“The more you’re in politics, the more corrupt you are,” then-Congressional candidate and Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said during a meeting with the Queens Chronicle’s editorial board last fall. “I don’t care if you’re the best person on the planet. You make deals, the line becomes blurry.”
That was Oct. 19. One day earlier, he allegedly left an unnamed Queens eatery $800 richer in exchange for promising someone a no-show job and other favors, according to a criminal complaint leading to Halloran’s April 2 arrest at his Auburndale home.
The bribery was just one part of what eventually merged with a larger scheme aimed at helping state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) gain entry into the Republican mayoral primary [full coverage begins on page 2].
Halloran allegedly netted $45,300 in bribes through his role in the plots and was charged with bribery and fraud. He could face up to 45 years in prison if convicted. By Tuesday night, his Council colleagues were raring to strip him of all his committee assignments and ability to dole out discretionary funds.
“The Council member denies the allegations and looks forward to clearing his name,” said Halloran spokesman Kevin Ryan. “When the full story comes out, he is confident that he will be vindicated.”
Word of the predawn arrest took no time to spread, leaving many in his 19th Council District wondering: Was that really the same Dan we know?
The general consensus among civic leaders, politicos and his constituents: Dan Halloran is a lot of things — hot-headed, brash, outspoken — but only some guessed he may be corrupt.
Was the councilman who enjoyed tussles with the mayor the same guy offering a job at either the congressional level or with an autism program, as alleged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District?
Did the same anti-big government Tea Party politico offer to funnel city money to a phony contractor through an unnamed Queens senior center ?
Was the same man who pushed for congressional term limits (hence his assertion that public service corrupts) really helping a liberal Democrat get on his party’s primary ballot?
“He has a really good track record, so this is surprising,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance.
Since being elected in 2009, Halloran’s councilmanic tenure has had some professional and personal faults, as well as the odd barrage of profanity aimed at a Nissan car dealer.
The 42-year-old in December 2010 claimed a group of sanitation workers came into his office and confessed to intentionally slowing the city’s response to a major blizzard. Halloran claimed the effort was part of a larger coordinated plan to punish Mayor Bloomberg for then recent sanitation layoffs.
But further investigation left Halloran in the lurch, trying to substantiate the claims after his informants allegedly backed down from their claims.
Halloran is also in the throes of a divorce from his wife. It may explain his reference to a mortgage in alleged exchanges that eventually led to his arrest.
The entire matter left Halloran’s predecessor and current state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) shaking his head Tuesday morning. The culture of corruption is so pervasive it’s demoralizing, he claimed.
“Every morning I wake up and I say, ‘Why am I in this?’” Avella said, later adding, “The system lends itself to corruption.”
Halloran allegedly agreed with Avella’s sentiments, according to the criminal complaint. The filing shows a Halloran who is completely attuned to the pay-to-play nature of politics.
“Money is what greases the wheels — good, bad, or indifferent,” Halloran said.
His personal financial standing was not in the best of shape during the period of this investigation. Halloran’s personal financial disclosure, required in order to run for federal office, shows a man still mired in student loans from law school, as well as a personal net worth somewhere between -$69,998 and $50,000.
Barring an immediate plea deal or voluntarily stepping down, Halloran will fight to retain his Council seat this November. But that did not stop some civic leaders from admitting the next 19th District councilman would be chosen on Sept. 10 — the date of the Democratic primary.
Halloran’s potential opponents — including Paul Grazaino, Austin Shafran and Paul Vallone — released statements cautiously toeing the line between outrage and allowing due process to take its course. The councilman’s colleagues, however, didn’t all wear white gloves.
“If the allegations against Councilman Halloran are true, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, whether the funding went through or not,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said during a press conference in Forest Hills. “We will cooperate with the investigation in any way we can.”
But on Tuesday, while Halloran was in a White Plains courtroom, his district office continued its usual hum. Staffers promised business as usual going forward.
In the end, the complaint against Halloran reads like the indictment of a man who allegedly left principles on campaign literature, and for whatever reason succumbed to a world of no-show jobs, straw donors and cash-stuff envelopes.
“That’s politics, that’s politics, it’s all about how much,” Halloran allegedly said while negotiating the creation of a dummy city-funded project in exchange for cash. “Not about whether or will, it’s about how much, and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that, all like that.”