City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) was stripped of a committee assignment and lost the ability to dole out funds to community organizations Monday, following reports that he has not been cooperating with state investigators probing a $33,000 grant he was given before being elected, when he served as director of a charitable group.
The council also launched a formal review of his cooperation or lack thereof with the state probe, which is examining what he did with the money when it was granted to him by state Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), for whom he served as chief of staff at the time.
The nonprofit group, New York 4 Life, was designed to support and honor people in the community such as single mothers and single fathers, along with other work.
But it could not account for the money when state Attorney General began looking into its records, according to published reports citing court documents. And, according to the reports, which first appeared in the Daily News, Wills utilized his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination during interviews with Schneiderman’s investigators, refusing to answer all their questions — and even walked out of the proceedings in the midst of a question, along with his attorney.
On Monday, the office of Council Speaker Christine Quinn issued the following statement:
“In light of troubling reports and court records evidencing Council Member Wills’ lack of cooperation with a state investigation, including his assertion of his Fifth Amendment rights, we have referred this matter to the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee for a formal review.Until this serious matter is resolved, Council Member Wills will no longer serve as a member of the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team.
“In addition, decisions about funding allocations for Council Member Wills’ district will be determined by the Speaker’s Office in consultation with the Queens delegation chair. All allocations will undergo the appropriate review and vetting process, including by the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services and relevant city agencies.”
Wills said Wednesday afternoon that he would soon be issuing a statement in conjunction with his attorney, Steve Zissou. He declined to answer questions about the matter, except to say “It’s not what they’re making it out to be.”
Huntley declined to comment. Four other people with close ties to the senator were indicted in December for allegedly stealing about $30,000 she allocated to them for another charitable organization.