By Steve Mosco
As federal agents led outspoken City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) out of his home in handcuffs early Tuesday, he reportedly remarked that he “had no idea” why he was being arrested.
But soon enough everyone, including Halloran, would learn why the government came calling so early in the morning. The councilman was charged in a bribery scheme to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) onto the Republican ticket in the race for mayor and both were nabbed amid revelations of alleged kickbacks centering around the senator’s desire for the mayor’s office.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, Halloran envisioned himself as the deputy police commissioner or deputy mayor in Smith’s administration, and the councilman was charged with corruption, bribery and several counts of fraud. He and Smith both face a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Many considered Halloran a controversial elected official before any bribery charges were levied against him. First elected to the Council in 2009, Halloran had been known to practice Theodism, a pre-Christian pagan religion, but the councilman largely played down his heathen background during that election, with Halloran stating at the time he had always believed in God and was raised in a traditional Irish Catholic family.
His time as councilman has featured surprising revelations. After a massive storm dumped close to 20 inches of snow on the city in December 2010, Halloran contended that city Sanitation Department supervisors called for a deliberate work slowdown in order to put Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a bad light.
And just last month, Halloran revisited the controversy and said the mayor had taken his remarks out of context.
“At the time, my statements were unfortunately distorted into criticism for the hardworking DSNY employees and I was wrong to not fight more forcefully to clear up the record,” Halloran said in March.
In June 2011 the city Department of Investigation issued a report saying their interviews with more than 150 witnesses had found no basis for Halloran’s slowdown claims.
Halloran’s record in law and order goes back to his pre-Council days, when he was a partner at Queens and Long Island law firm Palmieri, Castiglione & Halloran. And while some news reports said Halloran claimed to be a former NYPD officer, police spokesman Paul Browne said the councilman was merely a cadet in the early 1990s, a fact the councilman has stated on numerous occasions in his press releases and interviews.
Halloran’s arrest is the latest in some recent bad news for the councilman. Halloran, who is involved in a personal bankruptcy case, is struggling with thousands of dollars in debt. According to the criminal complaint, Halloran needed the alleged bribe money to pay for his mortgage.
And although Halloran owed money to the Campaign Finance Board for his 2009 Council race, both the board and Halloran’s spokesman said Tuesday those questions had been resolved.
“Fines were assessed which have been paid, because they were simply deducted from the matching funds that were owed to the campaign,” said Kevin Ryan, Halloran’s spokesman. “The councilman’s opponent did not disclose all his spending in the 2009 race, which delayed a full accounting and meant that the Halloran campaign did not receive all the matching funds to which it was entitled. There were also some administrative oversights. All of this led to some late filing, for which there were some penalties. But it was all cleared up and that race is now laid to rest.”
Halloran, who had a brain tumor removed last year, stands to lose the power to allocate cash during the remainder of his tenure as councilman. Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said next week the full Council will vote to strip Halloran of all committee assignments and to remove his power to make any funding allocations in his district.
Quinn’s office will handle the funding for his district with the head of the Queens delegation.
Prior to his arrest, Halloran was one of eight Council members to join in a fund allocation process known as participatory budgeting, where constituents decide and vote on how to spend a large portion of the discretionary funds. Ryan said the councilman remains a part of this program and balloting would go on as planned through Saturday.
“If the allegations against Sen. Smith and Council member Halloran are true, they represent an outrageous abdication of the public trust and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Quinn said.
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.