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Councilman Sues City Campaign Finance Board Over Fines for Misuse of Funds

By Eddie Small | March 21, 2016 5:11pm
 Councilman Andy King is contesting the fines levied against him by the city's Campaign Finance Board in court.
Councilman Andy King is contesting the fines levied against him by the city's Campaign Finance Board in court.
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New York City Council

THE BRONX — Bronx Councilman Andy King is suing the city's Campaign Finance Board arguing that he should not have to pay a vast majority of the penalties the organization levied against him in November.

The board sent a letter to King on Nov. 12 informing him that he owed $43,819 in violations and penalties from his 2013 campaign for reasons that included accepting a contribution from a corporation and using campaign funds for personal expenses.

However, King recently filed a suit maintaining that he, his campaign committee and his treasurer should not have to pay $38,140 worth of the fines.

The suit maintains that King's alleged $919.50 contribution from a corporation is actually just unpaid rent.

King kept a campaign office in the community room of Surrey Cooperative Apartments at 836 Tilden St. and has so far paid back $3,000 of the $3,919.50 he was charged for the space, according to court papers.

The remaining money is "fully intended to be paid" by King, meaning it cannot be considered a campaign contribution, the suit reads.

"How do you say I just took a contribution when I just have an outstanding balance?" King asked "Everyone knows after a campaign there are always some bills that have to continue to be paid."

King also takes issue with the board's determination that he spent campaign funds on personal items, such as making payments to Verizon for bills that came to his personal address and paying a total of $7,000 to his wife Neva Shillingford-King.

The suit says that King kept a "small office" at his home that was "separate and distinct" from his living area, and the utilities bills for these spaces were separate as well, as King used Verizon for his office space and Cablevision for his personal space.

It argues that payments to Shillingford-King were also legitimate, as the suit describes her as "an experienced political operative with decades of experience" and says that King "trusts her political expertise implicitly."

Shillingford-King currently serves on the boards of several community organizations and has helped get several politicians elected over the past few decades, including former New York City Mayor David Dinkins and former New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, according to court documents.

"My wife has been part of the political world for the past 20 years. Long before I met her, she’s been running campaigns," King said. "Her experience and expertise far match mine, at least."

King is not contesting the remaining $5,679 balance, which includes penalties for failing to properly document transactions and filing a late disclosure statement, among other violations.

King is a Democrat representing District 12 in The Bronx, which covers the northeastern part of the borough. He first won the seat in November 2012, after former councilman Larry Seabrook was found guilty of fraud, and he won reelection in 2013.

He was previously hit with about $30,000 in fines for his 2012 campaign, which he has yet to pay back, and for his unsuccessful 2009 council campaign, which he has paid back, according to the Campaign Finance Board.

The fines from those years were for issues including inaccurately reporting financial transactions and taking contributions from prohibited sources.

A spokesman for the Campaign Finance Board declined to comment on the current lawsuit.

"I wish we didn’t have to go this route," King said. "I’m doing it to protect my name, protect my committee. We didn’t do anything wrong."