Aaron Short’s relentless pursuit of shenanigans inside Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s office and its charity spin-off has kept readers in thrall for years — and now it’s won a major award.
Short and Laura Nahmias, a reporter for the Capital and City Hall News, have just been named the inaugural recipients of a statewide investigative journalism competition run by New York Civic, a watchdog group founded by former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.
Nahmias won the top prize of $2,000 for a story that uncovered several instances when Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. sought expense reimbursements for items supposedly bought in Albany when he was nowhere near the state capital.
Short was hot on her heels — and earned a cool grand — with his story, “This is supposed to be a senior center. It’s actually Vito Lopez’s clubhouse,” which ran on BrooklynPaper.com on Oct. 13, 2010 and later in the New York Post, our sister publication.
The lede of the story said it all: “A Bushwick nonprofit that gets $1 million in taxpayer dollars to provide services for seniors is instead renting out its first floor to Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s political clubhouse — and giving back some of that money in ‘consulting fees’ to the embattled lawmaker.”
The story also pointed out that Lopez, while he was an assemblyman, collected $57,600 in consulting fees from a subsidiary of the charity, though it is unclear what the money was for.
Stern’s group cited not only that story, but Short’s “ongoing investigation” into the Lopez-founded charity, Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council.
“In this age of media consolidation, it is more important than ever that we vigorously support and encourage investigative journalism,” said Stern. “Laura Nahmias and Aaron Short uphold the great tradition of the media acting as watchdogs to keep politicians honest and inform the public when they are not.”
Short has been with the Community Newspaper Group since November, 2007. He is 30 years old, but is as spry as reporters six years his junior. He holds an honors undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters from Brown University.
Short’s boss, Editor Gersh Kuntzman, was effusive in praise of his protege’s accomplishment.
“We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What’s next for Aaron?’ — and now we know,” said Kuntzman. “We couldn’t be more proud of him.”
The Mary Perot Nichols Award is named for the late muckraking Village Voice columnist.
Lopez did not return a call seeking comment, but a Lopez opponent, Democratic District Leader Lincoln Restler said, “Investigative journalism is essential to a healthy democracy, and Aaron Short is the rare intrepid journalist that keeps the Brooklyn establishment on its toes.”
Reach reporter Moses Jefferson at firstname.lastname@example.org.