Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Honest graft in the Bronx

From the NY Post:

A Bronx assemblyman on Gov. Cuomo's transition team attempted to shower his pet organization with hundreds of thousands in taxpayer cash even as federal investigators were closing in on the questionable group.

Democrat Peter Rivera steered almost $2.2 million in government dough to Neighborhood Enhancement for Training and Services since 2000, including nearly $400,000 in member items after the feds launched a probe in 2008 that led to last week's indictment of NETS Executive Director David Griffiths.

But Rivera, 63, had few answers when investigators quizzed him about Griffiths, his campaign treasurer and former law partner.

The lawmaker told them he had no knowledge of the group's day-to-day dealings and didn't even know if Griffiths drew a salary, according to court papers.

But not only was NETS wholly financed by Rivera's pork, it also shared space with his law firm, Rivera & Suarez, at 7 Hugh Grant Circle in Parkchester. Griffiths worked for both the law firm and the nonprofit.

Rivera even paid $35,000 out of the firm's own funds to divide the office in 2001 to make room for NETS, according to architect Timothy Nanni and contractor Giovanni Cupelli. The barely functioning organization claimed it spent $29,266 in rent between July 2007 and June 2008 for the space.

The relationship between Rivera and the nonprofit was so cozy that the architect was under the impression that the lawmaker was running NETS when he was hired to design the group's community center and headquarters in a converted synagogue on Virginia Avenue.

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