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Queens Democrat Shirley Huntley Calls Press Conference, Expects To Be Arrested

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ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) - In an unusual move, New York State Sen. Shirley Huntley called an emergency press conference on Saturday, which was held at 11:00 a.m. at her home in Jamaica.

Huntley said that she expects to be arrested on Monday in the state’s continuing investigation into the use of pork-barrel grants by legislators.

1010 WINS reporter Gary Baumgarten spoke with Senator Huntley’s neighbors…

Huntley, a Queens Democrat, didn’t indicate what the charge against her might be. Huntley founded a nonprofit social service and education group that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating, and she funded it in part with state grants. Indictments accuse some of the groups’ executives of theft. Huntley denies wrongdoing.

A spokesman for the attorney general acknowledged Huntley’s comments but declined to elaborate.

“The appropriate forum in which to respond to the senator is a court of law, where the attorney general will prove all facts according to the rules of evidence,” spokesman James Freedland said. “Those facts will speak for themselves.”

A spokesman for Huntley declined to comment further. She is facing New York City Councilman James Sanders Jr. in a tough Sept. 13 Democratic primary.

In December, four people were indicted on charges that they schemed to pocket pork-barrel grants from Huntley, who was close to two of the suspects and who later covered it up. Two officials with the nonprofit, The Parent Workshop Inc., were accused of grand larceny and filing false documents to get $29,950 for work they never did –teaching parents how to navigate the New York City school system.

Huntley founded the nonprofit in 2006. She wasn’t charged in December in the probe by Schneiderman and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who had both said that one of those indicted was a Huntley staffer and another shared her home. Schneiderman and DiNapoli are Democrats, and Schneiderman had served in the Senate with Huntley.

Since 1999, the Legislature has distributed more than $900 million through so-called member items to 20,000 nonprofits in what are more commonly called pork-barrel grants. The grants often fund social service, health and civic groups based on the discretion of legislators in those districts. But Schneiderman is investigating abuse of the grants, which have been suspended in the past two years for budget concerns by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also questioned the grants when he was attorney general.

In 2008-2009, Huntley designated a $30,000 grant from the Department of State for the nonprofit to hire a trained professional and buy supplies for parent training. Huntley designated another $125,000 the next year for the group, which the Senate later withdrew. A subsequent grant from the Conference of Black Senators for $100,000 to the nonprofit was dropped in budget cuts.

The Senate’s Republican majority engaged in a fight with Democrats in the fall elections over control of the chamber.

Huntley’s statement comes a day after Democratic Assemblyman Vito Lopez of the Bronx was stripped of his committee chairmanship after the Assembly Ethics Committee ruled that he violated the chamber’s sexual harassment policy.

Do you believe that Huntley committed wrongdoing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)