Newly elected assemblywoman's personal finances draw criticism

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A newly elected state assemblywoman is facing criticism and even calls to step down following a report on her personal finances.

Democratic Assemblywoman Christine Pellegrino, of West Islip, made national headlines and drew praise from the head of the Democratic National Committee with her stunning upset victory in last month's special election. But the new report in Newsday sheds light on information that voters were not privy to before the election.

According to public records obtained by Newsday, Pellegrino and her husband are fighting foreclosure. The documents show that the couple has nearly $186,000 in federal tax liens and $300,000 in state tax liens. They also have more than $1,500 in unpaid neighborhood association fees, and even six unpaid parking tickets.

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Pellegrino defeated Babylon Conservative Tom Gargiulo to win in a district that had never elected a Democrat to the Assembly before. Gargiulo says he knew of Pellegrino's financial troubles during the campaign, but opted not to make an issue out of them. He says he stands by that decision, but also says the assemblywoman should now step down.

"She can't represent the neighborhood with all of these problems," Gargiulo says. "You can't go to Albany, say taxes this and that, and not pay your own taxes. Something is really wrong here."

Political consultant Michael Dawidziak says it's the way in which this information became public that could ultimately hurt Pellegrino down the line.

"The voters could say you ran almost under false pretenses, and you didn't trust us with this information. And I think most voters would have been understanding of this. People understand people getting in financial difficulty, people understand that," Dawidziak says.

News 12 reached out to Pellegrino for comment, but has not heard back.

A spokesperson for the assemblywoman told Newsday that the issues concerning the foreclosure are part of an ongoing divorce proceeding, and there is a payment plan in place with the IRS.

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