No Longer Able to Govern Effectively
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For Immediate Release,
Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Dick Dadey, 917-709-2896
Chelsea Schuster, 561-843-0197


Good Government Group Believes Senate Leader Skelos Has Violated Trust of the Public

No Longer Able to Govern Effectively and Lead with Integrity

In light of the serious corruption charges filed against New York State Temporary President and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, Citizens Union’s board of directors held a special meeting today in which it unanimously decided to call upon Senator Skelos to step down from his leadership post.

Senator Skelos was charged with six federal counts of conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud and soliciting bribes, related to improper use of his public office in exchange for payments of nearly $220,000 made to his son. His arrest comes less than two months after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s indictment, and makes him the fifth consecutive Senate Leader to be charged with abusing the public trust (joining Joe Bruno, Malcolm Smith, Pedro Espada, and John Sampson).  This parade of ethically challenged leaders contributes to what is an appalling and never-ending pattern of public corruption scandals in New York State. 

As in the case of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the seriousness of the charges lend to the deeply troubling prospect that Senator Skelos has broken his promise of faithful service to New Yorkers and has violated our trust in him.  Legislative leaders must be held to a higher ethical standard of conduct and his actions violate that standard.  Elected by his peers, the position is a both a privilege and a responsibility.  A court of law will determine whether to sustain the charges against Senator Skelos.  What is laid bare by the charges and tape recordings is that his conduct is unethical.  These charges of official misconduct cast a pall over his ability to lead the Senate with integrity.  He must step down or be removed from his leadership post.

New Yorkers deserve a senate leader who can address the rising tide of corruption and the string of public scandals that have emerged in recent years. Since 2000, 28 state legislators have left office due to criminal or ethical issues and 5 more (including Senator Skelos) have been indicted, now total 33 legislators according to Citizens Union’s corruption tracker.

The ethics law improvements in 2011, 2014, and 2015 prompted by Governor Andrew Cuomo have collectively been a significant step forward and arguably are helping to root out state corruption with joint oversight and greater disclosure of outside income activity.  But the conflict of legislators using their public posts for private gain and the incessant culture of corruption will not end until legislators’ outside income is capped and their salaries significantly raised – a difficult proposal to advance when so many are violating the public’s trust, but a necessary one.

With the arrests this year of New York’s two most powerful legislators, our ethics laws still fall short. Greater independent enforcement is needed.  We hope that the newly formed ethics review commission will take on the enforcement limitations faced by JCOPE, recommend an overhaul in its voting structure, and increase the transparency of its proceedings.

Our campaign finance laws need reform as well, specifically and most necessarily closing the LLC loophole – which was noted in the complaint as being utilized by Senator Skelos.  Legislation to close the LLC loophole is slated to pass the Assembly today, and must also pass the Senate.  Only when our state democracy has comprehensive campaign finance reform including public financing, full enactment of pension forfeiture legislation, disclosure of and limits on outside income, and vigorous ethics enforcement mechanisms will we begin to see the crime wave of corruption in Albany decline.
Copyright © 2015 Citizens Union, All rights reserved.

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