corruption Tag All blog entries tagged as corruption Tue, 15 Jul 2014 05:22:06 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Today's Lead: Cuomo Creates Commission To Investigate Corruption

Gov. Cuomo yesterday followed through on threats to establish a commission to investigate corruption in Albany after the legislature failed to pass any bills addressing the recent rash of scandals there. The commission will recommend cases against public officials and suggest changes to election and campaign fund-raising laws. It can issue subpoenas and examine witnesses under oath and it's slated to issue a preliminary report by year's end. Many of the panels members have ties to the governor. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau are special advisors to the commission.

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]]> (Mike Muller) The Eye-Opener Wed, 03 Jul 2013 12:13:19 +0000
Today's Headlines: Scandal Mania vs Legislative Agenda!

Gov. Cuomo yesterday vowed to keep pushing his legislative agenda in face of "scandal mania." He's been using the recent wave of "quote, unquote scandals" to push ethics reform, but still wants movement on his other priorities, such as women’s equality, the creation of a local government panel, and casino gaming. He also blamed the press for letting scandals become all-consuming. Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos is using the investigations as a reason to oppose public financing, saying it will put public money into the hands of untrustworthy people. Cuomo yesterday revealed a proposal for one of his priorities, reforming the Long Island Power Authority, calling for a three year rate freeze and a takeover by Public Service Electric & Gas Co. of New Jersey.

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]]> (Mike Muller) The Eye-Opener Tue, 14 May 2013 13:07:58 +0000
Today's Lead Story: Race A Factor In Corruption Cases?

Political observers are beginning to ask whether race or ethnicity are playing a role in the state's most recent corruption cases. All five lawmakers charged in the growing corruption probe are black or Latino. So, too, are the eight people recorded for the FBI by state Sen. Shirley Huntley.

At a forum on Friday night titled "Attack on Black Leaders: Corruption or Conspiracy?" state Sen. James Sanders of Queens raised questions about whether black leaders were being targeted. “Why aren’t we hearing about other people wired and looking at different communities? Why is it seemingly a focus on this community?”

But experts and lawmakers tell The Associated Press that the current batch of cases may involved people of color, but that has not been the case in the past.

“People are going to think what they think, but it’s important to understand that what is going on in Albany transcends race, gender or party,” Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told The AP. “While this current wave has involved mostly people of color, prior to this it captured people across the aisle who were not people of color.

Federal corruption cases between 2009 and 2011 involved were all white, and half were Republicans. The most recent cases involve Democrats.

Weekend Roundup

Mayoral candidates discussed education policies at a forum hosted by the United Federation of Teachers on Saturday night, where Democratic frontrunner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn tried to distance herself from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's policies (The Daily News, CBS). The Rev. Floyd Flake, who leads the largest church in the city, was said to be backing former comptroller William Thompson for mayor (Daily News).

In non-election news, the Brooklyn district attorney is reopening 50 murder cases brought by a decorated police officer whose record was recently tainted (). Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that the state will pay for relocating power lines for homes that need to be raised after codes were changed following Hurricane Sandy. The Associated Press reported that a group that backs Cuomo went from reporting $17 million to zero after being required to name donors.

Policy Agenda

Council Speaker Christine Quinn announces new legislation to raise maximum product prices at newsstands at 11:30 a.m. (5 Park Place.) Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes an announcement at noon (201 Butler Street, Brooklyn). State Sen. Liz Krueger testifies at East Midtown rezoning hearing at 6 p.m. (Lighthouse International, 111 E. 59th St.)

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]]> (Administrator) The Eye-Opener Mon, 13 May 2013 15:51:19 +0000
Today's Headlines: Pols Under Investigation To Be Revealed

The names of elected officials secretly recorded by disgraced ex-State Sen. Shirley Huntley will be revealed this afternoon, thanks to a judge's ruling. Nine were recorded and eight are under investigation. Six of those being investigated are politicians, including Sen. John Sampson, who was arrested earlier this week. One of the charges Sampson faces is embezzling $440,000 from sales of foreclosed properties, and this has revealed a flaw in the way foreclosed homes are being handled. State officials are now looking at how the problem could be addressed. Sampson had tried to plant a mole in the Brooklyn DA's office to find out if he was under investigation, but that mole turned out to be an informant. His arrest may further dampen Democrats' chances at controlling the chamber.

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]]> (Mike Muller) The Eye-Opener Wed, 08 May 2013 12:07:22 +0000
Today's Headlines: New Corruption Cases

State Sen. John Sampson was charged yesterday with embezzlement, obstruction of justice, and lying to investigators. Among those charges, prosecutors accuse him of trying to get a list of cooperating witnesses in his case so that he could "take them out." He faces up to 120 years behind bars. Also yesterday, Assemblyman William Boyland was charged with mail fraud conspiracy - for the second time. In the past seven years, 32 state level officials have been snared in corruption cases.

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]]> (Mike Muller) The Eye-Opener Tue, 07 May 2013 12:19:46 +0000
US Attorney: Corrupt Politicians Are Like Aliens From Hitchhiker's Guide

The U.S. Attorney who announced the most recent spate of corruption cases against New York lawmakers likened corrupt politicians to green-skinned, slug-like aliens with no concept of "integrity" or "moral rectitude."

