State Assembly District 57:
Brooklyn (Fort Greene, Prospect Heights)
Roger Green (Democrat)
Guillermo Filpotts (Democrat)
Tammy Meadows (Democrat)
Susan Metz (Green)
Ric Ocasio (Republican)
The Lingering Power of Incumbency
American politicians have won election while serving time in jail,
facing criminal charges or even after dying. But Roger Green may be the
first who ever won an election after a probation officer's report
described him as "having limited mental capacity or ...being dishonest."
Green, a member of the New York State Assembly from Brooklyn, resigned
his post in June after pleading guilty to three counts arising from
charges that he took free rides from a state contractor and then got
reimbursed by the state for the supposed cost of the trips. Green
received three years probation and had to pay $5,000. The probation
officer's report was intended to guide sentencing in the case.
But Green faces little competition in his bid to recapture the seat from
Fort Greene and Prospect Heights that he held for 21 years. As the
deadline passed for filing for the Democratic primary, Green had
challenges from two little known Democrats: Tammy Meadows of Prospect
Heights and Guillermo Filpotts. A Republican, Ric Ocasio, and a member
of the Green Party, Susan Metz, had also declared their candidacy.
The arena for the Brooklyn Nets at Flatbush and Atlantic avenues and the
accompanying development appear to be the most heated issues in the
area. Meadows is backed by an organization called Community Leadership
for Accountable Politics that supports the development plan, according
to Erik Engquist, who writes the Brooklyn Politics column for
Courier-Life newspapers. Green also supports the arena but has taken a
low profile on it and, said City Councilmember Letitia James, backs some
conditions on the development plan.
Metz's platform opposes the Forest City Ratner plan for the arena and surrounding area. She also is against
other development plans, including housing towers or box stores and
objects to taxpayer funding for private developers. But like Green, she
supports funding for education and other social programs.
Another issue could have been Green's record and the recent charges
against him. Along with the court action, the Assembly ethics committee
investigated Green. It concluded that the Brooklyn Democrat had to
resign or face what committee chair Mark Weprin has called "serious"
sanctions. And so Green resigned - for a little while.
But many prominent politicians in the area chose to sit the race out Ð
even though the seat in the 57th District is technically "open." And as
he announced he would step down, Green vowed to return. In his
resignation letter, he reportedly wrote, "while I stand prepared to seek
re-election to the New York State Assembly, I strongly believe that my
resignation will enable me to reconnect with my constituents and those
core values that I have always upheld as a public servant."
Green's hiatus from the state house seems barely noticed. Although the
Assembly web site mentions that he resigned in June, recorded phone
messages at both his Albany and Brooklyn office advise callers they have
reached the office of Assemblyman Roger Green. (Green could not be
contacted for an interview.)
And Green's absence has not cost him the backing of influential
supporters, including Brooklyn Democratic Party chief Clarence Norman,
who is also a member of the state Assembly and under indictment. "We're
supporting Roger Green 1,000 percent and he will get re-elected,
period," Norman told the New York Times.
The major rivals whose names popped up in political columns in the past
months have faded away. Those not running in the 57th include lawyer
Hakeem Jeffries, who had mounted spirited challenges to Green in the
past; Eric Adams of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care; and Robin Brown, president of the
United Parents Association of New York City.
Daniel McCalla, who had considered a run to challenge Green's support of
the Nets arena, said he was not able to get enough signatures in time
for the July 15 filing deadline for the Democratic primary --
particularly since, he said, he figured the Democratic organization
would challenge any signatures he did get. McCalla says he hopes to work
for the election of Green Party candidate Metz in November.
The Working Families Party decided
not to back Green's election, but also will not back any opponents to
him, choosing to stay out of the 57th District race entirely.
In past elections, Green won support from a number of organizations,
including Citizens Union, which praised his efforts to improve housing
and education in his district. He has been active in the campaign to
increase funding for New York City schools.
City Councilmember Letitia James, who used to work for Green, listed a
number of things he has done for his district. He played a key role in
the opening of Benjamin Banneker High School, has brought in money for
efforts to combat AIDS, and won funding for programs to help high school
students attend college and to promote youth entrepreneurship. He was
instrumental in the founding of Medgar Evers College, she said, and is
currently working to launch four new small high schools.
"When you read his biography, it's really impressive," she said. "All
the good things outweigh that lapse of judgment" with the travel
That could explain the lack of heavyweight opposition to Green. But
others offer a different explanation.
"It's a testimony to how effective Green and other long-term incumbents
have been in discouraging young people from getting into politics," said
Errol Louis http://www.nydailynews.com/news/col/louis/, a Daily News
columnist who has written frequently about the district. "They have
planned to stay for their entire lives as if it were a tenured position.
. . . This is the best example of that."
