State AG Busts Huntley
The other shoe dropped for State Senator Shirley Huntley, 74, on Monday as the politician, who is set to represent most of the east end of Rockaway in 2013 and who is facing a primary challenge for her reelection bid, surrendered to representatives of the New York State Attorney General in Nassau County.
In December of last year, several of Huntley’s associates were indicted in connection with the misuse of public money in connection with a non-profit that was supposed to help public school parents navigate the Department of Education morass.
At the time, a spokesperson for State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman told The Wave that further arrests would be forthcoming and that Huntley was still under investigation.
Huntley arrived at the Nassau County courthouse in Mineola to face charges related to her stewardship of Parent Workshop, Inc., a non-profit set up by Huntley that then funneled public money to a relative and to several associates.
Huntley, along with consultant David R. Gantt and Senate aide Patricia D. Savage, were led out of the courthouse in handcuffs. Supporters, some carrying signs urging Huntley’s reelection, cheered them on as they were taken to a nearby precinct to be processed before facing a judge on Monday afternoon.
Huntley pled not guilty to charges of conspiracy and mishandling evidence.
At that hearing, Huntley was released on her own recognizance and then stepped outside to address supporters.
After the indictment, Schneiderman said in a prepared statement, “As part of their Joint Task Force on Public Integrity, the Offices of the Attorney General and Comptroller investigated Parent Workshop, Inc., a not-for-profit founded by Senator Huntley, which funneled public money to the senator’s aide, Patricia D. Savage, and to the senator’s niece, Lynn H. Smith. According to the indictment, Savage and Smith submitted fraudulent documents to the State of New York to obtain public money from a legislative member item Senator Huntley sponsored. Instead of providing the promised programs, Savage and Smith pocketed approximately $29,950. “The investigation revealed that, after learning of the probe, Senator Huntley personally wrote a template for a false, backdated letter designed to fool investigators into believing that the Parent Workshop had conducted workshops that never took place. Parent Workshop then submitted this letter to the Attorney General’s Office in response to a subpoena.”
Huntley is charged with the felonies of Tampering with Physical Evidence and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, a misdemeanor. Each felony carries a maximum sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison. Under the New York State Public Officers Law, conviction of a felony would result in Huntley’s automatic removal from office.
Her arrest comes months after damning reports revealed that her ties to nonprofits allegedly cost taxpayers more than $400,000.
The Wave first reported last year that Huntley, who presently represents Broad Channel in the Senate, tried to direct $155,000 to her nonprofit.
In December of last year, four close associates of Huntley, including her niece and her top aide, were indicted on charges of participating in a scheme to pocket taxpayer dollars intended for public services in New York City.
“Falsifying documents, conspiracy and deliberately tampering with an open investigation are serious crimes. The individuals who schemed to profit at the taxpayers’ expense and cover it up will be held accountable,” Schneiderman said. “My office’s partnership with the Comptroller is designed to combat corruption in the public sector, and we will continue to work tirelessly to protect every penny of taxpayer money.”
“Public service is a privilege and a trust that should never be violated,” Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said. “I will continue to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman to root out public corruption and safeguard the use of public funds.”
The indictment charges Savage, president of Parent Workshop and Senator Huntley’s aide, and Smith, the treasurer of Parent Workshop and Senator Huntley’s niece, with engaging in a fraudulent scheme to steal member item funds. The defendants falsely claimed that Parent Workshop would use member item funds secured by Senator Huntley to hold workshops for and conduct outreach to parents on the workings of the New York City public school system.
Instead, the new indictment charges that Savage and Smith never intended to hold any such events and that they falsely asserted in multiple submissions to the New York State Department of State that, from April 2008 through March 2009, the Parent Workshop had held workshops and conducted outreach, when no such workshops were ever held and no such outreach was ever conducted. Based on these submissions, the Department of State paid Parent Workshop $29,950 – the sum the two defendants are charged with stealing. Savage and Smith are each charged with multiple felony counts of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree. The maximum sentence for one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree is 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison.
The indictment also charges that Senator Huntley, Savage and defendant David R. Gantt conspired to create and submit false evidence, in response to a subpoena issued to Parent Workshop by the Attorney General’s Office. One piece of that false evidence was a handwritten letter drafted by Senator Huntley that served as a template for a falsified, backdated letter from the Southern Queens Park Association (SQPA), a separate not-for-profit corporation located in Queens. The SQPA letter was falsified to make it appear as if Parent Workshop had conducted workshops when, in fact, it did not.
The superseding indictment also charges that defendant David R. Gantt falsified records to claim that he was paid in cash for conducting workshops as a consultant. The indictment further charges that he, in fact, never conducted any workshops. Gantt is charged with four counts of Tampering with Physical Evidence, four counts of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree and one count of Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree.
Huntley told reporters at her Friday press conference last week that she was not worried about the charges and was sure that she would be vindicated.
Huntley’s attorney, Sally Butler, pointed out that it is unusual for an indictment to be brought just prior to an election.
“Senator Huntley maintains her innocence and believes in our judicial system, and will be exonerated,” Butler said. “The fact that this came out weeks before the primary election is no coincidence.”
Senate Democratic Leader John Sampson said that, as a result of the indictment, he has removed Huntley from her committee leadership positions, effective immediately.
Huntley faces City Councilman James Sanders Jr. and activist Jian Jones in a Democratic primary.