GOP Sen. Vincent Leibell Resigns Amidst Federal Investigation

Republican state Sen. Vincent Leibell has resigned in the face of a federal investigation from two jobs — his Senate position and a county executive post he was elected to last month.

In a one-sentence letter released Friday, Leibell, 64, announced that he was resigning after 16 years in office. It was effective 11:59 p.m. Thursday. Leibell, whose Senate term was to expire at the end of this month, gave no reason for the resignation.

Vincent Tamagna, chairman of the Putnam County Legislature, said Leibell advisers told him that Leibell would not be taking the oath of office for county executive because of the pending investigation.

Herb Hadad, spokesman for U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, would not comment on whether Leibell was facing charges. Leibell's lawyer, David L. Lewis, refused to comment. Calls to Leibell's offices in Albany and Brewster were not immediately returned.

In June, Leibell acknowledged to The Journal News, which covers the New York City suburbs, that the FBI had subpoenaed building records for his home in Patterson. The newspaper said records showed Leibell bought the property in 1996 from the family of "Bewitched" actress Elizabeth Montgomery, for whom he had done legal work. He paid $110,000 and built a five-bedroom colonial with swimming pool which was assessed this year at $1.4 million, The Journal News said.

"Everything that I did in terms of that house was most appropriate," Leibell said then. "I built a house like millions of other Americans have done."

A constituent, Ken Platt of Carmel, said Friday he was "kind of shocked" by the resignation.

"I would have thought that if there was something in the closet, he wouldn't have run for office this year," said Platt, 52, a letter carrier. "He was always at community events in the district and was great with the vets."

Leibell was part of the state Senate's Republican minority the last two years, as Democrats held a 32-30 majority. News of his resignation amid the investigation shocked members and staff in the Senate. They last saw Leibell in Monday's special session, before which he posed for pictures with his daughter.

"I think he's made great contributions to our Hudson Valley region and for that matter throughout the state," said Sen. Stephen Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican. "I'm enormously saddened by the allegations and developments of the past several days, as I am for he and his family."

Leibell did not run for re-election this year, but his seat remained in GOP hands when Assemblyman Greg Ball won it. Leibell's absence in December is not expected to be critical to any votes.

Republicans say they believe two remaining recounts in Senate races will return the majority to the GOP, which ran the chamber for a half-century before 2008.

Instead of running for re-election, Leibell ran for Putnam County executive, and defeated Democrat Mary Ellen Odell.

Even if Leibell were convicted of a felony, he would still be able to collect his public pension. He served 12 years in the state Assembly before his 16 years in the Senate.

Tamagna said the Legislature and the county attorney are trying to figure out how to determine who will be county executive Jan. 1.

He said the "smartest scenario" would be to ask 20-year incumbent Robert Bondi to stay on for a year and have a special election in November 2011. He said Bondi was willing to consider it, but the county attorney would have to determine if it would be legal to do so.

"This situation is unprecedented for Putnam County," he said. "It's a dark day for the county."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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