Rachel Leon, executive director of New York Common Cause, said it ultimately is "up to
the voters if they want to elect him."
But she noted that the state legislature has refused to release the
ethics committee report on Green, keeping from voters information they
need. "If it's all on the up and up, people need that information to
make an informed decision," she said.
When Green resigned, he avoided the sanctions reportedly recommended in
the report, and the report remained sealed.
Journalists and good government groups have called for release of the
report without success. And is it unclear whether its release could be
required under the state Freedom of Information Act, according to Robert
J. Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open
Green concedes that, in 2001 and 2002, he took rides on a van owned by
Correctional Services Corp., a private company that operated halfway
houses for the state. Green then submitted mileage vouchers for the
trips, many of them from Albany back home to his district, even though
the rides had not cost him anything. The maneuver cost the state about
$100 a week, according to an estimate by the Albany Times-Union.
Another state legislator, Gloria Davis of
the Bronx, earlier was convicted of accepting bribes from Correctional
Services, sentenced to three months in jail and gave up her seat. The
state fined the company a record $300,000 for not accurately reporting
to the state Lobbying Commission on gifts and services it gave
legislators. According to Newsday, the company had more than $22 million
worth of state businesses in the 1990s but no longer does business with
In many interviews, Green leaves little doubt that he thinks he has been
pursued by the legal system at least partly because he is black. In an
interview with the Challenge Group of newspapers with a largely
African-American readership Green said, that, in the current climate of
"celebrity prosecutions," black are easier to go after than white
because "we start off all already criminalized. This case is a prime
example. The media criminalized me with a picture in handcuffs. They
said that I should be thrown in jail."
And Green has reportedly said, that white politicians have committed
similar infractions and gotten away with them.
While conceding he made "a mistake," Green has also sought to minimize
his offenses. As he pleaded guilty, Green reportedly told the court,
"This was done by me because of a longstanding unwritten policy that
members who live at a distance receive travel reimbursement whether
expenses were actually incurred or not."
In his attacks on the culture of state government Green may have an
unlikely ally in Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne. "My
reaction is that they (the legislature) should stop assuming their
membership is honest," he was quoted as saying.
Candidate Biographies Roger Green (Democrat): A former teacher and the
founder of Vanguard Urban Improvement, Roger Green won election to the
Assembly in 1981. He served as chair of the Black and Hispanic Caucus
and of the assembly Committee on Children and Families. Green resigned
in June after pleading guilty to petty larceny charges.
Susan Metz (Green): A community activist and former teacher, she is
running on a platform opposing construction of a basketball arena for
the Nets in downtown Brooklyn.
Ric Ocasio (Democrat): He ran against Green four years ago, winning 4
percent of the vote.
Campaign Trail 7/12/04 Not Running Robin Brown, who had been mentioned
as a possible successor to Roger Green, was appointed to the Commission
to Plan for New School Funding Dollars by Council Speaker Gifford Miller
and will not run for office this year. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
6/28/04 A Move to Challenge Green Daniel McCalla, a 29-year-old resident
of Fort Greene and music director at a Bedford-Stuyvesant church, is
preparing to challenge resigned Assemblymember Roger Green in the
Democratic primary. McCalla, who has virtually no money for the
campaign, will try to make the election a referendum on redevelopment
plans, including the Nets arena. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
6/14/04 Green on His Resignation Roger Green told members of Lambda
Independent Democrats that he would rather have not resigned, but he did
so in a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to prevent (or at
least forestall) the release of the Assembly Ethics Committee's report
on his misconduct. Green, who is black, also said that at least two
white politicians - Governor George Pataki and Borough President Marty
Markowitz - had also committed similar ethics violation and not been
forced from office. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
6/9/04 In an extensive interview, Roger Green says he was hounded from office
by Republicans and resigned as an act of "public contrition." (Challenge
6/1/04 Green Resigns Roger Green, a member of the State Assembly from
Brooklyn, resigned his seat. Green has pleaded guilty to taking free
rides from a contractor then billing the state, resigned Tuesday. The
Brooklyn Democrat's resignation came after the chamber's Ethics and
Guidance Committee reviewed the case. (Newsday/Associated Press)
5/24/04 Adams Won't Run Eric Adams, founders of 100 Blacks in Law
Enforcement Who Care, said he would not run for the Assembly seat in the
57th district because he is afraid he would not meet the residency
requirements. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
4/12/04 Eyeing Green's Seat A number of possible candidates are trying
to decide whether to run for the Assembly seat from the 57th District
held by Roger Green. (Courier-Life Newspapers)
2/16/04 Green Pleads Guilty Roger Green's guilty plea to petty larceny
charges ends his legal aspects of the case but raises a number of
political questions. The guilty plea seems likely to derail any plans
Green might have had to run for Congress and could affect his chance of
being re-elected to the Assembly seat he has held since 1981.
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