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Citizens Union's Statement on Disturbing Arrest of Sheldon Silver
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For Immediate Release,
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Contact:
Chelsea Schuster, 212-227-0342 ext. 28

Citizens Union Statement on Disturbing Arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver


Calls for Improvements in Ethics Enforcement
and in Addressing Outside Income

It is a sad continuation of the persistent corruption in Albany that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver this morning was charged with depriving the public of honest services, and failed to disclose outside income, violating ethics reforms that he ironically himself championed back in 2011.  This adds to the unacceptable rise in crime that we have seen in Albany for years.  That the Speaker has been accused of using his public post to personally profit from his ability to influence government action is another troubling display of undermining New Yorkers’ trust in our state government.
 
Silver's indictment makes him the fifth leader or former leader of a house of the New York State Legislature since 2000 to be charged with abusing the public trust, joining Joe Bruno, Pedro Espada, Malcolm Smith and John Sampson (currently still a sitting legislator).

He will also join three other sitting legislators who are currently under indictment: John Sampson, as previously mentioned; Tom Libous; and William Scarborough. In total, 32 legislators have abused the public trust since 2000, as captured in Citizens Union's corruption tracker.
 
That the Moreland Commission was so abruptly disbanded illustrates how effective its anti-corruption work was becoming and why it should not have been stopped, particularly since it was zeroing in on the very issues of legislators’ outside income and pay-to-play that led to charges against the Speaker.   
 
In light of these charges and the abhorrent rise in crime in our State’s capital, now more than ever there is a need for more independent ethics oversight, tougher penalties for those who violate the public’s trust and integrity, addressing pay-to-play, and greater transparency of state funding, including lump sum appropriations.
 
Reforms are also needed around elected official compensation, including greater disclosure of and possible limits on outside income, and the creation of a quadrennial commission as raised by the Governor in his State of the state address and supported by Citizens Union. 
 
The delayed formation of the Review Commission of the 2011 Public Integrity Reform Act’s effectiveness is also an unfortunate action that needs to be remedied, especially since such a commission was required to be formed by June 2014 and report by March 2015 on suggested improvements to state ethics oversight and enforcement. 
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