Thursday, October 8, 2009

Controversy Erupts Over Glendale Kiwanis Funding

By Conor Greene

A $3,500 allocation to the Glendale Kiwanis by former City Councilman Anthony Como has turned into a political hot potato after he accused Elizabeth Crowley, who currently represents the area, of diverting the money to another organization.

Como (R-Middle Village), who briefly represented the 30th District after winning a special election last year, sent a letter on Tuesday to fellow Kiwanis members and local papers stating that the funding had been reallocated in January. “I found this very upsetting because I know that groups such as yours depend greatly on this money,” wrote Como.

In the letter, Como stated that he had been contacted by the group’s past president, Joe Aiello to find out why the Kiwanis never received the funds. In the e-mail containing the letter, Como included correspondence he said was from the City Council’s Finance Division confirming that Crowley had diverted the money to another group. “Since we didn’t do a transparency resolution until late January, CM Crowley’s office decided that they wanted to give that money to another [organization] as it is her prerogative to reallocate any funds that had not yet been registered with the Comptroller’s office,” the e-mail stated.

In response, Crowley (D-Middle Village) said she is “very surprised [Como] would stoop this low” and contended that Como never came through on his promise to fund the Kiwanis. “He is making accusations that are not true, just because he failed to meet the community’s concerns as a councilman.” She maintained that the money was never included in last year’s budget and was never diverted to another group.

“He’s being dishonest,” added Crowley. “This is an example of mudslinging that is really based on lies. I’m disappointed in Anthony Como because honestly I thought more of him as an individual than to put together a letter which is not truthful.” Crowley noted that she provided the Kiwanis with $5,000 in this year’s budget. "If you look at the truth, you will know that Anthony Como didn't put a dime aside for the Kiwanis last year as he promised,” she said.

Caught in the middle is Aiello, who said Wednesday that the whole situation is much ado about nothing. He chalked it up to a simple mistake and says he lays no blame with either Como or Crowley. “At first I said ‘gee, we could have used this money,’” he recalled. “Anthony Como called apologizing and I told him there is no foul here. I had a meeting with Elizabeth two weeks ago, she said she would see what she can do about retrieving the money and I said again it was no foul and not to worry about it.”

Como said the letter wasn’t intended to be a political attack against Crowley, despite his relationship with fellow Republican Tom Ognibene, who is challenging her in November. “This is not a political thing, it’s coming from me. If anyone is to blame here, it is Councilmember Crowley – she’s the only one who put me up to this by pulling their funding.”

Ognibene said he had “zero” involvement in the letter and noted that the whole issue arose when Aiello contacted Como. “She’s trying to deflect the fact that she pulled the funding for the Glendale Kiwanis, that’s what the city of New York said, not Tom Ognibene. They asked Anthony why they weren’t getting funding so he made the inquiry and that’s the answer that came back... Let her say it’s not true instead of blaming me. Of course if she did she would be lying again.”

While he doesn’t blame either side, Aiello said he wasn’t thrilled that the club, which is ded- icated to helping those in need, was thrust into the middle of a political fight. “I’m caught in between here and I don’t like it,” he said. “I appreciate what they try to do for the club and I have the utmost respect for Anthony Como and Elizabeth Crowley. What happened here was just a mistake, something that happened. Our club could have used the money, no doubt, but we didn’t lose any sleep over it. There is no harm or foul here... I’m a little bit disappointed. This didn’t have to go to the papers.”

The City Council Finance Division did not return a call by press time seeking clarification as to whether the money was ever allocated.

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