City Council

Ex-Councilman Halloran Guilty On All Five Counts

A jury today found ex-Queens Councilman Dan Halloran guilty on all five counts of the corruption charges he faced stemming in part from his role in a bribery scheme to sell the GOP line in the 2013 NYC mayoral primary.

US Attorney Preet Bharara issued the following statement:

“With today’s verdict of guilty reached by an impartial and independent jury, the clean-up of corruption in New York continues in courtrooms. As the jury unanimously found, Daniel Halloran played a key role in two distinct political corruption schemes: first, for $20,000, Halloran was willing and able to serve as a go-between to deliver bribes to political party officials, and second he also took nearly $25,000 in cash and illegal campaign contributions to steer $80,000 in City Council money to other bribe payers.”

“Dan Halloran was the lone defendant in the trial that just ended in his conviction, but he is unfortunately not alone in a crowded field of New York officials who are willing to sell out their offices for self-enrichment.”

“This Office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption to secure for the people of New York – regardless of party affiliation – what they deserve: the honest labors of their elected representatives. And we will continue to partner with the FBI, whose outstanding investigative work in this case was instrumental to achieving a just result.”

Halloran, a Republican, was charged with taking more than $20,000 in payoffs from two undercover FBI operatives posing as corrupt developers in exchange for agreeing to funnel public cash to them and to help bribe Republican NYC county leaders to allow Democratic Sen. Malcolm Smith, also of Queens, to run Row B in the party’s mayoral primary.

(That race was eventually won by former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, who lost the general election in a landslide to the winner of the Democratic primary, current NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio).

Testifying in his own defense, Halloran admitted taking the cash, but said he considered the money payment for consulting services and never procured any public funds for the real estate developers/FBI agents.

Originally, Halloran and Smith were once co-defendants, along with former Queens GOP official Vince Tabone. But attorneys for Smith and Tabone opted to accept a mistrial due to a procedural error having to do with Yiddish phone recordings, while Halloran’s attorney decided to proceed as scheduled.

Smith and Tabone will be re-tried in January, and today’s verdict perhaps is not the best omen for them. In the meantime, Smith is seeking re-election, though he has been cast out from both the Democratic Senate conference (which he once led) and the IDC.

Cuomo Provides Soft Landing For Ex-Bloomberg Aides, Queens Councilman

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is again providing a professional home for former Bloomberg administration aides and an ex-NYC Councilman who was term limited out of office last year and lost his bid for another elected post.

The governor announced four new hires this afternoon, one of which is his fellow Queens native Peter Vallone Jr., who served as on the NYC Council from 2002 to 2013 and chaired the Public Safety Committee. Vallone, a member of a dynastic political family, lost the Democratic primary for Queens borough president last fall to his one-time Council colleague, Melinda Katz.

In his new post with the Cuomo administration, Vallone will serve as a special assistant assigned to the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. It’s not clear how long this new gig will last for Vallone, who has made no secret of his desire to one day return to public office – preferably to the Queens DA’s job.

Cuomo also hired two former Bloombeg administration staffers: Kevin Kelly, who had served as deputy commissioner of NYC Business under the former mayor, will be COO of New York State Homes and Community Renewal; and Jamal Othman, who was chief of staff in the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs will now be deputy director of the state Division of Veterans’ Affairs.

Also, Nora Yates, who was an Empire State Fellow in the executive chamber, has been hired as deputy director of the Community, Opportunity & Reinvestment (“CORe”) initiative, which Cuomo launched in his 2013 State of the State address.

Salaries for these new hires were not immediately available.

This is hardly the first time Cuomo has hired former NYC Council members or former Bloomberg staffers. The most recent addition came in January, when Cuomo named former Councilman Jim Gennaro, also of Queens, to a new position at the DEC.

Garodnick Concedes NYC Council Speaker Race To Mark-Viverito

The NYC Council meeting at which a new speaker will be selected is underway and being streamed live here. But the outcome of that vote is already clear, as Councilman Dan Garodnick issued a last-minute statement conceding the race to his fellow Democrat, Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.

This is an historic moment, as Mark-Viverito will be the first Latina to hold the speakership. She will succeed former Councilwoman Christine Quinn, who was the first woman and first openly gay speaker. Quinn was long the Democratic frontrunner in last year’s New York City mayor’s race, but she lost the September primary to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Mark-Viverito’s win is also a victory for de Blasio, who made it clear that she was his choice in the speaker contest. This drew criticism – including from the New York Times, which endorsed Garodnick – that perhaps Mark-Viverito would not be sufficiently independent from the new mayor.

