PUBLISHED : TUES, 29 JUL 2014, 09:36 PM
UPDATED : MON, 04 AUG 2014, 11:05 AM
Amongst the charges for which former Councilmember Halloran was found guilty was plotting to funnel $80,000 in City Council slush funds as bribes to others
Controversy over City Council slush funds continue under the new Council speaker, Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito
Former New York City Councilmember Daniel Halloran was found guilty today by a jury, concluding a federal trial for corruption charges stemming from his arrest for participating in a scheme to buy the GOP ballot line for State Sen. Malcom Smith, a wannabe mayoral candidate in last year's municipal elections.
Former Councilmember Halloran's accepted money in what was described as a bribe for his role in the corruption scheme. In exchange, he had pledged, in part, to use $80,000 in City Council slush funds for further bribes in this corruption scheme. Former Councilmember Halloran had planned to funnel the $80,000 from the monies awarded to him by the City Council speaker, who, at her discretion, awards member items to Councilmembers for further payment to various nonprofit groups. The practice of distributing member items from the speaker's discretionary fund has been a historical source of corruption in the City Council. Government reform activists also see the use of these slush funds as ways to keep community groups locked up in proverbial "veal pens," preventing, for example, some community groups, such as VOCAL-New York, from pressing for a complete overhaul to end corruption at the New York Police Department.
Previously, three Councilmembers : Larry Seabrook, Hiram Monserrate, and Miguel Martinez, and two former council staffers of then Councilman Kendall Stewart : Asquith Reid and Joycinth Anderson, have been charged in connection with corruption related to the slush fund scandal.
After former Councilmember Halloran's arrest, his slice of the slush funds came under review by former Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who was once the target of a federal investigation into her own, larger slush fund scandal. After the outcome of last year's municipal elections, former Speaker Quinn was succeeded by Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker. Speaker Mark-Viverito had promised to reform the politically-corrupt process of doling out the Council's slush funds. However, this year, Speaker Mark-Viverito sparked controversy when she was caught allocating millions of dollars in slush funds to a charity group founded by one of her key campaign consultants. This year's allocation of slush funds were further complicated when Councilmember Ruben Wills was arrested on unrelated corruption charges. Councilmember Wills' cut of this year's slush funds were reportedly to be divided up amongst groups in his Council district at the direction of Speaker Mark-Viverito's office and other Councilmembers of the Queens delegation, Capital New York reported.
As the U.S. Attorney for New York's southern district, Preet Bharara, continues his campaign to prosecute government corruption cases, former Councilmember Halloran's conviction shows voters that federal prosecutors know where to keep looking : at the role that the Council's slush funds plays in elected officials' machinations to "sell out their offices."
How many more Councilmembers and their staff must be ensnared in corruption cases by federal prosecutors before the Council's slush funds are either reformed with true integrity or ended entirely ?