Embattled lawmaker has funding slashed

Embattled lawmaker has funding slashed
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Joe Anuta and Rich Bockmann

Lawmakers kept a promise this week to give out earmarks to nonprofits and schools on behalf of embattled City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), but this year his share of the pot was greatly diminished.

Halloran’s funds were wrested from his control following his April 2 arrest on charges he attempted to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) a spot on the Republican line in the mayor’s race through bribery.

But Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) announced Tuesday he and his Queens compatriots were guided by Halloran’s citizen budgeting process, where residents of the district voted to fund certain capital projects, as they doled out a portion of the cash.

“I was pleased to have had the opportunity to work with my colleagues in the delegation to ensure residents can continue to thrive, and the funds we provided will make sure the quality of life in these communities remains strong,” said Comrie, leader of the borough’s delegation.

For example, Halloran’s constituents voted to fund capital projects at the Poppenhusen Institute and MacNeil Park, and as a result Comrie and the delegation dished out a combined $350,000 to them, while a series of schools received money to upgrade classrooms.

The funding was initially left in limbo following Halloran’s arrest, but Comrie later assured cash-starved nonprofits in the district that he would follow through with voters’ wishes.

Halloran’s discretionary money is divided into two categories. Expense items typically fund operational costs at nonprofits or little leagues, for example, while a separate capital stream funds upgrades to schools or construction projects. Comrie was in charge of the capital side.

This year Halloran’s expense and capital allocations combined fell by about $2.5 million, according to a report by the good government group Citizens Union Foundation.

The lawmaker’s expense funds were cut from about $415,300 last year to some $364,000 this year, putting him dead last out of the 51 members, according to the report.

His capital expenditures were slashed from $4.3 million last year to about $1.8 million over the same period.

The report ranked Halloran’s capital allocations second to last, ahead of only Councilwoman Diane Reyna (D-Ridgewood).

But Reyna’s office disputed the report, indicating her office had received roughly $4 million in capital dollars.

Citizens Union conceded in the document the difficultly in parsing out funds for individual members due to the convoluted bookkeeping practices of the Council.

While Comrie and the delegation adhered to the participatory budgeting process for the capital side, they appeared to have used nearly the same list for expense allocations from last year, aside from a few organizations outside the district and other citywide initiatives, according to an analysis by TimesLedger Newspapers.

Many organizations in the district received less than last year, although a few got a boost, including Quality Services for the Autism Community, where Halloran was recorded offering a cooperating witness with the FBI a no-show job, according to a criminal complaint in his corruption case from Manhattan federal court.

Halloran said he was “grateful” that the funds made their way to his constituents but thought some groups were overlooked when the delegation simply copied the expense list from last year.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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