Four years after State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, a New Haven Democrat, won his first term in the state legislature, his campaign treasurer was arrested for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars in campaign funds.
Sandra McKinnie, a resident of New Haven, was first suspected of embezzlement when an audit conducted by the State Election Enforcement Commission (SEEC) found 43 cash transactions totaling $4,270 unaccounted for in Holder-Winfield’s campaign account. According to a statement from the Chief State Attorney’s Office, McKinnie was the only signatory on the account. Mark Dupuis, spokesman for the Chief State Attorney’s office, said his office arranged for McKinnie to turn herself in to the North Haven Police Department headquarters on Friday afternoon.
According to Friday’s arrest warrant affidavit, investigators on the case questioned her on two separate occasions, and on each McKinnie admitted to having some knowledge of why she was being questioned but did not acknowledge any wrongdoing. She told investigators only that “[she] wasn’t diligent” in her work as the campaign’s treasurer, and referred to herself during questioning as the campaign’s “piss girl.”
McKinnie was released from custody Friday afternoon after agreeing to appear in court on Oct. 2.
McKinnie, who could not be reached for comment on Monday, was arrested again Saturday morning by the New Haven Police Department for allegedly stealing from former Ward 24 Alderwoman Elizabeth McCormack’s 2009 aldermanic campaign as its treasurer, the New Haven Independent reported. McKinnie spent the weekend in police custody because she was not able to meet a $10,000 bond. On Monday, Judge Joseph Licari released her on a promise to appear again on Oct. 2.
McCormack told the Independent that after the election, campaign staffers told her they had not been paid. When McCormack asked McKinnie about the staffers’ compensation, McKinnie told her that there had not been enough money, and that she had used that money to pay other bills. So McCormack raised another $2,000.
“She took that money, too,” McCormack told the Independent. “People still said they didn’t get paid.” In all, she said, about $3,000 had gone missing.
Neither McCormack nor NHPD spokesman David Hartman could be reached on Monday.
In both cases, McKinnie was the only signatory on the campaign accounts. Holder-Winfield said that when he and McKinnie created his campaign account together, he did not make himself a signatory on the account so that his constituents would know with certainty that he was not using campaign money for personal purposes.
“I was so disconnected I couldn’t even get the bank records that the state had asked for,” he said.
Holder-Winfield cooperated with SEEC officials from the start of the investigation, Dupuis said. He added that after McKinnie appears in court separately for each arrest, the two cases will likely be combined.
Holder-Winfield’s campaign was awarded $25,000 from the state’s public financing system, according to SEEC spokesman Josh Foley.