Albany's Hall of Shame: Corruption Ordeal Gets Worse

Corruption crime wave strikes Albany

It seems that Albany’s corruption ordeal never ends. It only gets worse.

As another round of indictments hit the state capital, Dick Dadey of the reform group Citizens Union said "There’s a crime wave of political corruption and I think crime is rising."

His comment was prompted by the indictment of two legislators, Sen. Carl Kruger and Assemblyman William Boyland, both of Brooklyn, with bribery and conspiracy charges.

Citizens Union has assembled statistics on what Dadey tells me is "a crime wave of political corruption" and he says "it’s getting worse."

As Dadey sees it: "For the six years after 1999, four legislators left office for criminal or ethical transgressions. There were 13 who had to go in the six years since. That’s tripling the rate. And that’s alarming."

Albany could create a Hall of Shame, a parade of legislators who have brought disgrace to Albany in recent years. It would include Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate, expelled by the senate for an assault on his girlfriend; Sen. Pedro Espada, who resigned amid a corruption investigation and was later indicted. Also on the list: Assemblyman Tony Seminerio, who pleaded guilty to accepting "consulting fees" from those promised access to government. He died in federal prison. 

Also, there is Joseph Bruno, a Republican and former majority leader in the senate who was found guilty of corruption charges.  His lawyers are appealing, Then there's Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin, convicted on racketeering charges involving embezzling more than $2 million in state and labor funds.

There could be a special alcove in the Hall of Shame for statewide elected officials including former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned in a prostitution scandal. As New York attorney general he was known as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" and he promised to clean up Albany.  The former state comptroller, Alan Hevesi, was convicted of using his official car to carry his ailing wife, is to be sentenced soon in a pension fund pay-to-play scandal.

The list goes on and on. And insiders in Albany tell me, in the wake of recent indictments, other legislators will be hit with charges. Prosecutors expect to "turn" some of those already indicted to yield more indictments.

I asked the Citizens Union’s Dadey: can you legislate honesty?

"No," he said, "but we can put a strict cop on the beat."

He favors creating a non-partisan commission to oversee both houses of the Legislature. The Public Integrity Commission scrutinizes the executive branch of government.

Whether a commission will deter wrongdoing, as Dadey predicts, remains to be seen. First, the reformers must push the legislators to create a body to investigate themselves. That’s a heavy lift.

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