Liu campaign woes worsen with $527,400 in sign fines

City Comptroller John Liu was ordered to pay more than $500,000 in fines for violations relating to his 2009 campaign, even as he defends current fund-raising for his 2013 mayoral run.
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This was probably not the kind of publicity City Comptroller John Liu had hoped for.

The aspiring mayor is facing both a fine for a previous campaign and an accusation of malfeasance surrounding his current one.

Late last month he announced that he had retained former state Attorney General Robert Abrams to audit his yet-unregistered campaign for mayor after a scathing report by The New York Times.

And Oct. 20 the Environmental Control Board issued Liu $527,400 in fines for putting up campaign posters on public property during his 2009 bid for comptroller, according to records released by the city.

The board — which hears cases in which a person or business has violated a health or safety law but does not judicate crimes — released the information late last month about the Oct. 20 decision.

The posters in question were plastered on public property, and in one case a tree, and each one carried a fine of at least $75. Liu’s campaign office erroneously placed just over 7,000 of them, according to the court decision.

The fines were issued once before by the city Department of Sanitation, but thrown out due to a technicality.

The board threw out the violations in March when it was found that they were not properly delivered to Liu’s campaign, according to city documents.

But Sanitation reissued the violations, and Liu was ultimately ordered to pay the fines under the most recent decision.

A lawyer representing Liu told the New York Post that the mayoral hopeful plans to appeal the decision again.

And in addition to his past campaigns, Liu is also running into trouble with his possible bid for mayor.

An Oct. 11 report in The Times found that many of the people listed as donating to Liu’s campaign war chest denied giving money when confronted by reporters.

Liu currently has more than $1.5 million in his campaign coffers, according to the city Campaign Finance Board, with many of the donations in the amount of $800, a number the Times reports is associated with the number 8, which is auspicious in Chinese culture.

The report cited other sources who said donors with deep pockets allegedly filled out additional cards in the names of unsuspecting employees in order to give Liu more money than is legally allowed, the report said.

Liu responded to the allegations soon afterward, welcoming any scrutiny of his campaign finances.

He announced that he would retain Abrams to thoroughly vet his cash Oct. 28.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 10:50 pm, November 9, 2011
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