Debate over past fines heats up State Senate race
by Andrew Shilling
Aug 12, 2014 | 1426 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In what was already a heated Democratic primary race in the 11th District in the State Senate in northeast Queens, incumbent state senator Tony Avella is calling on the city to put a lien on his challenger's campaign accounts over unpaid violations relating to illegal posters.

Avella recently called on the city's Corporation Counsel to place a lien on former comptroller and challenger John Liu’s current campaign accounts to collect $500,000 in unpaid violations with the city stemming from 7,000 illegal campaign posters during Liu's 2009 bid for comptroller.

Avella said if Corporation Counsel fails to enforce the lien, he will introduce legislation in the State Senate making it explicitly clear that municipal authorities can enforce administrative judgement against both candidates and their campaigns.

"This measure sends a strong one-two punch to all candidates running for elective office - those who blatantly ignore the law and refuse to oblige will be held accountable," Avella said in a statement. "We intend to use whatever legal means necessary to protect city taxpayers at all costs."

Liu has consistently argued that he is still challenging the fines through a legal process. He also shot back at Avella for using his government office to introduce legislation that would seemingly benefit his campaign.

“It's deeply disappointing that Senator Avella would use his governmental office and taxpayer-funded staff to launch a political attack,” Liu said. “This flagrant misuse of government resources should be fully investigated by the appropriate authorities to expose any and all ethical violations.”

Liu countered with a complaint filed with the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics calling for the Senator to release all internal correspondence between his government office and campaign operations relating to the proposed legislation.

He said it is necessary “so the people of our district can see how he is spending their hard-earned tax dollars for his own politically motivated reasons.”

Liu cited both the Civil Services Law, stating that no person should use their authority to interfere with an election, as well as the Public Officers Law, which prohibits state employees from using their position for personal gain.

Avella says he has not violated any law, as his proposed bill would not be introduced until next year.

“This is just a matter of camouflage of the fact that he owes a half-million dollars in fines to the City of New York,” Avella said.

Liu added that he didn't believe Avella's bill would ever have a chance at becoming law.

“The state legislature is not in session any longer,” said Liu. “There is no Assembly bill, so this, like many of Avella’s introductions, has no chance of seeing the light of day.”

A Liu staffer clarified that his campaign's objections were focused on the press release Avella sent out because “it is a use of government resources.”

“If you think about what Tony’s saying, that it can’t be introduced until next year, that proves that it was just done for the purpose of this campaign,” the staffer added. “He’s saying 'I’m using governmental resources to orchestrate a political hit on my opponent.'”

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