NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A city councilman charged in a corruption case that has rocked New York politics said Wednesday he won’t run for re-election after being accused of taking bribes to help a would-be mayoral candidate try to get on the ballot.
Councilman Daniel Halloran said Wednesday that he wouldn’t seek to keep his Queens seat in November’s election so he could focus on exonerating himself.
“Regrettably, I must now focus my attention on clearing my name and restoring my reputation,” the one-term Republican said in a statement. “I have concluded that it is impossible for me to properly do these things and take on the enormous demands of a political campaign.”
Halloran’s colleague City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Tuesday afternoon she would urge Halloran to think hard and soon about whether he should step down immediately.
“The decision that Councilmember Halloran has made is the right one,” Quinn told reporters including WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb.
“The councilmember, as I understand it, is not resigning. He’s going to stay in his seat. I think he needs to really think about, in light of the wise decision he finally made, whether there’s more he actually needs to do for his constituents because I can’t imagine he’s very focused on them or very much in his district office delivering services to them,” Quinn said.
He’s accused of accepting thousands of dollars in payoffs to help state Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, bribe local Republican officials to let him run for mayor this year on the GOP line.
“Smith drew up the game plan, and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said when the charges were unveiled.
While accepting a $7,500 cash bribe from a cooperating witness, Halloran was recorded saying, “That’s politics. It’s all about how much. That’s our politicians in New York; they’re all like that,” according to Bharara.
Halloran, 42, also faces criminal charges and a council ethics probe over allegations that he agreed to steer up to $80,000 in council money to a company in exchange for more bribes. He has been stripped of his authority to allocate money for his district.
“I look forward to having my day in court, where I am confident that I will ultimately be vindicated,” Halloran said in Wednesday’s statement. “Now is the time I must work to that end.
Halloran has pleaded not guilty. So has Smith, who ultimately hasn’t run for mayor.
While he’s giving up his seat, Halloran won’t resign before his term ends, said a spokesman, Kevin Ryan.
A lawyer, Halloran was elected in 2009. He is perhaps best known for making a startling claim in the aftermath of a December 2010 blizzard that paralyzed the city: City workers told him there had been a concerted effort to slow plowing to protest budget cuts, he said. After a five-month probe, the city Department of Investigation said it found no evidence of an organized slowdown, though it found some individual problems.
Halloran lost his congressional bid to former state Assemblywoman Grace Meng, a Democrat.
Several candidates already are running for Halloran’s seat, including Republican attorney Dennis Saffran and Democrats John Duane, a former state assemblyman; Paul Graziano, a planner and historic preservation consultant; and Austin Shafran, a former spokesman for the state’s economic development arm and for state Senate Democrats.
Shafran’s campaign said Halloran was right to set plans to step down. Residents “deserve a full-time councilman who is focused on working for the people of Queens, not his own legal defense,” the campaign said in a statement.
The other campaigns didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Chrissy Voskerichian, who was Halloran’s chief of staff, registered last week as a candidate for the seat, state Board of Elections records show. A possible phone number for her wasn’t taking messages Wednesday.
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