A Board of Elections (BOE) employee trying to make a quick buck has instead found himself in hot water.
The BOE has suspended Stephen Graves – who is also a top official in the Queens Republican Party – after he was allegedly caught on tape soliciting a $25,000 “finder’s fee” from a company competing for a multi-million dollar contract in 2009.
According to published reports, Graves, who is the first vice chairman of the Queens GOP, requested money from Dominion Voting Systems – a Denver-based company – while it was contending against Nebraska’s Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) for a $65 million contract to sell the city its first electronic voting machines. The Department of Investigation (DOI) reportedly provided information to the BOE regarding Graves’ actions.
Both the BOE and DOI declined to comment, as the investigation is ongoing.
Graves allegedly wanted the fee in return for recommending a particular lobbyist to Dominion.
Dominion denied Graves’ request, however, and the contract went to ES&S.
Attempts to reach Graves were unsuccessful, but reports claimed he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights while being questioned by DOI.
Dominion officials reportedly filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and submitted their recorded conversations with Graves. The matter has now been brought to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, according to the accounts.
Attempts to reach Dominion went unreturned as of press time.
Graves, who also was the GOP candidate for Congress against Gary Ackerman in 2004, has reportedly been a systems analyst at the BOE since 2007.
Phil Ragusa, chair of the Queens Republican GOP, would not comment on the charges, but called Graves “absolutely honest” in his work.
“His work was always exemplary for the Queens County Republican Party,” Ragusa said.
Republican Councilmember Eric Ulrich admitted he was not surprised by the news, and expressed disapproval of both Graves’ actions and Ragusa’s stance.
“I was appalled, but not shocked, by the revelations about Queens GOP Vice-Chair Stephen Graves and his shameful attempt to ‘shakedown’ a vendor trying to sell the city new voting machines,” Ulrich said. “For Phil Ragusa, as head of the county organization, to defend Graves as ‘honest’ even after Graves refused to cooperate fully with the DOI is a slap in the face to the rank and file members of the Republican Party.”