to Financial Disclosure Statements, and do not involve any fmiher Committee action,” the statement continued.
“Representative Meeks has since corrected the errors and omissions in his Financial Disclosure Statements by his subsequent amendments, which were filed in June 2010. Therefore, no further action by the Committee is warranted.”
Meeks was unable to produce any loan documentation, though he repeatedly insisted that the loan had been “memorialized in writing and had a set repayment schedule and rate of interest.”
He told the committee he finished repaying the sum in June 2010 with an unusually high interest rate of 12.5 percent. Ahmad’s attorney told committee investigators there was no documentation and no interest paid, but he refused to make his client available to testify unless he was granted immunity from criminal prosecution.
The committeed deemed Ahmad’s credibility “high compromised. The real estate broker, who is also close to former Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, pleaded guilty in October to a $50 million mortgage-fraud scheme. He is awaiting sentencing.
Dec 11th - 4:10 pm
And so ends – at least in the short term – the long and twisted tale of Hiram Monserrate.
The former state senator and New York City councilman will spend two years in prison for fraud offenses committed while he was a member of the Council related to his misappropriation of approximately $100,000 taxpayer dollars that he directed to a non-profit organization he controlled to fund his unsuccessful 2006 Senate campaign.
Monserrate was sentenced in Manhattan federal court today US District Judge Colleen McMahon. He pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy this past May.
“Hiram Monserrate helped to underwrite his political ambitions with money that was intended to benefit those in need, and he corrupted his office in the process,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.
“He stands in a long line of recent public officials whose crimes have undermined the public’s confidence in its elected officials. His sentence should serve as a reminder that public officials who break the law will be forced to answer to the public they betrayed, and they will be punished.”
This comes just over four years after the former Queens Democratic lawmaker was sentenced to three years probation, 250 hours of community service and 52 weeks of domestic abuse counseling (in other words, no jail time) after being found guilty on misdemeanor charges of abusing his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo.
That incident led to his expulsion from the state Senate in February 2010 – the first time in nearly a century that the Legislature has forced a member from office, and a move at least one of Monserrate’s allies (the last Amigo standing, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.) maintained was payback for his role in the 2009 Senate coup.
In 2005 and 2006, while he was a sitting councilman, Monserrate directed some $300,000 worth of discretionary funds to a nonprofit called Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment, better known as LIBRE. In 2006, he used approximately $100,000 of that cash to pay LIBRE staffers to work on his primary challenge to then-Sen. John Sabini.
Monserrate narrowly lost the September primary to Sabini that year, but he mounted another challenge to the sitting senator two years later. This time, with Sabini weakened by his poor performance in 2006 and a subsequent drunk driving arrest, the Queens Democratic Party dumped him in favor of Monserrate, who was easily elected in the general election.
In 2010, Monserrate tried to return to the Senate by running in a March special election for his old seat. He was soundly defeated by Sen. Jose Perralta, who has since launched his campaign for Queens borough president in 2013.
“With the sentencing of Hiram Monserrate today, we bring an end to a dark chapter in our community’s history. After Monserrate’s arrest, the people of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst voted overwhelmingly to elect leaders with integrity who will move beyond the corruption and criminal activity of the past.”
“We are a unified team of elected officials, and we will continue to work together to address the urgent problems facing working families, and to restore confidence in the ability of government to get things done and deliver lasting results.”
Dec 4th - 1:07 pm
Sen. Malcolm Smith’s desire to join forces with the Independent Democratic Conference and bolster its members’ effort to form a coalition government with the Republicans makes a lot of sense – from his standpoint, at least.
As I wrote earlier, Smith wants to run for NYC mayor on the GOP line, and helping the Republicans retain some modicum of control (hey, don’t know it, power-sharing is better than being in the minority) will no doubt endear him somewhat to the five county leaders, although whether that will be enough to overcome the star power of former Bronx BP Adolfo Carrion remains to be seen.
Also, even though this alliance forces Smith to let bygones be bygones with a guy who once reportedly tried to oust him from his majority leader post (that would be Sen. Jeff Klein back in 2008 when the leadership struggle No. 1 took place), it could hardly be any worse than being the deposed former majority leader of the Democratic conference where he’s pretty much just a back bencher since losing his power in the 2009 coup.
And it has long been known that Smith has some pretty conservative stances when it comes to unions and education (he’s pro-charter schools, and even once owned a for-profit charter school company).
But what’s in it for the IDC and the Senate Republicans, particularly since Smith comes with some pretty significant political baggage – including his role in the AEG scandal and failed stint as majority leader?
Well, for starters, accepting Smith into their ranks helps alleviate the race issue, although one African American member in an otherwise all-white conference – or, as Assemblyman Karim Camara put it, ”a coalition of (the) Deep South” – doesn’t exactly add up to a Rainbow Coalition.
Also, of course, there’s safety in numbers. So five members gives the IDC more clout than four, and they get to make the argument that they’re growing, even though they failed to add anyone the old-fashioned way on Election Day. (Not for lack of trying).
Worth noting, too, is state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay’s ringing endorsement of the IDC, which he made via an OpEd that’s running tomorrow in The Journal News (the hometown paper of Klein and his fellow IDC member, Sen. David Carlucci).
MacKay is a longtime ally of the Senate Republicans, dating back to the days of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, with whom he was close. Like Bruno’s replacement, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, MacKay is a Long Islander.
Sure, MacKay has endorsed Democrats here and there. But remember that this year, he offered early support to several key members of the GOP conference believed to be in trouble and/or challengers in key races: Sens. Mark Grisanti and Roy McDonald and candidates Bob Cohen and NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich. (Of those four, only Grisanti was successful).
