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Old 01-06-2021, 08:13 AM
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Default BLACK NYC lawmaker fined $15K for taking free trips, meals on taxpayers’ dime


NYC lawmaker fined $15K for taking free trips, meals on taxpayers’ dime
By Sam Raskin and Nolan Hicks
January 5, 2021 | 6:45pm | Updated

New York state Sen. James Sanders Jr. R. Umar Abbasi

A state lawmaker from Queens was slapped with a $15,000 fine for accepting free meals and trips from a nonprofit that he boosted during his time on the City Council — all of which were paid for by Big Apple taxpayers, according to the city’s ethics watchdog.

State Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens) scored five stays in luxury accommodations at a resort in the Poconos and five swank Hudson River dinner cruises for himself and family members from the Margert Community Corporation, a non-profit that provides rent assistance and other social services to low-income families.

All told, Sanders cashed in on gifts worth at least $4,000 from the MCC as he doled out more than $840,000 in city funds to the group, the Conflict of Interest Board said in its report, which was released Tuesday.

COIB determined that Sanders broke ethics rules an astonishing 18 times between 2008 and 2012 as he represented Far Rockaway and adjacent neighborhoods as a city lawmaker.

The ruling comes nearly five years after The Post first exposed how the non-profit lavished gifts on Sanders, resulting in a probe by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

COIB formally certified the punishment last month for Sanders, who left the City Council to take his current spot in Albany in 2013.

It’s the biggest fine handed out by the watchdog since July 2019.

The 25 pages of paperwork revealed that Sanders organized the getaways with the MCC under the guise of providing retreats for needy senior citizens in his district, which were paid for with $116,000 in city money that Sanders provided through his Council budget.

Records released by the ethics board show that MCC would book dozens of rooms at the Woodloch Pines resort for Sanders’ constituents between 2009 and 2011.

And COIB also revealed that Sanders came along on the five trips — staying in luxury, in a five-bedroom guesthouse with family members, which was far removed from the quarters of his Far Rockaway residents.

Over the five trips, he racked up a $650 tab at the resort’s gift shop — purchasing jewelry, toys and clothes.

All of it was paid for by the MCC with its city funds, according to the ethics board findings.

Sanders’ lawyer had argued to Administrative Judge Kara Miller that the jaunts were part of his duties as a city lawmaker because he was “serving as volunteers at events for seniors and, therefore, their attendance served a government purpose.”

Along with the multiple retreats to Pennsylvania mountains, the ethics watchdog also determined that MCC also served up five dinner cruises around the picturesque New York Harbor for Sanders. Those, too, were supposed to be for his constituents, but Sanders organized them and dined alongside.

On one cruise, in September 2010, MCC even provided Sanders with a free bouquet of flowers for his wife, according to the ruling.

The Democrat’s lawyer told Miller the dinner cruises were kosher because “his constituents had never been to Manhattan.”

Sanders, who has 30 days to pay the fine, declined to comment.
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