Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron, assemblywoman wife may have improperly used taxpayer money

Wednesday, July 6th 2011, 4:00 AM

Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron with his assemblywoman wife Inez.
Bryan Smith for News
Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron with his assemblywoman wife Inez.

Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron and his assemblywoman wife have pumped $350,000 in taxpayer money into a nonprofit run by a longtime political aide, records show.

Charles and Inez Barron steered the money to Man Up! Inc., a group that helps inmates reenter society, and gave campaign funds to its affiliate, Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote.

Both are run by Barron's longtime friend and sometime campaign worker Andre Mitchell, records show.

Mitchell was paid as a consultant and manager in Charles Barron's 2005 and 2009 campaigns. Barron's campaign headquarters shared an address with Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote, and a Man Up! board member and an employee worked on Barron's campaigns.

Inez Barron paid Hip Hop Stand Up a small fee for work on Election Day 2008.

The arrangement raises questions about whether the Barrons improperly used taxpayer money to reward those who did campaign work for them.

Disgraced Queens state Sen. Hiram Monserrate was indicted last year on charges of steering public money to a nonprofit that helped run his campaigns.

Charles Barron was offended by any suggestion he steered money to Man Up! in exchange for campaign work.

"I'm very, very proud of the young people in my district, funding their programs and involving them in the electoral process," Barron said.

He also noted that Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote got no Council funding - and insisted anyone paid for working on his campaign did so on their own time.

In an interview, Mitchell said Hip Hop and Man Up! didn't do any campaigning.

Campaign 'coordinating'

Records show that during the 2005 and 2009 elections, Charles Barron's campaign paid Mitchell a total of $17,350 for consulting, campaign managing and "coordinating."

In 2005 and 2006, his campaign headquarters was located at the same Sutter Ave. address now used by Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote. Barron said the group moved in after his campaign moved out. He said he and his wife gave Hip Hop a $5,000 loan for renovations.

Starting in 2007, Charles Barron began steering what would total more than $350,000 in Council funds to Man Up! Inc.

His wife's campaign, Inez for Assembly, paid $500 in "wages" to Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote on Nov. 4, 2008, records show. The following year, she sponsored $10,000 for the group.

Barron's campaign treasurer in 2005, Rhonda Brown-Moore, appears on the Man Up! board in 2009, tax filings show.

Barron paid James Peterson, Man Up!'s director of development in 2009, $400 as a "campaign worker," records show. Neither Brown-Moore nor Peterson could be reached for comment.

Mitchell worked for a short time as Barron's Council aide while listed as executive director of Man Up! He said the Barrons gave him "a small business loan" for Hip Hop Stand Up and Vote.

"At that time, we had a political education program that we were running," he said.

At Hip Hop's offices, an awning reads "Youth, Community, Job Development & Crime prevention." Another says: "Space available for birthday parties, baby showers, private meetings and special occasions."

With Benjamin Lesser

tmoore@nydailynews.com

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