How corrupt is your local government?
My Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would clean up Albany when he got elected. Now is his chance to show what exactly what did he mean with that statement.
Below is an editorial from our local paper.
Editorial: Follow the Albany-gate scandal money wherever it may lead
Published: Friday, September 07, 2012, 7:59 AM Updated: Friday, September 07, 2012, 8:29 AM
We hesitate to say it, given the sordid history, but even by the dismal standards that prevail in New York state government, the scandal involving longtime Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez is truly remarkable.
Sure, it seems as if every month a new state lawmaker is accused of behaving badly somehow.
And occasionally, they eventually are booted out by disgusted voters or even led away in handcuffs.
But this one is different because of how far it reaches and how deep it could go.
Mr. Lopez was accused by several women who worked for him of sexual harassment.
Sad to say, that’s not rare in Albany, where powerful people with big egos believe their high station and the peculiar, secretive culture of the Legislature enable them to get away with almost anything.
Much of the time, voters never get wind of these incidents.
What makes this situation extraordinary is that when the first complaints about Mr. Lopez surfaced, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sought to make them go away by quietly arranging a payoff to the two women to settle the case.
Mr. Lopez was required to kick in $32,000, but another $103,000 came in the form of taxpayer money.
And the taxpayers weren’t supposed to find out about the payoffs, according to the plan.
And it’s now clear that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, both Democrats like Mr. Silver and Mr. Lopez, signed off on this arrangement.
Both Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. DiNapoli used to serve in the Legislature and know Mr. Silver and Mr. Lopez well.
Then, when a new sexual harassment complaint was made against Mr. Lopez by different women a couple of months later, Mr. Silver decided Mr. Lopez had to go and privately advised him to quit his Assembly post, according to the Speaker himself.
In all, four women who had worked in Mr. Lopez’s office had come forward before Mr. Silver decided enough was enough. For having that belated epiphany, Mr. Silver seems to expect to be regarded as some sort of hero.
He also decided that the payoff to the first victim was ill-advised. So, too, have Mr. Schneiderman and Mr. DiNapoli.
The only logical conclusion we can draw is that their change of heart came about primarily because the payoff became public knowledge.
Now, elected officials across the state, including the six members of Staten Island’s legislative delegation, are also calling on Mr. Lopez to resign.
The timing of these declarations makes them about 100 days late.
And state taxpayers are still $103,000 short.
Charles Hynes, the district attorney in Mr. Lopez’s home borough of Brooklyn, where Mr. Lopez served as Democratic chairman until recently resigning, has rightly recused himself from the case. Mr. Hynes handed the investigation off to Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, a Republican who has no ties to any of the principals.
It will be interesting to see what Mr. Donovan comes up with in this scandal with many tentacles.
There has been an unconfirmed report that Mr. Donovan’s probe will focus only on the harassment accusations against Mr. Lopez.
We hope that’s not true. Just as Watergate was about much more than a break-in, this scandal is about so much more than the alleged sexual misdeeds of one lawmaker.
For one thing, we’d like to know where the hush money that was paid in the first case came from.
Is it possible that top state legislative leaders maintain a hidden slush fund from money diverted from state coffers to help make these nasty problems go away quietly?
That would be a crime. New Yorkers have a right to know about that, don’t they?