The State Ethics Commission (SEC) recently sent Maura Hennigan, clerk of the criminal division of the Suffolk County Superior Court, a letter stating it has opened a “preliminary inquiry” into an earlier campaign violation, according to Hennigan.
The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) ruled in April that Hennigan had violated campaign finance law last year after having several of her court employees label envelopes intended for sending out her political campaign materials.
Hennigan said she has not spoken with anyone at the SEC about the new investigation, but she did not expect any additional penalties as OCPF had already addressed the matter.
David Giannotti, a spokesperson for the SEC, said when asked for a comment on the investigation, “I cannot confirm or deny that the State Ethics Commission is investigating due to strict confidential requirements imposed by statutes.”
Robert Dello Russo, a former clerk who attempting to unseat Hennigan, said he expects the SEC to find Hennigan in violation as OCPF has already done so with her campaign. But he said Hennigan continues to deny she did anything wrong, saying she didn’t know anything and didn’t instruct anyone to bring campaign paraphernalia to the court office.
“That’s an infraction,” said Dello Russo. “Either you admit it or don’t.”
Hennigan said she admits a “mistake” occurred and has taken appropriate actions to ensure it will not happen again.
“This minor mishap was an honest mistake that happened in my office,” she said. “It was not one of willful neglect or premeditation. I am human and this mistake did occur in my office.”
The latest investigation adds to mounting political heat on Hennigan. She has also been blasted by a TV news report for leaving the office during the day and her office has been under fire because an error led to an alleged murderer being released from prison.
“Absolutely not,” Hennigan responded in an email to Gazette when asked if the negative publicity would drive her from the campaign. “I take my cue from the voters and the people. The voters have never questioned my integrity and I have never given them a reason to do so. I have been truthful and forthright with OCPF and will do the same with Ethics Commission or any agency that questions it.”
Dello Russo had an alternative perspective.
“I would probably say that a different person might see the need to drop out because of a lack of public trust,” he said. “She might feel different—that she made a mistake and is paying for it.”