By Howard Koplowitz
Queens Republican Party Chairman Phil Ragusa said he tried to dissuade Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s re-election campaign last year from dealing with GOP operative and Forest Hills resident John Haggerty Jr., who was indicted earlier this month on allegations he stole $1.1 million of the mayor’s money and lied to Bloomberg that the money would go to poll watching and ballot security operations.
“I warned Bloomberg before this happened,” Ragusa said in a phone interview Monday, saying he was “saddened and surprised” by the indictment against Haggerty, who along with brother Bart have been warring with Ragusa over control of the Queens GOP.
Ragusa said he did not want to take satisfaction from the indictment against his rival.
“I don’t want to revel in someone else’s problems if he did it, and the evidence seems overwhelming … he’s going to have his day in court, right?” Ragusa said.
Ragusa said he and Haggerty worked together under former Queens GOP Chairwoman Fran Werner, who led the borough party in the 1990s before former state Sen. Serphin Maltese did.
Haggerty said he needed the $1.1 million — funneled to him from Bloomberg through the Independence Party — for poll watching and ballot security, but Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said $600,000 of those funds were spent to buy the Forest Hills Gardens home from the estate of Haggerty’s father, John Haggerty, Sr., who was a chairman of the Conservative Party.
John Haggerty got his start in politics from his father and was former Gov. George Pataki’s director of legislative affairs. More recently, he has been working on the campaign of Republican gubernatorial hopeful and Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino. The Paladino campaign said it is sticking by Haggerty.
Ragusa said he did not understand why Bloomberg would choose Haggerty to run campaign activities.
“I am the chairman of Queens,” he said. “They should’ve run the campaign through the different counties, not through political operatives. We never saw any of Bloomberg’s people out on the street. He should have come to us and let the Haggertys go someplace else.”
The Queens GOP chairman said the Haggertys have made repeated attempts to control the borough party through the legal system.
“They’ve always tried to sue us and each time the courts threw the suits out,” Ragusa said.
Bart and John Haggerty also made attempts to wrest control of the Queens GOP from Maltese when they claimed that improper weighted voting was used to elect Maltese to he chairmanship in 2005, but the courts sided with Maltese.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.