It’s also a loss for several of the city’s Democratic county chairs – especially Rep. Joe Crowley, who heads the Queens organization. Crowley was reportedly working hard into the final hours of this race to put together the votes for Grodnick. But in the end, Garodnick’s allies could not overcome the early lead announced by Mark-Viverito, and the work she and her allies – most notably de Blasio – did to keep the 30 Council members who pledged their support to her in her camp.

Here’s Garodnick’s statement:

“Over a year ago, I offered myself as a candidate to be Speaker of the City Council because I believed I could offer progressive leadership and independence to a body to which I am deeply committed. In the intervening months, I have enjoyed spending time in the districts of many of my colleagues getting to know their concerns and their own visions for the future,” Garodnick said.

“Three weeks ago, I decided to remain a candidate notwithstanding long odds because I felt it was important that every Council Member be given a full opportunity to consider who they wanted to lead the body. Today that process comes to a conclusion, and in the spirit of strengthening the Council, which animated my candidacy from the start, I now formally concede to the next Speaker of the City Council – my colleague Melissa Mark-Viverito.”

“I look forward to working with Speaker Mark-Viverito and to helping her to ensure that we can deliver a sound and responsible government for all New Yorkers. She is a smart and committed public servant, and we have worked extremely well together in the past. I look forward to supporting her work as Speaker during the course of this term. I will do my part to resolve any rifts this process may have caused among our colleagues, and am here to take any steps necessary to help move forward together.

Cuomo Hires NYC Councilwoman

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been on a bit of a hiring spree lately, finally getting around to replacing some of the holdovers from previous administrations. His latest hire is NYC Councilwoman Helen Foster, a Bronx Democrat who is about to be out of a job at the end of the year, thanks to term limits.

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Cuomo announced today that he has tapped Foster to serve as commissioner of the State Division of Human Rights. Pending state Senate confirmation, she’ll be the acting commissioner. She’s replacing Galen Kirkland, a holdover from the Paterson administration.

Foster’s appointment needs to be confirmed by the state Senate, which means that barring any return to Albany by the Legislature, which is not expected at this point, she won’t offically be commissioner until January. She resigned from her Council seat effective today, according to the governor’s office.

Foster’s salary, which is set by statute, will be $109,800.

Foster was elected to the Council in 2001. She was the first African-American woman from the Bronx to be elected to a city office.  She replaced her father, Wendell Foster, who became the first black person elected to city office from the Bronx in 1978. He held his seat until he was forced out by term limits.

During her time on the Council, Foster was perhaps best known (rather dubiously) for having the worst attendance record of all her colleagues. She missed 56 council meetings out of 142 she was scheduled to attend in Fiscal Year 2013, although most of those were committee meetings. Also, as of August, Foster hadn’t been the primary sponsor of a single bill passed into law since March 2010.

Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson won a seven-way Democratic primary to replace Foster earlier this month.  Her victory maintains a traditionally “black seat” ni an increasingly Latino-dominated district.

Quinn To Halloran: Consider Resigning

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn doesn’t think scandal-scarred Councilman Dan Halloran’s decision not to seek re-election this fall goes far enough, and is urging the Queens Republican to consider giving up his seat altogether.

“I urge Council Member Halloran to think hard about whether he should go further and step down immediately,” the speaker and Democratic NYC mayoral frontrunner said in a statement released late this afternoon.

“The constituents of Dan Halloran’s district deserve to have a Council Member who is full time, 100 percent focused on representing them. Clearly, with the outrageously unacceptable allegations that are pending, both as they relate to the federal indictment and to recent allegations of sexual harassment, he is far from 100 percent focused on his constituents.”

Through a spokesperson, Halloran indicated earlier today that he has no intention of resigning.

Quinn’s tough talk is no surprise. She has been publicly lambasting Halloran for days now and ordered an ethics probe into his extramarital affairs with two young women – one a Council intern, the other his former deputy chief of staff.

But the speaker’s zero tolerance approach has not shielded her from criticism from her mayoral rivals, who have used Halloran’s corruption scandal to recall the slush fund mess that occurred on Quinn’s watch.