The NY Post broke the story this morning as I sat tediously in the jury waiting room at 111 Centre St. Apparently they don't like blogger, and my access was denied. It seems like every week we get a brand new story of political corruption in New York, whether its in the city or up in Albany. Turns out the Speaker's office has been hiding money from the budget to be given out as a slush fund to those that play along with her agenda. To be fair though, her aides have said this practice goes back twenty years, so at least she isn't the first.
From The NY Post:
April 3, 2008 -- City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office hid millions of taxpayer dollars by allocating grants to phantom organizations as a way of holding the funds to dole out political favors later - bogus bookkeeping that is the subject of city and federal probes, The Post has learned.
Among the dozens of fabricated groups that were slated to receive funds were the "Immigration Improvement Project of New York" ($300,000), the "Coalition for a Strong Special Education" ($400,000) and the "American Association of Concerned Veterans" ($422,763).
The total amount set aside in 2007 and 2008 for the fake organizations - which are each listed by name in the city budget after being inserted at the council's request - was $4.7 million. In the two years, 30 phantom groups were listed, council aides confirmed.
It doesn't look good and the authorities are looking at just how bad it is. However, Speaker Quinn did give an interview to the paper yesterday and tried to explain her side of things:
In the interview, Quinn, who plans to run for mayor next year and has made "transparency" in budgeting one of her pet causes, admitted she knew some funds were being held in reserve, but learned only several months ago they had been allocated to sham organizations.
Quinn said she ordered that the shady practice be abolished and only recently discovered her staff had not complied.
"I was kind of sick over the fact that there were things listed in the budget that were not accurate and that my instructions to the staff were disregarded," Quinn told The Post.
When she learned several months ago that the practice had continued, Quinn said she turned over information about the bogus bookkeeping to "appropriate authorities," including the city Department of Investigation and the Manhattan US Attorney's Office.
If she talked to the Manhattan DA about it then it at least shows she tried to fix the problem, though why it took several months to do, that is a question she should be answering. The statement that her staff ignored her request to stop also sounds a little too good to be true, at least for me. Maybe I'm just a little bit of a cynic but hey, this is New York.
Regardless of how the facts are splayed out, this can't be good news for Quinn's run for Mayor next year, especially with her appeals for good government and transparency.