Handcuffed Senator, 74, Accused of Stealing Taxpayer Money and Public Corruption
A state senator from Queens, NY, Shirley L. Huntley, 74, was accused of participating in a conspiracy and of falsifying records. Allegedly she helped create a phony paper trail and assisted a niece and an aide to steal money from a bogus nonprofit agency she had founded, the N.Y. State Attorney General’s Office declared. The charges were filed by Attorney General Eric Scheiderman.
Ms. Huntley had turned herself in after probers from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapolis’s office began to close in on her charity, Parent Workshop Inc. Handcuffed, she pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Nassau County courtroom last Monday. The court complex is located Mineola, NY, because her nonprofit lists a Nassau County address as its headquarters.
Ms. Huntley, first elected state senator in 2006, is the most-visible defendant in an ongoing investigation into the nonprofit charity Parent Workshop, an agency supposed to help poor parents successfully steer through the New York City school system. Ms. Huntley founded it shortly after being elected.
Instead, the 20-count indictment attests, the sham charity was misusing taxpayer money. It claims that as much as $30,000 was fraudulently stolen and that records and correspondence were faked.
The charges against Ms. Huntley include alleged tampering with evidence and falsifying business records – both felonies, and conspiracy – a misdemeanor. 3 alleged accomplices are also charged: Ms. Huntley’s niece, Lynn Smith, and an aide, Patricia Savage, both officers in Parent Workshop, and a former aide, David Gantt, referred to as a consultant to the organization. The charges against them included alleged theft, grand larceny, and falsifying documents to hide alleged embezzlement.
Ms. Huntley had been the ranking Democrat on the New York Senate’s Committee on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. As a result of the indictment her leadership position and committee ranking were taken away.
Investigators continue to look into whether or not Ms. Huntley received kickbacks, as well as seeking to recover the $30,000. However, the trail of evidence is not clear. A state official remarked: “So many things could have happened with the money.”
The Huntley indictment seems to be the newest mark in a disturbing list of cases of corruption involving New York lawmakers. But as Comptroller DiNapoli said: “In an era where taxpayer money is such a precious and limited resource, there is . . . zero tolerance of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars.”