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An Ethics Crime wave in State Government; the need for reform. Plus 2000+ Double-dippers, including those who are crooks

February 18, 2011


02-14-2011 Citizens Union today release its second report on turnover in the New York State legislature finding that a crime wave is accelerating as the number of legislators who left in the past six years because of ethical and criminal misconduct has tripled over that of the previous six years. In fact, since 1999 one of every eleven legislators who left office did so under a cloud of ethical or criminal misconduct. At a press conference today Citizens Union, the Brennan Center, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and NYPIRG are calling for the immediate passage of ethics legislation that creates a strong mechanism for effective independent oversight and enforcement of ethics laws. 

“The crime wave of scandals prompting state legislators to leave office because of ethical or criminal misconduct has worsened; in fact, it has quickened at an alarming rate.

a) Over the past four years (2007 – 2010, a period when everything was supposed to change for the better), the pace of state legislators leaving office because of ethical misconduct or criminal charges has doubled – an alarming 9 legislators left during this four-year period, which is one more than the 8 legislators who left in the entire eight-year period before 2007 (1999 – 2006).

b) And over the past six years (2005-2010), the number of legislators who left because of such incidents (13) is actually triple the number (4) of the prior six years (1999-2004).”

Although there are cases more severe that did not see expulsion action, State Senator Hiram Monserrate became the first legislator in 90 years to actually be removed by the legislature itself for wrongdoing.  In the vast majority of cases, criminal charges or charges of ethical misconduct resulting in departure from office have been brought from authorities outside of the legislature.

It’s also worth noting that there are the statistics, and then there is what should be the statistics. There have been many cases that investigations never took place but could and should have, and cases where individuals should have met scrutiny, but because they resigned or didn’t seek re-election, they faded into the background, and the issues were forgotten about.


Here are some Notable cases 2005-present where action was taken:

State Democrats: Sptizer, Patterson, Hevesi, Espada (ongoing), Monserrate, Seminerio, Sabini, Gonzalez, Gordon, Smith, McLaughlin, Karben, Norman.

State Republicans: Leibell, Bruno(may be overturned), Cole. 

Adviser gets prison in NY pension fund scheme

February 18, 2011 – Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A former top political consultant to New York’s disgraced ex-comptroller was led off to prison Thursday after being sentenced to at least a year and four months behind bars for his pivotal role in an influence-peddling scandal involving the state pension fund.  More… 

N.Y. pension debate targets double-dippers, crooks ***

February 17, 2011; Reuters

As state and local governments consider how to reduce the billions of dollars they will owe to retirees in future, New York is scrutinizing those who “double-dip” — retiring early from one job in the public sector and hopping to another. Such workers collect a pension and a salary, and may even eventually be eligible for a second separate pension.

There are at least 2,129 New York state public employees, ranging from nurse to investigator, who are double-dippers.

Then there are the crooks.

In the past six years, criminal or ethical violations have driven 13 legislators out of office, up from four in the previous six-year period, according to Citizens Union, a nonpartisan civic group.

“We believe that those who are convicted of a serious crime maybe should not be receiving their full taxpayer-paid pension,” said Citizens Union executive director Dick Dadey.

Those who left office under a cloud include the former Democratic comptroller of New York City and New York state, Alan Hevesi, who resigned in 2006 and pleaded guilty to defrauding the government. A wider corruption probe led to another felony guilty plea from Hevesi last year.

Despite the convictions, Hevesi is paid $8,786 a month, or $105,432 a year, according to the state comptroller

GLYNN: Scandal is major factor in lawmakers leavingRead Full Article

February 16, 2011; Niagara Gazette

Gov’t Reform Groups Say Study Shows Legislative Crime WaveRead Full Article

February 14, 2011; WXXI

Citizens Union Decries Legislative ‘Crime Wave’Read Full Article

February 14, 2011; Capital Tonight

Number of lawmakers leaving Albany amid scandal growsRead Full Article

February 14, 2011: Press & Sun-Bulletin

Scandal One of Top Reasons NY Pols Leave Office, Report SaysRead Full Article

February 14, 2011: The New York Observer

More NY legislators leaving office over ethics concernsRead Full Article

February 14, 2011; Crain’s New York Business

NY lawmakers increasingly dogged by scandalRead Full Article

February 14, 2011; Wall Street Journal

Watchdog Group Finds “Wave Of Ethical Misconduct” In AlbanyRead Full Article

February 14, 2011;

Goo-goos decry legislative ‘crime wave’Read Full Article

February 14, 2011; Capitol Confidential

NY lawmakers increasingly dogged by scandal

February 15, 2011; Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — …Citizens Union researchers noted that the Legislature elected last November has 47 new members, or 22 percent turnover, the largest change in a decade. That includes 13 incumbents who lost elections amid growing public disenchantment.

“While crime has declined in many parts of New York state, we’re witnessing here in Albany a crime wave,” said Dick Dadey, the group’s executive director. Changing that will require meaningful ethics reform with a new independent state government oversight commission and full disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income, he said.

Among the 13 who left in scandal, Sen. Vincent Leibell, a Republican from the Hudson Valley, resigned in December shortly before pleading guilty to tax evasion and obstruction of justice, both federal felonies. Democrat Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio resigned in 2009 after federal prosecutors accused him of honest services fraud for taking payments through his consulting company from people who wanted favorable treatment in Albany.

Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters endorsed the report, saying New York must stop the personal use of campaign funds. That has included legal defenses in ethics and criminal investigations.

“There are far too many instances where you pay to play,” Bartoletti said of special interest groups donating to candidates in return for access or other considerations. “This is shameful and the state of New York can do better than that.”

The report counted lawmakers who left or lost their seats when there was either an active formal investigation, formal charges of misconduct or sanctions levied for ethical or criminal issues. Most were investigated by federal or county prosecutors. Individual legislators with ethical issues or conflicts of interest raised at the point they decided not to seek re-election were not included.

Dadey was asked why he remained optimistic that new Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has advocated ethics reform and begun meeting with legislative leaders in an attempt to forge meaningful legislation, would succeed when previous years of effort failed. He said Cuomo so far “has not settled for an easy fix.”

Senate Republican leaders are currently negotiating an ethics bill with the governor and Assembly, “which will result in historic reforms,” said GOP conference spokesman Scott Reif. Its focus is more on disclosure of outside interests and employment, he said, adding he didn’t know if it would put new restrictions on using campaign funds.

Senate Democrats on Monday called for ethics reform similar to the good-government advocates, a package a bills including an independent oversight commission, increased client disclosure, prohibiting state contractors from contributing to candidates and restricting personal use of campaign funds for expenses like sending someone to college, junkets and legal bills.

On Monday they tried to blame Republican senators, now in the majority, Sen. John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat saying they are backing off from reform promises to voters, yet under his leadership the Democrats didn’t pass those bills when they were in the majority the past two years.


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