Councilmember Richards refuses bribe to support liquor store near Springfield Gardens school

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

A would-be business owner was recently busted for attempting to bribe a southeast Queens pol, according to officials.

Tarsem Singh applied to open a liquor store on North Conduit Avenue, right across the street from Springfield Gardens High School. The proposal was heavily opposed by Councilmember Donovan Richards and the Springfield Gardens community.

“Our children need to come outside their school and see something of the beauty that represents this community,” Richards said outside the proposed location at a May press conference.

A source confirmed Richards as the subject of Singh’s bribe attempt. The two met in June, along with Singh’s business associate, to discuss Richards’ opposition.

The meeting was captured on a security camera, and Singh was caught trying to pass cash to Richards, according to the Department of Investigation (DOI).

That same day, Richards reported the incident and the DOI began its investigation.

“Our communities and children aren’t for sale,” Richards said.

Throughout the investigation, undercover agents met with Singh and associates Davinder Singh and Rajinder Singh. The three offered agents $2,500 in exchange for the councilmember’s support, which was to be the subject of an upcoming hearing before the State Liquor Authority.

Before the hearing, Davinder texted the undercover investigator and said, “Call the Liquor Authority. We are counting on you,” according to the DOI.

Davinder and Rajinder, both of Ozone Park, were arrested on Friday, September 13. They are charged with bribery, a felony, and giving unlawful gratuities, said the DOI.

DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said the councilmember’s “prompt report allowed the DOI to investigate swiftly and shut down the scheme.”

“When I was elected, I promised my constituents that I would carry myself with the utmost integrity and that I would do whatever was needed to protect our quality of life,” Richards said.

This is the second time in four months that a City Councilmember reported a bribe offer to the DOI, said Hearn.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer received a bribe offer in April. He too rejected the offer and reported the incident to the DOI.

“Clearly, the good news is that there are public officials unwilling to sell their offices,” Hearn said.