Brooklyn assemblywoman sought $100K in state funding for nonexistent ‘think tank’
The state lawmaker elected to replace a politician busted for stealing Superstorm Sandy money has herself raised ethics questions — after trying to score $100,000 for a group that doesn’t exist, The Post has learned.
Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D-Brooklyn) tried to land the cash for the Southern Brooklyn Community Think Tank, which she promised to set up days after her November 2018 election to “change the face of politics” in the area.
Frontus said she couldn’t understand all the fuss over her failed political-pork request. “It’s not an entity, it’s just a name,” said Frontus, who previously founded two Coney Island-based social services nonprofits. “It’s not something real.”
Assembly spokesman Mike Whyland insisted Frontus didn’t break any laws because the think tank is merely an “idea.”
But she never filed paperwork with state or federal authorities to establish the group — despite asking Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie for the funding, which he refused.
“How do you ask for $100,000 in funding for a group that doesn’t exist and think it’s OK?” said one Brooklyn legislator. “This request reeks of corruption and raises many legal and ethical questions.”
Frontus vowed to create the think tank days after winning the election to replace disgraced ex-Assemblywoman Pam Harris, who was convicted of misusing Superstorm Sandy repair funds.
Government watchdogs slammed Frontus’ request, saying just asking for the money raises red flags.
“Elected officials should not [try to] direct public money to groups they are affiliated with because it creates an appearance of favoritism,” said Alex Camarda, senior policy advisor for the good government group Reinvent Albany.
Heastie, he believes, “rightly turned down” Frontus’ request. State law says lawmakers cannot “participate in any state contracting decision” that results in payment to themselves, family or an entity in which they have more than a $1,000 stake. Violators face fines of up to $40,000.
Frontus wrote in her application to Heastie that the think tank would “promote civic engagement in southern Brooklyn” and operate under the auspices of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island, according to the funding request obtained by The Post.
She said the group would hold regular “meetings to retrieve community input regarding key social problems.” The $100,000, she wrote, would pay for a full-time coordinator, equipment and supplies.
However, Frontus admitted to The Post she never filed any paperwork to establish the think tank. Nor, did she bother to set up social-media accounts for it.
The only online postings reporters could find for the nonprofit were made by the assemblywoman’s work Facebook page.
Albany legislators have a long history of skirting the law at the expense of nonprofits they founded.
Disgraced ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. was found guilty in 2012 of looting more than $500,000. Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley was convicted stealing from a charity to go on shopping sprees.
The JCC did not return messages.
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