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Queens Chronicle

(2012) Huntley lost Senate seat, and a lot more

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Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 3:02 pm, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

She was an outspoken, longtime representative of Southeast Queens in the state Senate. She displayed an increasingly disturbing pattern of public behavior before a highly publicized run-in with the law. And she lost her Senate seat in a primary even with the Democratic Party endorsement and a large fundraising advantage.

Her name was Ada Smith.

The insurgent who defeated her?

Shirley Huntley.

Huntley was president of Community Education Council 28 when she eked by Smith in 2006, her margin of victory less than 200 from among more than 11,500 votes cast.

In three terms, Huntley would serve as co-chairwoman of the NYC School Governance Task Force. In 2009 she sponsored and passed 16 bills while serving as chairwoman of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee. In 2010 she served as chairwoman of the Cities Committee.

“When I went to Albany, I just fell right into what needed to be done,” Huntley told the Chronicle four months after taking office in April 2007.

“I’ve found my own way.”

She also found the allure of power, the culture of corruption in Albany and easily available state taxpayer money too easy to ignore.

Huntley already was under indictment on felony corruption charges in September 2012 when she suffered a 16-point drubbing at the hands of then-Councilman James Sanders Jr. in a Democratic primary.

Sanders, who had come up against term limits in the Council, went on to coast to victory and the state capital in the general election.

Huntley’s fortunes would be far different.

In January she pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing $87,000 in taxpayer money that she had secured for the Parent Information Network, a fraudulent nonprofit organization she had set up with Lynn Smith, her niece, and Patricia Savage, a former Senate aide.

She would be sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison, and began her sentence in May.

While awaiting sentencing, Huntley also pleaded guilty to a state charge of tampering with evidence in connection with the theft of nearly $30,000 in state member item money, which went to a nonprofit called Parent Workshop. Smith, Savage and consultant David Gantt also entered guilty pleas in that case, for which Huntley received five years’ probation.

It was also while Huntley was awaiting sentencing that the federal government revealed that she allowed the FBI to put listening devices and cameras in her home while she met with nine people, including seven elected officials.

The FBI said the chats in her home provided “useful information” about three elected officials, though no one has yet been charged as a result.

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