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A scandal involving money donated to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina threatens to send a tremor through southeast Queens. The New York Post reported last week that a U.S. attorney is investigating a charity called New Yorkers Organized to Assist Hurricane Families that was created to raise funds for the people whose lives had been devastated by Katrina.
The fund was created by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks and state Sen. Malcolm Smith, two of the area’s most respected political leaders.
According to the report, the fund raised $31,000 for the relief effort. The organization created to administer the funds, the New Direction Local Development Corp., so far has only written a check for $1,392. Nobody seems to know where the rest of the money went.
The man hired to administer the funds, Claude Stuart, is a former Queens prosecutor who lost his law license in 2002 for lying in a homicide case. Nearly five years after the hurricane, it appears most of the money collected has yet to reach the people who need it.
Smith told the Post he had no role in handling the money and welcomed the investigation. “I’m not involved in the day-to-day operation. I don’t sign checks. I don’t manage the books. To the say that I had something to do with the funds not being spent is just outrageous,” he said.
The senators created the fund and hired Stuart. They are responsible to the people who donated their money to make sure the funds are spent wisely.
It appears the money was used for purposes other than Katrina. The people of southeast Queens deserve a full accounting of how every dollar was spent.
Hit the Road, Hiram
For the first time since the Civil War, the Senate gave the boot to one of its own. It voted 53-8 last week to expel Sen. Hiram Monserrate.
Taking such strong action against one of their own was not easy. Monserrate said he would challenge the vote in court.
He may succeed. It is unclear whether or not the Senate has the authority to act in this way.
Whether or not the expulsion is upheld, senators on both sides of the aisle showed they are willing to take a stand against domestic violence and political renegades.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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