Blaming the city for holding back roughly $3.5 million in matching funds for his mayoral run, Comptroller John Liu announced last Friday that he is suing for damages.
The former Flushing city councilman filed a notice of claim that seeks an unspecified amount of money from the city. The papers were filed in the Comptroller’s Office, which is the legal channel when suing the city. He will recuse himself from the case.
In August, the city’s Campaign Finance Board denied the matching funds, citing “serious and pervasive” potential violations by Liu’s campaign in its fundraising efforts.
Liu’s former treasurer, Jenny Hou, and a fundraiser, Oliver Pan, were convicted in May of multiple charges about illegal contributions. Hou was sentenced in September to 10 months in jail while Pan received a four-month sentence.
Liu was never charged with any wrongdoing, but the CFB chairman, the Rev. Joseph Parkes, pointed out in his statement that “the candidate is ultimately responsible for the campaign’s compliance with the law.”
At the time Liu promised to appeal the decision, but the loss of funding so close to the primary election injured his campaign, the suit claims. The comptroller came in fourth in the primary, garnering only 7 percent of the vote.
Liu says in the notice of claim that he was denied his rights and that the city “arbitrarily excluded him from elective office on the basis of a substantively unreasonable and incorrect decision reached through an unfair ... process” that targeted him for adverse treatment.
He asked that the amount of damages be determined at trial. Liu’s campaign, Friends of John Liu, filed the same notice of claim, signed by Shiang Liu, who works in the Comptroller’s Office and also worked on the campaign. She is not related to her boss.
The case is under review by the city’s Law Department, which had no comment.
In related news, Hou’s lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, said last month that he is appealing her conviction. “Jenny Hou is not guilty of any crime, not factually and not legally,” Lefcourt said.
He added that the people who did the illegal reimbursing of donations “testified under oath that neither she nor anyone else in the Liu campaign knew.”
Liu supports Hou’s appeal: “I’m not in the least bit surprised that Jenny would appeal. I believe in her and remain hopeful that she will be vindicated.”