Staffers bailing on Hollerin’ Halloran

Ian Weinstein in Queens Chronicle, April 11, 2013

Media Source

Understate (v): represent as less than is the case.

Example: Councilman Dan Halloran’s (R-Whitestone) life has become somewhat difficult after he was snagged in an alleged bribery scheme a week ago. Actually, it’s careening towards a professional hellhole.

How else can you describe the life of a man who has been virtually neutered at work, is hemorrhaging staffers and faces a legal and political trek through Dante’s Inferno?

Really, would anyone want to trade places with Dan Halloran right now?

Halloran was snagged on corruption charges after being taped discussing an alleged pay-to-play scheme that would have redirected thousands of taxpayer dollars to a developer, then serving as a conduit for state Sen. Malcolm Smith’s (D-Hollis) failed attempt at buying Wilson Pakula certificates to gain the Republican line for a mayoral run.

The Whitestone lawmaker’s troubles now include the loss of two prominent staffers and a virtual lockdown on nearly all of his legislative authority.

The Monday evening departure of Chief of Staff Chrissy Voskerichian was the start of a power vacuum within Halloran’s office.

“As I look forward to my first days off in nearly three years, I wish to thank the Council member’s staff,” she said in a public farewell sent to the press. “I have never met a group of people who were as hardworking and dedicated as his staff. I also wish to thank the countless members of the community who made the last three and a half years enjoyable. I loved meeting and working with so many outstanding and passionate community leaders, many of whom I now call friends.”

Voskerichian’s name was among the first mentioned by community members lamenting the news on April 2, when the councilman was arrested in the early morning and word of the allegations first started spreading throughout his 19th Council District.

The one person she did not thank in the 205-word statement? Halloran himself. But that did not stop him from thanking Voskerichian in a statement sent hours after her resignation.

“The council member greatly appreciates the hard work in service to the district that his entire staff have put forward, especially his chief of staff,” the statement read, before jumping into the first person. “I am sure that Chrissy Voskerichian will continue to serve her community in many ways for years to come. The office continues to run smoothly and serve our constituents each day.”

A day later, Halloran’s legislative director, John Mulvey, also announced he was jumping ship, effective Friday. His email followed Voskerichian’s tone and substance, including the lack of gratitude for Halloran.

“While he has no plans of resignation and looks forward to clearing his name, he also understands that times like these can cause some staff members to re-evaluate their career paths,” Halloran’s office said in a statement. “He is sincerely grateful for every staff member’s service.”

His effectiveness as a lawmaker shrunk after Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) said his discretionary spending items will be re-evaluated and doled out at her discretion, as well as Councilman Leroy Comrie’s (D-St. Albans) [see accompanying story on page 6].

The embattled councilman’s future includes a court date which promises more peril than hope. The possibility of an entrapment defense has been floated among the chattering classes, but that would leave the burden of proof on Halloran’s shoulders, according to Professor Ian Weinstein, associate dean of Fordham University’s School of Law.

“They really have to show that the defendant would not have engaged in the conduct but for the intriguing suggestions, offers of money, etc.,” he said. “It’s a difficult defense.”

The odds of a spectacular political recovery are long as well. Michael Krasner, Queens College political science professor and co-director of the Taft Institute for Government, said Halloran could take 15 to 20 years to dig himself out from under the weight of this scandal.

“Here’s a guy who ran on questions of integrity and it turns out he has been lining his pockets in this bizarre situation,” he said. “The natural reaction for the voter would be to say these are a bunch of crooks.”