Sunday, December 28, 2014

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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY1 ItCH: More Headaches For Christine Quinn

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It's got to be a tough morning for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

Not only does a new poll show her stuck in a dogfight with Anthony Weiner in the mayor's race but there's yet another scandal involving City Council spending.

Van Holmes, the head of a Queens non-profit group, was arrested this morning for allegedly spending $88,000 in state and city funds on personal expenses – instead of helping needy teens. Three Council members – and a former Council member who's now a State Senator – are now reportedly being probed by the State Attorney general for allocating at least $38,500 to the group over the last three years.

This is the headache that keeps coming back for Quinn – who dealt with a major slush fund scandal five years ago when it was discovered that the Council was earmarking "member item" money to phony organizations in a bizarre bookkeeping scheme. While Quinn was cleared of any wrongdoing, it was a highly-embarrassing story that made the Council look like it was engaged in Homer Simpson-style budgeting. And As the Wall Street Journal's Michael Saul noted earlier this month: "During Ms. Quinn's tenure as speaker, three council members—Miguel Martinez, Hiram Monserrate and Larry Seabrook—were convicted of misusing discretionary funds and sentenced to prison."

So the arrest of Van Holmes will surely have Quinn's rivals charging that after all these years of problems with member items, why is Christine Quinn still unable to keep her Council in line? Pork is still being doled out to questionable groups – often in an effort by lawmakers to win political points with donors and connected organizations. Sadly, many recipients of member item grants are well-deserving but they are completely overshadowed by scandals like this.

Ultimately, this shows how hard it is to run for mayor while also running the City Council. (Just ask Peter Vallone Sr. or Gifford Miller how their campaigns went.) Overseeing the Council is often like trying to herd 50 crazy cats that didn't get all of their shots at the vet. Quinn – once the frontrunner in the race – has to reach for her aspirin bottle and slog through what could be a very tricky final two months on the campaign trail.

Bob Hardt

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