One City Councilman is defending Christine Quinn from today’s revelation that her staff misreported how taxpayer money was actually being spent. Quinn said money that went to non-existent charitable groups actually functioned as a rainy-day fund and ultimately wound up funding legitimate groups. It’s a practice that appears to have predated her tenure as speaker.
“My first thought is that it sounds a lot worse than it really is,” said Lew Fidler of Brooklyn. “It’s not like it’s unique to the Council to have a rainy-day fund. And the way the article was written made it seem like it’s there to give out goodies. It’s also there for real emergencies.”
For example, Fidler said he got $50,000 from Quinn after a charitable group in his district – Brooklyn Housing and Family Services – didn’t get needed funding in last year’s budget.
“When the budget got printed, it wasn’t there,” Fidler said. “They [the group] was understandably upset. And I went to the Speaker and I said ‘Look, this cut is really going to hurt them and they may not be able to sustain it. They were really counting on it and may need to lay somebody off – more than one worker off.’ And in a budget modification they moved $50,000 over to Brooklyn Housing and Family Services. Now, I have no idea where that money came from. And frankly, I don’t think Brooklyn Housing and Family Services really cared where that money came from either. But it was 100 percent on the merits.”
A spokesman for the group was not immediately available.
"I understand how terrible it looks that they made up groups," Fidler said. But, referring to the city’s overall budget, he added, “In a $60 billion budget, you need a little wiggle room.”
UPDATE: I spoke to Larry Jayson, Executive Director of Brooklyn Housing and Family Services, who said, “If somebody is saying there is a fund for groups who have not been funded as [they] thought they would be, I would not feel bad about that.”