Veterans are not the only group calling for Quinn’s head. Every organization that has had to fight for money to fund their causes is feeling cheated.
Tracy Dick of the blog Room Eight Politics is calling for the City Council to take action and poses the question, “Where are your cojones?"to the council members.
The Patriots also feel that Quinn has betrayed the public trust and should be punished.
BY VICTOR G. MIMONI
Veterans are putting on their “war face” in the wake of a published report that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office used a phony veterans group to park more than $422,000 of taxpayer money in what is being called a $4.5 million “slush fund.”
According to the published report, the amount was “set aside” between 2007 and 2008, by listing 30 phony groups on the city budget, as receiving grants.
Since 2002, more than $17 million has reportedly been doled out by the speaker through similar means, according to reports. Former Speaker Gifford Miller (2002-2006) has not responded to numerous calls from the media.
The “American Association of Concerned Veterans” was listed as being allocated the largest amount, $422,763. Like the other groups, with inspiring names like “Coalition for a Strong Special Education,” it never existed.
The ploy gave “the speaker a stash of cash with which to thank or pay off politically important allies or cooperative council members,” a council source is reported to have said.
Quinn reportedly said she ordered the practice, which is said to date back to 1988, ended. She “only recently discovered her staff had not complied,” according to the report.
However, that’s not good enough for some vets.
“It’s a disgrace,” fumed Raymond Molina, a local commandant of the Marine Corps League. “The only time they want a veteran is to hold a flag in the background and make them look good,” the Vietnam War vet said.
John Rowan, the national president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said he once worked for the City Council. At first, Rowan was “confused” because he’d never heard of the veterans group. “We’ve been getting nowhere trying to get city funding for veterans initiatives for years,” he said.
Pat Toro, President of Queens Chapter 32 of the Vietnam Veterans group accused Quinn, who is running for mayor next year, of “playing stupid.”
“She’s got a lot of nerve,” Toro growled, “If we did something like that, they’d put us in jail.”
Toro explained that after years of wrangling by City Councilmember Hiram Monserrate, who is a former Marine, $1 million was allocated citywide, to create one-stop help centers for veterans.
“That was out of $5 million we were looking for,” Toro said. “We had already created our own center in
Middle Village, and we wound up splitting Queens’ share of the money with ’s vet center. That money could be used by the veterans instead of being used by her.” LaGuardia Community College
Peter Vallone Sr., who served as Speaker of the Council from 1988 until December 31, 2001, told The Queens Courier, “They have every right to be angry.”
Vallone stressed that budgets have to be written in advance “It’s necessary to build in flexibility” to deal with legitimate expenditures that can’t be foretold when the budget is written.
“I think part of it was term limits,” he said, suggesting that inexperienced staffers made unfortunate choices in order to achieve the long-standing “flexibility” goal. “We never [used bogus organizations] when I was in office,” he said.
The vets aren’t satisfied with reports that two top aides were “forced out or resigned,” or Quinn’s reported claims that she “blew the whistle” on the practice and is co-operating with the investigation.
“They should all be held accountable, even her” Molina insisted.
Repeated calls to Quinn’s office were not been returned as of press time.