Councilwomen Slam DA Williams Over Porngate Prosecutors

Council members Cindy Bass and Helen Gym sharply criticized Seth Williams for employing three men tied to the Porngate scandal.


L to R: District Attorney Seth Williams and prosecutor Frank Fina | Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

It was a pretty weak showing, said Councilwoman Cindy Bass, when District Attorney Seth Williams announced late on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day weekend that three of his staff members who were caught up in the Porngate scandal would be given sensitivity training.

“I’m offended by these emails,” Bass said, describing a few of the blatantly racist email chains that were passed around the office. “If somebody sends me something that I’m offended by, I will email them back and say, ‘Don’t send me this anymore.’”

The exchange took place during budget hearings in City Council on Wednesday.

Williams said that he’s offended by the content of the emails as well. But he defended himself by saying that the email exchanges happened at the Attorney General’s office, not the District Attorney’s office. And two of the three prosecutors were passive recipients of the emails, he said; they didn’t write them or forward them along.

“Did they stop the emails?” Bass continued. “They did not stop the emails. They stand in a position where they have to make judgments.”

Prosecutors Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Patrick Blessington were among a number of state employees who sent or received offensive emails. Bass has sponsored a resolution calling on Williams to fire them. Williams announced in November that the three prosecutors had received sensitivity training.

Williams said on Wednesday that he didn’t think the prosecutors’ involvement in the email scandal during their time as state employees warranted their termination from his office. He said he had reviewed their conduct during their time as city employees and found nothing untoward. Williams also made a failed attempt to schmooze with Bass, starting his remarks by reminding her of the time they spent at Penn State together:

Councilwoman Helen Gym later echoed Bass’s statements.

“I understand that your resolution around this issue is what it is,” Gym said to Williams. “But I really hope that your office does not excuse behaviors that are deemed offensive and shocking and off-the-charts in terms of what was disseminated and received on official email because there was no policy on it.

“At the heart of it is the need for a justice system that’s rooted in trust,” Gym added.

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