Conviction leaves Wills’ City Council seat vacant

Conviction leaves Wills’ City Council seat vacant
Former Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) was convicted of grand larceny and faces seven years in prison. This leaves his District 28 seat vacant as five candidates vie to replace him.
Photo by Ellis Kaplan
By Naeisha Rose

With a possible seven-year prison sentence on the horizon and a second trial pending in Manhattan, City Councilman Ruben Wills’ job as a politician is done – at least for now.

This removes the Jamaica Democrat as the incumbent and opens the field to his four challengers in the Democratic primary for the 28th Council District seat, set for Sept. 12.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s (D-Manhattan) office summed up Wills’ current status in the Council with eight words.

“He’s no longer a Council member, effective immediately,” according to a spokeswoman for the speaker.

After having being found guilty of stealing $30,000 in taxpayers’ money from the Campaign Finance Board and a state agency for his own personal use in State Supreme Court last week, Wills will have to fight a charge of “filing false documents with the New York City Conflict of Interest Board,” according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Wills allegedly failed to file annual financial disclosure reports with the COIB to avoid to conflicts between his official duties as a public servant and private interests, the attorney general’s office said.

The Conflict of Interest Board is an independent city agency tasked with preventing ethics violations by public servants, according to nyc.gov.

The disclosure requirement was “enacted to preserve both the perception and reality of integrity in city government,” according to the COIB’s website.

Wills is still on the Campaign Finance Board’s list of candidates and, according to a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, he can appeal the grand larceny charges after his Aug. 10 sentencing on five felony counts. Under Council rules, he is automatically expelled after being sentenced to a felony.

The four Democratic contenders for his seat are Christina Winslow, Hettie Powell, Allan Jennings and Richard David, according to the Campaign Finance Board.

Winslow is a former abuse counselor and now runs a not-for-profit, A Cause, A Concern, A Solution. The organization is a group family child-care program that tries to meet the educational needs of kids in southeast Queens, according to the United Federation of Teachers.

Powell is an attorney who once worked for the Legal Aid Society, according to the CFB.

Jennings was the former councilman for District 28 from 2001 to 2005, but lost a re-election bid to Thomas White Jr., who preceded Wills for the same seat. In 2004, Jennings battled charges of sexual harassment by former aides.

David is a member of Community Board 9, which serves Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, Kew Gardens and Ozone Park.

There is one Republican in the race, Ivan Mossop, an income tax agent at IDM Tax Services and Consulting, according to LinkedIn.

District 28 serves Rochdale Village, South Ozone Park and parts of Jamaica.

Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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