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Queens Chronicle

After Wills: Gov. mum on city-style reforms

Cuomo has touted NYC campaign finance system; Addabbo says go

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Posted: Thursday, May 15, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:56 am, Thu May 22, 2014.

The phrase “hurry up and wait” has been prominent in the week since Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) was arrested amid allegations that he stole state grant money and campaign funds.

A spokeswoman for New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wills’ next scheduled court date is June 6, but that it is unlikely to deal with anything other than procedural matters.

Schneiderman’s prosecutors convinced a grand jury to hand up a 12-count indictment. Jelani Mills, said to be a relative of the councilman, also was charged in the complaint.

Some of the money Wills is accused of stealing allegedly includes $11,500 in matching campaign funds received from the city, which for qualifying candidates matches smaller donations from individuals on a 6-to-1 basis.

In his recent call for reforms in Albany, Gov. Cuomo has supported implementing a New York City-style public financing system for state races.

The method is being tested this year in the race for New York State comptroller. It will not apply to Cuomo, who likely is going to square off in November against Rob Astorino, the Republican county executive of Westchester.

Cuomo’s office did not respond to multiple messages left in the last week asking for comment on whether the accusations against Wills have tempered his enthusiasm for similar measures.

One who still supports the city’s system is state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach). Within days of Wills’ arrest, the New York Post ran a story stating that Addabbo received $6,000 in campaign contributions from state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis).

Smith goes on trial with former Republican Councilman Dan Halloran in less than three weeks on federal corruption charges.

The Post said numerous state Senate Democrats received donations from Smith, who subsequently was voted in as Senate majority leader.

Addabbo chuckled when asked if he thought he would be called as a witness in the Smith case. But he was serious when he said that such contributions were flying around on both sides of the aisle at the time, and that a New York City-style system could bring about exactly the type of reform Cuomo claims he wants.

“You need that kind of reform,” he said.

“I’ve been through the city’s system when I was on the Council and I work with the state system now,” he said. “The city’s system is tougher.

“My campaign treasurer has done both, and he’ll take the state system any day. It’s so much easier to comply with.”

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