February 19, 2013
By Diane Cohen, LaborPress Washignton Bureau
Former Senator Shirley Huntley has pleaded guilty to Tampering with Physical Evidence, an E Felony, for falsifying evidence in an effort to obstruct the investigation into the theft of a grant she sponsored for a sham non-profit entity, the Parent Workshop.
As part of their Joint Task Force on Public Integrity, the Offices of the Attorney General and State Comptroller previously indicted then-Senator Huntley and three individuals associated with the Parent Workshop, Inc., a nonprofit set up by former Senator Huntley that funneled member item funds intended to benefit the public to the senator’s aide and to the senator's niece. According to the state’s indictment, the president and treasurer of the Parent Workshop submitted fraudulent documents to New York State to obtain public money from a legislative member item sponsored by Senator Huntley. Instead of providing the promised programs, the two defendants pocketed approximately $29,950. Senator Huntley, who created the sham nonprofit and earmarked a member item grant to the entity, was charged with falsifying evidence in an attempt to obstruct the investigation into this theft.
An ongoing investigation into the theft revealed that, after learning of the probe into her grant to the Parent Workshop, then-Senator Huntley created a handwritten template for a false, backdated letter designed to fool investigators into believing that the Parent Workshop had conducted workshops, when in fact no such workshops were ever conducted. This letter was submitted to the Attorney General Schneiderman's Office in response to a subpoena issued to the Parent Workshop. As part of her plea, Huntley admitted to her role in this cover-up.
“Former Senator Huntley betrayed the trust of her constituents and her public duty,” Comptroller DiNapoli said. “State officials must be held to the highest standards. My office will continue to work with the Attorney General to investigate wrongdoing and protect taxpayer funds.”
“It is unconscionable that an elected official would deliberately tamper with a law enforcement investigation into the theft of taxpayer dollars," Attorney General Schneiderman said.
In cooperation with federal partners, and in light of the fact that Huntley faces an 18-24 month prison sentence, prosecutors recommended a sentence of five years probation in exchange for her felony guilty plea.