2012-09-07 / Top Stories

Sanders Readies For Primary Day

By Nicholas Briano

In a common sense world, State Senator Shirley Huntley’s indictment last week should gift wrap the State Senate nomination for Councilmember James Sanders Jr. who is contesting the incumbent’s legislative seat in this Thursday’s primary election.

However, in a democracy that’s seen elected officials embattled in corruption scandals actually get reelected, anything’s possible.

Sanders, who has measurable name recognition in the southeast Queens neighborhoods where he has served as a city councilman since 2002, must be confident. Term limited after next year’s citywide election, Sanders is running against Huntley because he felt she was a vulnerable opponent based on her “character” which he predicted would be an issue in this primary election.

As of press time, Huntley still vows not to quit. She will appear on the ballot in an election primary that holds great importance in the heavily Democratic district, where winning the primary more than likely guarantees victory in the general election.

Councilman James Sanders, Jr. Councilman James Sanders, Jr. Technically, it’s too late for Huntley’s name to be physically removed from the September 13 primary, but Sanders wants her to publicly announce plans to drop out anyway. Last week, upon hearing of Huntley’s arrest Sanders held a press conference outside Queens Criminal Courthouse, demanding that she do the right thing by the community and step aside.

“I believe she wants the people of Southeast Queens to have a strong voice in the State Senate,” Sanders said at his press conference late last week. “One who would advocate tirelessly on their behalf, without the distinct distraction of scandal or the difficulties of mounting legal defense. This is why today, with great regret, I am calling upon Sen. Shirley Huntley to take the high road.

Step aside so that a new voice can take over and that you can deal with the legal problems you’re dealing with.”

Huntley was charged last week in connection with a non-profit she helped set up with her niece, into which she later funneled State member item money without any record of how it was spent.

Last year four associates of Huntley, including her niece and her top aide, were indicted on charges of participating in the alleged scheme to pocket taxpayer dollars intended for public services in New York City. Huntley last week pled not guilty to charges of conspiracy and mishandling evidence for her role in the scheme.

As part of what is an ongoing investigation, all of Huntley’s member items, many of which went to legitimate local Broad Channel organizations, will be reviewed, the State Attorney General’s office said this week.

Huntley’s non-profit, Parent Workshop, was set up to conduct workshops that would assist parents of New York City public school students.

According to the indictment, Huntley’s niece, Lynn Smith, is accused of pocketing nearly $30,000 in member item money for programs never instituted at the non-profit.

Huntley’s role in the scheme comes in the form of a backdated letter she drafted in response to an attorney general subpoena that asked for proof that these workshops and programs took place.

The only problem is the $29,950 was never used for workshops because they were never held. Huntley is accused of trying to trick investigators into thinking otherwise through the letter.

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