Following three years of delays, a two-week trial and two days of deliberation last week, a jury found Councilman Ruben Wills guilty of a total of five counts in his corruption trial after he used taxpayer money for personal use. According to the charges, the councilman had stolen more than $30,000 in money by funneling it through a nonprofit group he created and used it to purchase clothes, fast food and, in one case, an expensive handbag.
“Ruben Wills’ crimes were a shameful violation of the public trust,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said following the verdict. “New Yorkers deserved better.”
Wills’ Southeast Queens council district has been under a cloud since the councilman was first indicted. He lost authority of the distribution of funds in his district as a result of the case being built against him. What’s more important is that this has gone on for years. Wills was reelected in 2013 while a criminal investigation was hovering over him.
The Southeast Queens community has lost too many elected officials to convictions for misdeeds and misappropriation. It’s important for young people to be able to look up to elected officials and see them as examples of leadership and integrity. It’s a shame they’ve had to see so many elected officials go to jail. This year’s council race to fill his seat is one of the most important elections that Southeast Queens has faced in many years.
As voters, we should send a message to City Hall and the children of the community that we need to have someone representing us who is a stellar example and is committed to working for the people, not themselves. We should expect no less from those who represent us, from the city and state to the federal level.