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City councilwoman says Jennings threatened her

By Courtney Dentch

Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D-Brooklyn) reported that Jennings (D-Jamaica) made the threat in a conversation earlier this month, when he read a Biblical passage from Psalms, according to a council memo written by Forrest Taylor, chief of staff for Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan). The memo, dated Feb. 12, was addressed to members of the Standards and Ethics Committee, said Alexa Hinton, a council spokeswoman.

Jennings' chief of staff, Joe Culina, declined to comment on the incident. Gonzalez refused to comment as well.

The memo said Jennings read the First Psalm to Gonzalez, and it was believed to be a response to comments Gonzalez made at a Jan. 21 council meeting when Jennings was stripped of his chairmanship on the Civil Service and Labor Committee. Gonzalez sits on the committee and was one of about seven lawmakers who spoke against Jennings.

“Based upon the language of the passage itself and the way it was read to her, Council Member Gonzalez believed that Council Member Jennings was making a personal threat,” the memo read.

The portion of the First Psalm that Jennings read ends with the phrase, “but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Jennings has been accused of forcing female staffers to clean his house on mornings when they picked him up. The unidentified women, who no longer work for Jennings, also said he made sexual jokes and gave one woman a Caribbean doll with a giant phallus after returning from a trip there.

Jennings has denied the allegations.

One of the women charged that he fired her when she rejected his romantic overture.

Both the city Department of Investigations and an outside arbitration firm are looking into the charges.

And while Jennings said the loss of his chairmanship was a political attack related to the charges, critics have said the Civil Service and Labor Committee has languished over the past two years under his leadership. One committee meeting last year had to be postponed because no witnesses were scheduled to testify, a problem Jennings blamed on Speaker Gifford Miller's (D-Manhattan) staff.

Jennings also came under fire when he released personal information on undercover police officers assigned to desk jobs at a committee hearing he was chairing.

Jennings has earned a reputation as a maverick in the City Council. The councilman has clashed with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Miller over the past two years, most notably when he voted against the negotiated 18.5 percent property tax increase in 2002. After the vote, Bloomberg's office withheld Jennings' parking permit and the Council voted in February to remove him from the Finance Committee, moves Jennings called retribution.

Early last year Jennings took out half-page ads in Chinese-language newspapers proclaiming his appreciation for the Chinese community and highlighting his personal relationships with two women.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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