Smith Attorney Out Of Senate As New Allegations Spread
Attorney Joan Flowers was “terminated” from her $145,000 job as Smith’s Senate counsel in what a Senate official says is a “broader Senate transition.”
“She left on her own volition to concentrate on her public practice,” Senate spokesperson Austin Shafrin said.
Flowers, however, is at the center of a number of controversies that have brought her, Smith and Congressman Gregory Meeks under the microscope of both federal and state investigators, the latest of which involves a land deal which Smith allegedly never revealed on his tax forms or his Senate disclosure forms; a deal that brought Smith $500,000, much of it profit.
Flowers has been aligned with Smith for many years.
She served as the former campaign treasurer for both Meeks and Smith.
In 2002, she became one of the founders and a board member of New Directions Local Development Corporation, a non-profit founded by Smith and Meeks to bring development money to the Far Rockaway community.
New Direction has reportedly received at least $56,500 in state taxpayer money and a 2004 donation of $250,000 from a company called International Airport Centers, which successfully sought permission to build an air cargo facility on Rockaway Boulevard, across from John F. Kennedy Airport.
The National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group, says that New Direction did little community development, instead spending large sums on office supplies and consultants.
One of those who received money from the non-profit, according to tax records, was Joan Flowers, who got $37,925 for office supplies in 2005, even though she shared her legal office with the listed address of New Direction.
Records show that Flowers was also involved in setting up NOAH-F, a charity group under the New Direction umbrella that raised more than $35,000 to assist Hurricane Katrina victims who came to New York City. Those records show that less than $2,000 was actually spent for that purpose.
In 2007, when Smith served for a short time as the Senate Majority Leader, he hired Flowers as his counsel.
She remained in that position until last week.
On April 4, the New York Post broke a story alleging that Smith kept to himself the details of a lucrative land deal that grossed $500,000 for two companies that he controlled.
According to the Post, the deal involved Smith and Flowers, both of whom are the subjects of a federal probe into New Direction.
Smith, through his Smith M. Realty Company, acquired two adjoining Queens properties from Flowers and her husband in 1995, the Post wrote.
In 2002, Smith transferred one of the properties to another of his companies. That company took out a $100,000 mortgage on the property from a private lender rather than a bank.
Flowers signed on to the mortgage as a “borrower” for Smith’s company and as the company’s secretary.
Six months later, the Post says, Smith sold the two parcels in Cambria Heights to a developer for $249,500 each. It is unclear whether or not Flowers got any of the proceeds from the sale.
Records show that Smith did not record any capital gains from the sale on his initial 2002 legislative disclosure form, although he later amended the form with a “vague declaration of income” from that company.
Smith’s attorney told reporters that “Smith is an honorable civil servant, a decent human being and a law-abiding citizen.”
By presstime, neither Smith nor Flowers returned calls or emails for comment on this story.