County Executive candidate outlines proposal in light of Astorino federal corruption probes; Astorino donor in federal court later this month
Act would require any county official to notify Westchester taxpayers of subpoenas and investigations, disclose relevant information
RYE CITY, N.Y. – Ahead of expected testimony later this month by a donor to the political campaign of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino in connection with a kickback scheme involving the New York City Correction Officers union, George Latimer, Democratic nominee for County Executive, is proposing a new county bill to increase transparency in corruption cases involving county officials. Latimer’s bill would require county officials to disclose the details of subpoenas and other information pertaining to criminal investigations, an action the Republican has yet to take with regard to the ongoing probe.
“Westchester residents deserve to know exactly what federal investigators are talking to Rob Astorino about,” said Senator Latimer. “As he’s asking the voters to re-elect him, we have the right to know if his term will be dominated by his criminal defense instead of his job. This bill will ensure that the county executive and other leaders in our government can’t stonewall and hide the truth from voters on matters like public corruption.”
Latimer’s proposal was announced at an afternoon press conference today at the Village Green in Rye City.
The Political Corruption Disclosure Act would require all county officials to disclose information on investigations connected to either the discharge of their public duties or to relevant political campaign activities. This would include the details in full of any subpoenas issued and indictments handed down; or active criminal investigations within reasonable bounds. The bill would allow for exceptions in cases where law enforcement deems such disclosure to be a threat to ongoing investigations, Latimer contends.
While federal rules of criminal procedure prevent jurors and court staff from disclosing the contents of a subpoena, there are no such prohibitions on recipients. As such, there would likely be no limitations on the county’s ability to require such disclosure of information under Latimer’s proposal. In fact, the Westchester County Charter outlines numerous duties of the County Legislature that the proposal could fall under, including establishing of duties for county officials.
Latimer’s proposal would address the outstanding questions about the nature of a 2016 subpoena issued to Astorino in relation to series of donations received from Brooklyn businessman Jona Rechnitz and associates. Rechnitz stands accused of delivering upwards of $60,000 in cash to former NYC Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association head Norman Seabrook in exchange for a commitment to steer union funds to Platinum Partners, a hedge fund charged in a $1 billion fraud scheme. Rechnitz, who is cooperating with law enforcement, is scheduled to appear later this month in a Manhattan federal courtroom as a witness for prosecution in Seabrook’s trial.
Through his companies, Rechnitz contributed $15,000 to Astorino’s political campaigns, later donated to charity. However, the Republican has also accepted an additional $10,000 from companies controlled by Rechnitz associate and NYC diamond dealer Raul Raps. Raps made two $5,000 contributions on the same date that Rechnitz gave his second $5,000 contribution of the $10,000 to Astorino. A review of available city and state campaign finance records show multiple instances where the two former business partners appeared to have coordinated their donations.
This is the latest in a string of ethical issues for the county executive. Last month, Latimer and county lawmakers charged Astorino of using a county office in a Midtown Manhattan address to coordinate political efforts at taxpayer expense. Latimer’s campaign also produced a list of New York City businesses that have both donated to Astorino’s campaigns and also received millions in county contracts during the existence of the Park Avenue office.
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