Gallagher, Hevesi In Political Spotlight
Queens pols and political observers received a double jolt during the past week as rape/assault allegations were leveled against City Councilmember Dennis Gallagher, followed closely by reports out of Albany that the probe of possible irregularities in pension fund operations under former Comptroller Alan Hevesi had been broadened to include his sons Daniel and Andrew.
In both cases, the investigating agencies involved have just begun their inquiries, but criminal or other charges that could eventually be brought in either case could have very serious consequences.
Gallagher, 43, married and the father of two sons, could possibly face very serious political implications and the end of his political career.
At this point, at most he'll continue his role as the only Republican Queens councilmember until the end of 2009, when he'll be forced out under the term limits law. But his present predicament could also place the Republican hold over the seat in jeopardy.
For a long period the seat has been held by a Republican, first Thomas Ognibene, who was succeeded by Gallagher. Gallagher's close political relationship with Ognibene, and before that state Senator Serphin Maltese, made him one of the top ranked Republicans in the borough.
As for Hevesi, we reported last week in this space, that Jack Chartier and Hank Morris, close associates of his when he held both city and state comptroller positions, were the target of separate probes being conducted by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the Albany County district attorney.
Chartier allegedly obtained a loan for actress Peggy Lipton from an investment firm which manages pension fund money, and over which the comptroller has exclusive control.
Morris' involvement in another matter relating to pension fund activities is likewise under scrutiny.
The latest report of a member
of the Hevesi family possibly
Daniel Hevesi, a
former state senator
Daniel Hevesi left his
senate seat after one term to
take a job with a Wall Street investment firm, Third Point Capital, according to one report. Several months before that, state Comptroller Alan Hevesi had invested some pension monies with Third Point, a hedge fund.
As for Andrew Hevesi, who now occupies the same 28th Assembly District seat in Forest Hills that his father held for 22 years, it is reported that several investment firms that manage state pension funds have made contributions to his campaigns.
In another story covering the investigations into Comptroller Hevesi's administration of the pension funds, the New York Post reported on Monday that volumes of "sensitive documents" have disappeared from the pension fund files since Hevesi's successor, Thomas DiNapoli, took office last February. Hevesi had pleaded guilty to using one of his staff employees to chauffeur his wife on various occasions.
The missing documents dealt with many of the investments made by the comptroller in various funds. Their disappearance is hampering the twin investigations that are in progress.
The Albany probes are intended to determine whether the state laws which prohibit anyone from engaging in activities that create conflicts of interest with their public duties or benefit from them have been violated.
SILVER BLOCKS MAYOR AGAIN: Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, which could have reaped $500 million in federal funds if approved by the state legislature, fell victim to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the Assembly Democratic majority on Monday.
It was the second time a grandiose plan hatched by the mayor was blocked by the powerful Albany legislative leader. In the previous instance, Silver killed the mayor's plan to build an Olympic-sized stadium over Manhattan's West Side rail yards and a football stadium for the New York Jets.
In striking the final blow against the congestion pricing proposal, Silver said the plan needed more study. He proposed creating a commission to study the plan and its impact on every New York City citizen before deciding whether to go forward with it.
Although Silver seemingly has a vendetta going against the mayor, it appears the mayor could have helped his cause significantly if he had presented the controversial plan to the legislature much sooner to allow for a thorough airing.
As happened with the stadium plan, which faced Olympic deadlines, the mayor brought the congestion pricing plan before the legislature as the deadline for the federal funds was almost at hand.
CROWLEY BLASTS PASSPORT DELAYS: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx), pointing to the millions of American travelers who have not been able to obtain passports, pressed the State Department to ramp up its efforts to process requests for official travel documentation.
The delays were created when a new passport rule was adopted recently requiring all Americans traveling by airplane to countries in the Western Hemisphere (Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda) to have a passport to reenter the United States.
In asking the State Department to speed up its efforts, Crowley said, "This is an unacceptable state of affairs that penalizes those wishing to visit their families and loved ones overseas."
MALTESE GETS READY FOR REELECTION: Characterizing next year as a "critical election year here in Queens", state Senator Serphin Maltese (R- C, Middle Village) has started early to prepare for re-election in 2008, including fundraising. He reported recently that he had raised $105,275 in the filing period which began last January.
Maltese said the urgency in preparing early is necessary because he may be facing stiff opposition as Democrats attempt to win another senate seat and give that party a chance to gain a majority in the upper house of the state legislature for the first time in almost half a century.
MONSERRATE OPENS SATELLITE OFFICES: In an effort to provide his constituents counsel on immigration and other matters, Councilmember Hiram Monserrate (D- Corona) is opening satellite district offices to serve the public during the summer. The first of these opened today at the Jackson Heights Library, 35- 51 81st St., Jackson Heights. Hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Next Thursday, July 26, a second satellite office will open in the Elmhurst Senior Center, 75-01 Astoria Blvd., Elmhurst from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information on the rest of the scheduled openings, call Monserrate's office at 718-205-3881.