Councilman Domenic Recchia, who is looking to unseat Representative Michael Grimm from Congress, has been doling out taxpayer money to Staten Island charities, schools and hospitals, even though he does not represent the district. The New York Post is reporting that Recchia has spent nearly one third of his “member items” budget on projects outside of the district he currently represents.
Recchia is running to unseat Congressman Michael Grimm, and the lion’s share of member items doled out outside of his district overlap with Grimm’s, making observers wonder if he’s using his influential position as Council Finance Chair to boost his electoral bid.
Of the $10.3 million in funds allocated by Recchia, $2.75 million of it went to areas that fall under Grimm’s purview and not Recchia’s. The Post listed the projects and money spent by Recchia outside of his domain:
Recchia earmarked $40,000 to the Staten Island Zoological Society, $50,000 to the Staten Island Economic Development Corp. and $10,000 to the borough’s Legal Services NYC branch.
He also shelled out millions for capital projects, including more than $1.5 million for upgrades to the Eden II School for Autistic Children on Staten Island, which was damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Recchia was slammed by critics who believe that his spending was entirely politically motivated and out of bounds.
“This is exactly what’s wrong with our current system of member items — there are no objective standards for how they should be distributed, so it’s up to each member,” Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause told the Post. “It’s very tempting to use it for political purposes. Many Council members, state legislators and Congress people use member items as a political honeypot.”
Recchia defended his spending on Staten Island projects by claiming that the unique circumstances brought on by Superstorm Sandy, and his own role as finance chairman led him to spend outside his district.
“It’s Sandy and I’m also the finance chairman so everybody comes to see me,” Recchia told the Post, “There were programs out there that if we don’t give them the funding they’d never get these things and there were schools that needed things now.”
The paper noted that none of the funds went to other Sandy-hit neighborhoods, like the Rockaways in Queens.