Michael Fagen, who last week was indicted for illegally collecting unemployment benefits, was asked by his fellow Democratic City Council members to either step aside or take a leave of absence.
Len Torres, who was first elected to the council with Fagen in 2009, said that he and the other members of the council felt strongly the Fagen needed time to deal with his legal issues, but Fagen refused and will continue to serve on the council, according to Newsday.
"We're a close group. They were genuinely concerned about my well-being and offered me time away from council to focus in on my case."
A grand jury last week indicted Fagen for stealing more than $14,000 in unemployment compensation by concealing his employment as an elected city official from the state labor department. But Fagen's attorney, Marc Gann of Mineola, maintains his client's innocence and called the case a "political witch hunt."
When Fagen was arrested last June, originally charged with , at the next day’s City Council meeting James Lynch, a Walks resident, asked if Fagen would resign or at least recuse himself from voting on council agenda items during the ongoing investigation, and if the city council or corporation counsel would take any action in the case.
“Is there any kind of an ethics board that will be looking into this,” Lynch asked.
“Mr. Lynch, with all due respect, we’re not going to comment on that right now,” Council President Thomas Sofield Jr. said.
“I just think it’s a shame that while someone is under [a criminal] investigation like this, they still [vote], and they should just step aside,” Lynch said.
Fagen reminded Lynch and others that he is innocent until proven guilty. “I’m firmly behind that and I’m confident that I’ll be proven innocent,” he added.