You know who else MacKay is tight with? Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Nov 21st - 3:57 pm
NYC Councilman Jim Gennaro, who has publicly opposed hydrofracking since 2008 (in other words, way before it became cool to be anti-fracking), just released a rather curious statement praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his “diligent science-based approach” to whether the controversial drilling process should be allowed in the Marcellus Shale.
“The Governor has always made it clear in his many public statements on hydrofracking that he would be guided by science and safety, and that the advancement of hydrofracking would not come at the expense of our State’s irreplaceable natural resources,” the Queens Democrat said. “He has lived up to his word and not succumbed to political pressure and artificial timetables. I applaud him for that.”
“It should be noted that the Governor and his environmental and energy resources team are trying to do what has not been accomplished – or even attempted – in other states that have permitted hydrofracking: to regulate hydrofracking such that the gas companies bear the full cost of production of their product, and not have their product “subsidized” by the degradation of the State’s water, air and land resources. Such resources, of course, belong to the current and future generations of New Yorkers, and do not exist merely to increase the gas companies’ bottom line.”
“So I thank Governor Cuomo for being open to the economic, employment and energy benefits that would accrue from safely extracting natural gas from gas-bearing shale formations in New York State, but I am grateful that he has prioritized the health of New Yorkers and the long term protection of the State’s irreplaceable natural resources over a short term energy and economic boost from hydrofracking.”
Gennaro, who has a bachelors degree in geology and environmental science and chairs the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, said as recently as March that Cuomo is “being ill-served by the people who are not being completely true to his good vision” on fracking. He also alluded to the the possibility of lawsuits if and when the DEC gives fracking the green light.
The councilman’s statement comes on the heels of Cuomo’s admission yesterday that there is no way an outside panel would be able to complete its review of the DOH’s public health assessment of fracking by the Nov. 29 deadline, which means there will be another round of public comments and this whole mess is all but certain to drag on into 2013.
One of the experts on the three-person panel told Gannett’s Jon Campbell today that the review should be completed by Dec. 3, though she has an agreement with the state that lasts through February.
Cuomo’s comments drew swift condemnation from fracking supporters, including a statewide landowners coalition, which called the missed Nov. 29 deadline a “breach of faith by our government,” and the New York Post condemned what it deemed ”Andrew’s latest dither.”
Gennaro’s statement, while unlikely to get much play the day before Thanksgiving, perhaps could provide the governor with some cover – at the very least, providing a response to those who are accusing him of stalling on a damned-if-he-does/damned-if-he-doesn’t issue.
Four years ago, Gennaro challenged then GOP-Sen. Frank Padavan and surprised everyone – including the Senate Democrats – by almost knocking the veteran incumbent from his seat. The recount dragged on for weeks, and Gennaro didn’t concede until early February.
He ultimately decided against running again, and his colleague, former Councilman Tony Avella, ended up running against Padavan in 2010 and winning. Avella recently said he’s mulling a run for Queens borough president in 2013, although perhaps he’ll reconsider if the Democrats manage to win back control of the majority.
Former Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who lost the three-way Democratic primary in NY-6 this June to his former colleague and now congresswoman-elect, Grace Meng, announced this week he intends to run for the Council seat Gennaro will be forced to give up at the end of next year due to term limits.
I guess it’s possible that Gennaro is trying to raise his profile in advance of another attempt at a state Senate run. Or maybe he’s just doing a favor for a fellow Queens native, (I’m speaking of Cuomo, of course).
Aug 22nd - 5:21 pm
The New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, which is firmly in the “progressive” camp of the state’s many labor unions, has issued a trio of Assembly endorsements – including a first-time nod for Staten Island Republican Nicole Malliotakis.
HTC political director Josh Gold said the assemblywoman, who is being challenged by Democrat John Mancuso this fall, has family ties to the union and also has made a point of voting on several priority HTC bills.
“The Hotel Trades Council is proud to endorse Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis for re-election,” Gold said. “As the daughter of a Trades Council member with over twenty years experience working in hotels, Nicole understands how to fight for our members and their families. We look forward to sending Nicole back to Albany.”
HTC doesn’t necessarily make a habit of endorsing Republicans, although it did recently back Brooklyn Sen. Marty Golden, who can certainly use all the individual union support he can get after losing the backing of the 2.5-million member AFL-CIO this week.
HTC also announced support for two Democrats:
- Ron Kim, a former aide to Assemblyman-turned-NYC Councilman Mark Weprin who’s running for the seat being vacated by Assemblywoman/NY-6 congressional candidate Grace Meng. Kim has the support of the Queens Democratic Party and is currently an associate at the Parkside Group (a consulting/lobbying firm that also has close ties to the party).
To say that Kim has his work cut out for him in this race is something of an understatement. He’s one of seven candidates vying for Meng’s seat. (Five Democrats, two Republicans). One of his opponents, Yen Chou, just landed the endorsement of the powerful UFT, which, like HTC, is known for being able to deliver a lot of boots on the ground for its preferred candidates.
- Nily Rozic, chief of staff to Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, who is running for the seat being vacated by Assemblyman Rory Lancman, who lost to Meng in the June 26 NY-6 primary and is declining to take advantage of a political calendar loophole that would enable him to seek re-election.
Rozic does not have the Queens Democratic Party’s support. That distinction belongs to Jerry Iannece. She does, however, have the backing of the Working Families Party – a frequent HTC ally – as well as the teamsters and several smaller unions. Also, there was a floor fight at the AFL-CIO this week that denied the federation’s nod to Iannece that had been recommended by the executive committee. Instead, the AFL-CIO went with “no endorsement” in this race.