A Queens councilmember is taking heat for failing to account for thousands of taxpayers’ dollars given to his non-profit organization.
Councilmember Ruben Wills is under investigation from State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after he failed to account for a $33,000 grant for his nonprofit, New York 4 Life. He is also being reviewed by the city council.
“In light of troubling reports and court records evidencing Councilmember 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,” said Council representative Jamie McShane.
McShane added that Wills was removed from the Council’s Budget Negotiating Team and that all decisions about funding allocations for his district will be determined by Speaker Christine Quinn’s office.
Although New York 4 Life does not have a web page, the councilmember’s web site explains that the nonprofit is an organization “which has helped single mothers champion critical issues such as civic literacy and financial empowerment.”
The grant in question was reportedly approved from State Senator Shirley Huntley to New York 4 Life in 2008 for a single mothers’ breakfast, single fathers’ luncheon, a “children and youth obesity campaign,” and an “adopt a commercial strip” program, according to court filings.
However, after the money was paid by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) in September of 2010, neither Wills nor the organization responded with documents showing how the money was spent.
It is also unclear as to whether the events actually occurred.
The court papers also said the OCFS sent a letter to request the accounting of the grant or a refund in April, 2011, but the nonprofit didn’t respond, at which time OCFS contacted the Attorney General’s office.
Schneiderman’s office issued a subpoena in February of this year, but received no report of the money.
While meeting with lawyers from the AG’s office, Wills walked out during questioning, pleading the Fifth Amendment.
Published reports claim that Schneiderman has filed a motion to force New York 4 Life to open its books. Reports also claim that no tax returns were ever filed for New York 4 Life, which was initially registered to Wills’ residence, but was later changed to his 2009 campaign office.
Calls to Wills’ office for comment were not returned as of press time.
Wills was elected to office in November of 2010 by winning a Special Election, after the passing of Councilmember Thomas White Jr.