By Danny Schrafel
Nathaniel Ham, the disgraced former head of the Huntington Housing Authority who was released from federal prison in May after being convicted of bribery and money laundering charges, is on the ballot this Tuesday to become a Huntington Town Democratic Committeeman.
Ham, 62, and his wife, Denise, of Dix Hills, are to run in the Sept. 9 primary election against incumbent committee members Richard Wanat and Arlene Morante for a two-year term representing the 98th Election District.
The race is one of six committee primaries that Huntington Democratic voters residing in those election districts can weigh in on this Tuesday. But Ham’s run is getting the most attention – and causing the most aggravation to Democratic leaders.
Ham was one of two Dix Hills residents among 14 construction inspectors and a pair of contractors sentenced Nov. 22, 2011 for their role in a nine-year kickback scheme that inflated the cost of post-Sept. 11 projects with fake bills and unnecessary work, federal prosecutors said at the time.
In connection with these projects, the 14 Con Ed inspectors solicited bribes in exchange for approving contractor invoices that listed phantom pay items, allowing contractors to perform unnecessary additional work on the projects and expediting Con Ed payments to the contractors. Prosecutors say the scheme cost Con Ed millions.
Ham, who was convicted in March 2011, was found to have laundered bribes through his credit union accounts. He was released from federal prison on May 2 after receiving a 32-month sentence, and was also ordered to pay more than $1.136 million in fines.
Huntington Town Democratic Committee Chair Mary Collins said Tuesday there’s little the party could do to stop his bid.
“It’s their right to carry petitions,” she said. “I don’t particularly agree with it… They went out and got signatures and filed with the board of elections.”
So long as he’s a registered Democrat, Ham’s felony conviction does not preclude him from running for the town committee, county election officials said.
“If a person convicted of a felony is no longer in prison and no longer on parole, there is no prohibition against being a registered voter in New York State,” said Anita Katz, the Democratic commissioner on the Suffolk County Board of Elections.
Ham’s name did not produce any results in a state parole database search, and Katz confirmed Wednesday he is a registered voter.
Dating back to 1987, Ham’s construction company racked up tens of thousands of dollars in judgments for unpaid bills, as well as sizable tax liens from the government. Awash in debt and tax liens, Ham’s DGH Construction Co. was dissolved in June 1993.
In January 1999, another Ham construction business, C.B.H. Construction Corp., was ordered to pay pension and union dues, totaling $33,255, which had been withheld from the Bricklayer’s Union.
Ham served one term on the Half Hollow Hills school board from 1997-2000. His later tenure on the housing authority ended amid allegations of gross financial malfeasance. In October 2000, then-housing authority Chairman Malcolm Tillim alleged that a $170,000 “slush fund” had been created using HUD money. The Housing Authority sued Ham and another Housing Authority commissioner, Charles Robinson, in late 2000 for allegedly using Housing Authority Mortgage Corporation money to pay property taxes and Ham’s son’s tuition. In June 2001, Ham repaid the Housing Authority more than $72,000, which was initially approved as “a loan.” Ham was not prosecuted criminally as a result of the allegations.
Ham, who was named acting housing authority chairman by the late David McKay after McKay was indicted on conspiracy and money-laundering charges in 1999, was later forced from the housing authority’s board by the Huntington Town Board.
Since then, the housing authority has rebounded, and federal housing scores improved dramatically during the tenure of Chairman William Spencer, now a Suffolk County legislator representing the 18th district.
Primary polls for the committee races, as well as for a contested District Court race for the Conservative, Independence and Working Families parties, will be open from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9.