City Council Scorecard: Two Indictments and an Ongoing Investigation
The City Hall headline for tomorrow will read that a top aide to a Brooklyn councilman, along with another staff member, were indicted in Manhattan federal court for ripping off $145,000 of city grants to a nonprofit group they controlled.
Asquith Reid, chief of staff to councilman Kendall Stewart (D- Flatbush) is charged with embezzlement and witness tampering, facing up to 80 years in prison; Joycinth Anderson, council staff member, faces embezzlement charges as well, and up to 40 years in the clink. As of late Wednesday afternoon, the two had yet to be arraigned. Kendall was not named in the charges.
But the subtext of the crimes—the phantom budget lines that were used to fund the nonprofit group, and whether Council Speaker and likely mayoral candidate Christine Quinn faces any legal jeopardy here—is going to be much more important. Here's what law enforcement officials had to say on that score:
Manhattan United States Attorney Michael Garcia: "The investigation will continue. We are going forward, scrutinizing the process and the money that was allocated, and we will see where that leads. With respect to who is a target and who is not, as in every case, I am not going to comment."
City Investigations commissioner Rose Gill Hearn: The phantom budget holding codes were "intentionally inscrutable... Unfortunately, this practice of using fictitious nonprofits casts a pall on the many legitimate nonprofits that received money via that unscrupulous method. Today's indictment shines sunlight on discretionary funding and the need for total transparency for that public money."
Hearn also commended Quinn for now tackling the issue of the phantom budget lines scandal which broke earlier this month, and said her efforts at reform were "the right thing."
But both investigators refused to give either Quinn or the council's administration an all-clear sign, and their comments suggested that they have a lot more to look at.
Here's Quinn's written statement on another bad day:
"I think as you all know, we've cooperated fully with the US attorney and the Department of Investigation on all of their requests for information and on the investigations that they are conducting. I have full confidence in their ability to conduct this inquiry. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time."