Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Membership of Petey's Club

(The Albany Project by Dan Jacoby)

State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. requested more than $2 million dollars in Senate earmarks earlier this year for two groups with links to the health care organization that he founded and which appeared to have been created in part to receive such grants, according to several Democratic officials and aides with knowledge of the requests.

But Senate Democrats rejected the grant requests in early April because they could not confirm that the groups were legitimate nonprofit organizations. Around the same time, Mr. Espada began discussions with Senate Republicans to leave the Democratic caucus, ending with the Republicans' stunning surprise takeover of the Senate on Monday.

At the end of March, Mr. Espada requested $1,348,000 in grants for the Bronx Human Services Council Inc., an organization that registered with the state as a nonprofit organization on March 26, roughly a week before the state budget deal under which the Senate and Assembly were allocated some $170 million in pork-barrel spending, known as member items.

State records indicate that the council is headquartered at the same Bronx address as a clinic that is part of the Soundview HealthCare Network, which Mr. Espada founded. The chairman of the board of Soundview, John A. Feliciano, Jr., is also listed as a special assistant on Mr. Espada's Senate staff, according to Senate records.

Mr. Espada also requested $875,000 for Green ECO Energy Incorporated, a group that was created on March 19. State records list the contact for the organization as Daniel Pagano, a lawyer who works part-time for Mr. Espada as counsel to the Senate Housing Committee and who is also representing the senator in his ongoing dispute with the state Board of Elections over missing campaign filings.

Democratic aides said that the Senate earmark request for Green Eco Energy listed the nonprofit's address as 1786 Adelaide Court in East Meadow, N.Y. The same address is also listed on campaign filings from Mr. Espada's political action committee as the home address of David C. Collymore, who is also the medical director of Soundview, according to Mr. Espada. (The Soundview network is currently under investigation by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.)