Former councilman pursuing $10 million lawsuit against city

Former councilman pursuing $10 million lawsuit against city
Former Councilman Ruben Wills pled guilty for filing a false disclosure with the city’s Conflict of Interest Board.
Photo by Ellis Kaplan
Naeisha Rose

Convicted former Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), who pleaded guilty to filing a false disclosure with the city’s Conflict of Interest Board Nov. 14, is also pursuing a lawsuit against the city for $10 million.

Wills admitted he knowingly filed a false annual financial disclosure report with the board and intentionally failed to disclose personal loans made to him in 2012, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

It is an ethics violation to conceal financial dealings as a public servant required to file a financial disclosure form.

This class A misdemeanor comes just three months after Wills was found guilty of five felony counts for stealing public funds from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the New York City Campaign Finance Board, crimes for which he was sentenced to two to six years in prison.

“New Yorkers trust that their elected officials will serve with integrity. Again and again, Ruben Wills violated that trust – stealing taxpayer dollars to line his own pockets and filing false documents to hide his financial dealings,” Schneiderman said. “No public servant is above the law, and we’ll continue to root out and prosecute public corruption across New York.”

Not only is Wills already serving time for his prior crimes, but he also has to pay $35,000 in restitution and fines, according to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

During his stay in prison at Rikers Island over the summer on the grand larceny charges, Wills claimed to have been mistreated and denied medical care for a chronic condition due to a botched surgery from a year and a half ago, according to his lawyer, Natraj Bhushan.

Bhushan said that for days Wills did not receive proper treatment, because the staff did not have his medical records on file to meet his medical needs. His lawyer also says that Wills was not in the proper unit for someone with a chronic condition.

“You’d notice that during his trial [for grand larceny], the judge allowed him to sit on a special cushion, because due to a botched surgery the lower half of his body is permanently, partially disabled,” Bhushan said. “He had atrophy and nerve damage, and it really affected his ability to tend to his constituents for a year and a half.”

According to Bhushan, the pain medicine that Wills is on has side effects, which could affect his psyche, and during his stay at Rikers he did not get placed in a unit where he could have psychological treatment that was ordered in a court directive.

“This is someone who had well-documented medical issues,” Bhushan said. “This was taken into account when they were sentencing him.”

He is suing the city for $10 million because of how he was treated and he hopes his claim, which was acknowledged by the comptroller, would force changes at Rikers.

Before being sent to the prison himself, Wills was one of many lawmakers supporting the closure of the facility after many reports of how inmates were treated in terms of care, which led to Corizon, a for-profit health provider, losing its contract with the prison, according to modernhealtcare.com.

“He had a long standing issue with Rikers Island and he wanted to see it closed,” said the civil attorney. “Frankly, when he himself was in there it became a pressing issue for him to address.”

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