ST. ALBANS — City investigators have opened a probe into a Queens nonprofit that has ties to disgraced ex-state Sen. Shirley Huntley and other elected officials, sources said.
The city Department of Investigation began in May looking into the finances of the St. Albans nonprofit Clergy United for Community Empowerment and into its executive vice-president and CEO, the Rev. Ernestine Sanders, according to sources.
The nonprofit bills itself as providing health and mental health services to HIV individuals and their families.
The group, whose board members include influential clergy from Southeast Queens, also holds political sway and its endorsement is coveted by both candidates running for office and elected officials.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who represents St. Albans, directed $63,438 in discretionary funds to Clergy United in fiscal year 2016 to run domestic violence initiatives, records show. In all, the nonprofit received nearly $219,000 in discretionary funds from the City Council that year, records show.
Miller declined to comment on the investigation.
Huntley, when she was a state senator, also steered $75,000 in state funds to Clergy United between fiscal years 2007 and 2010, according to a Politico article in 2012.
Huntley pleaded guilty in 2013 to mail fraud charges for stealing $87,000 in taxpayer money that went to an educational nonprofit she founded. She served 10 months in federal prison.
Clergy United's board members supported Huntley when she was charged and after her guilty plea. The group also threw her a welcome-home party when she got out of prison.
Since 2008 Clergy United has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city Health Department for AIDS prevention programs and infant mortality initiatives, records show.
The group hosts a monthly breakfast where elected officials and political candidates frequently speak and schmooze.
Just last month, City Comptroller Scott Stringer met with Clergy United. Stringer later took to Twitter to boast the "great discussion" he had with the group.
"Change happens when strong community leaders like CUCE guide the way," Stringer said in the tweet.
Stringer's office later told DNAinfo New York that it wasn't aware the nonprofit was under investigation.
Great discussion in #Queens w/ Clergy United for Community Empowerment. Change happens when strong community leaders like CUCE guide the way— Scott M. Stringer (@scottmstringer) June 14, 2016
A source who knows Clergy United told DNAinfo New York that he didn't see where the government funding goes.
"I don't see what the organization does except have breakfasts every first Tuesday of the month," the source said. "I haven't seen the events or programs worthy of what they should be doing."
The DOI declined to comment on its investigation.
Sanders and Clergy United's president, the Rev. James Barnwell III, also declined to comment on the investigation.
The nonprofit's most-recent tax filings show Sanders made $58,000 in 2014.
Additional reporting by Jeff Mays