ANGRY POLS WEIGH QUINN-SURRECTION
By DAVID SEIFMAN, City Hall Bureau Chief
May 3, 2008 -- Some City Council members are so angry at the fallout from the phantom-funds mess that they're discussing the possible ouster of Speaker Christine Quinn, The Post has learned.
"There's an awful lot of dissension," one council member said.
The legislator said a meeting of the council's Black and Latino Caucus Wednesday turned into "as close to a revolution as could be."
Many minority legislators feel they're being singled out for scrutiny, since they've been at the center of virtually all the stories about irregularities in the allocation of grants to nonprofit groups.
One source said some council members are considering hiring lawyers amid a broad investigation by the US attorney and the city's Department of Investigation into the council's use of phantom accounts to park $17 million in grant funds since 2001 for distribution after the budget was adopted each June.
"Everyone's very nervous," an insider said.
Quinn is under intense pressure to pull back a proposal that would require organizations receiving about $20 million in discretionary grants each year to compete through a request-for-proposals process administered through the mayor's administration.
Several members have denounced that as an abdication of the council's powers to the mayor.
"We still don't know where the leadership is on this," one Quinn critic said.
If the speaker won't budge, the critic warned, "she's in a very tenuous place."
Under current rules, it's not clear whether Quinn could be replaced by a simple majority vote of the council's 51 members since her term as speaker doesn't end until Dec. 31, 2009.
There's also the question, as one member put it, "Will we look worse if we oust her?"
Two aides to Councilman Kendall Stewart (D-Brooklyn) have been indicted by the feds for allegedly swiping $145,000 from a nonprofit group that had been allocated council funds by Stewart.
Meanwhile, activist attorney Norman Siegel, a candidate for public advocate, filed a motion in Manhattan Supreme Court under a provision dating back to the Boss Tweed era of the 1870s requesting a judicial hearing in the phantom accounts.
"New Yorkers need a public airing of the facts surrounding this practice," Siegel said in court papers.
"When did it start? Who started it? Who participated in the practice? Who knew about the practice? Who made up the fictitious names?"
In response, Quinn said the lawsuit "serves no purpose . . . and suspect[s] it could be motivated by the desire for cheap publicity."