Christine Quinn’s ‘slush fund’ legal troubles under scrutiny

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn speaking at the announcement of the FY14 budget. Credit: nyc.gov
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn speaking at the announcement of the FY14 budget. Credit: nyc.gov

Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign is calling on opposing mayoral candidate City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to release legal documents from a federal investigation into the City Council around five years ago.

The slush fund scandal was revealed in news reports in 2008 alleging city funds were being allocated to nonexistent “phony charities” and then rerouted to groups favored by City Council members to curry political support. The speaker was accused of using the budget to reward allies and punish opponents.

A federal investigation into the City Council entailed a taxpayer-funded legal defense and Thompson’s campaign said some accounts tallied the legal cost at over $500,000 in city funds to defend the council.

The issue of taxpayer-funded defense of political officials under investigation has been a recurring one recently, particularly in the State Assembly, where Speaker Sheldon Silver has come under criticism for using taxpayer funds to defend himself and the Assembly against female staffers accusing him and the Assembly at large of facilitating their alleged sexual harassment by Vito Lopez. The staffers say that if Silver had not used taxpayer money to provide a settlement to two earlier accusers, and instead referred the sexual harassment allegation to the Ethics Committee, Lopez would not have been able to victimize other staffers after those early reports.

Quinn is apparently refusing to release records involved in the federal investigation, so the Thompson campaign has started an online petition urging New Yorkers to join them in calling for the documents to be released.

The Thompson campaign provided emails sent following up on a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request submitted in April of this year. They were apparently told they would receive a response on July 12 but as of July 15 they were told documents were still being “actively compiled.”

Thompson campaign said “hundreds” of people have signed their petition. They are now also highlighting political donations Quinn’s campaign received from the law firm paid to review documents and defend the Council five years ago.

The Quinn campaign accused Thompson of using the FOIL request to divert attention from a recent report that called into question his own record.

“This is a transparent attempt by Bill Thompson to avoid addressing a damning report yesterday that uncovered he was warned by the inspector general to stop using funds from the Battery Park City Authority to dole out favors to campaign contributors,” said Quinn spokesman Mike Morey.

According to Morey, Thompson “continued to do so anyway.”

“Instead of attacking his opponent in this race, he should disclose why he gave out this money against the advice of the inspector general,” Morey suggested.

Morey also noted that Quinn “disclosed everything five years ago.”

The Post noted in April, ahead of the Thompson campaign’s FOIL request, that Quinn had been cleared of all wrongdoing, though the investigation into the Council at large continues and defense is still being funded by taxpayer money. A council source reportedly told the New York Post money was spent on the trial of former Councilman Larry Seabrook, who was sentenced in January to five years in prison for stealing taxpayer money.

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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