Preet Bharara spoke this morning in front of the Citizen's Crime Commission on how the string of corruption cases against legislators nearly every level of government should concern every New Yorker.

Nothing will change, he said, unless people fundamentally reform a corrupt culture.

Bharara began his presentation to the nonprofit reform group by referencing to a book from the popular science fiction series, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which he said he read as a kid. In the book, he said, an alien species known as Vogons "are not above a little bribery and corruption in the same way the sea is not above the clouds."

"So, is Albany full of Vogons?" he asked. "Of course not."

Bharara said that there were "countless honerable and ethical and honest people" currently in elected office.

"But I don't think anyone can disagree with the conclusion that the ranks of those convicted in office have swelled to unnaceptable levels," he added.

Serving as U.S. attorney for the New York southern district since 2009, Bharara said his office has had a long and proud tradition of independence and successful public corruption investigations. His office has been involved in some of the most high-profile scandals, including the 2011 conviction of former State Sen. Carl Kruger and the recent pay-to-play accusations against Sen. Malcolm Smith and City Councilman Dan Halloran.

Bharara made sure to define his office's role and mission, and that he is not out to criminalize "ordinary politics."

"We are not trying to wag our fingers or thump our chest," he said. "Nor, quite frankly, are we even demanding that our government officials be virtous or vice-free. We are prosecutors, not morality cops."

Even so, Bharara had strong words about how convicted politicians still stand to receive pensions paid for by taxpayers, and how certain transparancy laws can be too weak for prosectutors. On both accounts, however, Bharara emphasized that he had no formal opinion.

"I'm just sayin'," he said both times.

Bharara also said that his office has added staff to its its public corruption unit, and that fellow New York law enforcement authorities, including the FBI, have equally prioritizied corruption investigations.

Bharara referred to a recent Quinnipiac poll that showed 87 percent of New Yorkers across the state saw the Legislature's corruption as either a "very" or "somewhat serious" problem. A Siena College poll out today mirrored those results, with 91 percent of those asked answering the same way, and 81 percent saying they expect more arrests in the near future.

Legislators, Bharara said, are also stakeholders in cleaning the government of its corruption scandals. He praised proposals from lawmakers on campaign contribution limts and limits to discretionary funds. He also said that the press plays a valuable role in investigatiing corrupt officials and practices.

"Rather than just covering cases that my office and others are already bringing, figure out ways to break new ground, to cover new stories," he said. "Groundbreaking corruption coverage, by the way, is not just good copy; it is a path to good government."

Bharara ended his address to the commmission with a message to residents, who he called "the best problem solvers anywhere."

"If there were ever a time for New Yorkers to show their trademark impatience with the status quo and to show it loudly," Bharara said, "it is now."

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's Prepared Remarks for Citizens Crime Commission

]]> (Administrator) City Mon, 22 Apr 2013 21:01:56 +0000
Cuomo: Create Independent BOE Enforcement Agency, Open Primaries

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled three new proposals to deal with corruption in Albany.

Cuomo's first proposal would create an independent enforcement arm in the State Board of Election that is overseen by Democrats and Republicans, who would be able to block investigations.

The governor said the BOE's enforcement has been "toothless," adding that the agency needs reforms "above and beyond this" but said an independent enforcement arm would be a good place to start.

Secondly, Cuomo proposed ending the Wilson Pakula law.

"You've heard of pay-to-play, this is pay-to-run," Cuomo said of the recent case of Sen. Malcolm Smith, who was arrested on allegations he tried to bribe his way onto the Republican line for New York City Mayor.

Cuomo said eliminating Wilson Pakula would allow candidates to run in open primaries. The proposal would not end fusion voting — where candidates can run on multiple party lines.

The governor's third proposal would expedite voter party enrollment, which typically takes until after the next election for a voter's registration to change. Cuomo has proposed making a registration change take three months no matter when it is submitted.

Cuomo indicated that he will be unveiling more proposals and said he has been working with legislators on a campaign finance overhaul. "There is no silver bullet," Cuomo warned.

Meanwhile, the Independent Democratic Conference, Senate Democrats and Assembly Democrats have come out with proposals for reforming election and corruption laws in the state. Senate Republicans have so far said little.

]]> (David Howard King) Elections Tue, 16 Apr 2013 19:28:13 +0000
Smith's Spokesman Issues Statement: Senator Will Be 'Vindicated' A spokesman for state Sen. Malcolm Smith says the former majority leader will be "vindicated" of charges that he conspired to buy a spot on the Republican Party ballot for mayor in 2013.

Smith was arrested this morning by the FBI on charges that were brought in federal court. (Read the complaint below.)

Smith spokesman Todd Shapiro issued this statement: "The Senator has record of 13 years of dedication, hard work and integrity to the people he serves in Queens.He has provided to the heath, safety and well-being of the almost 20 million residents in New York. He will be vindicated when the all the facts in the case are revealed."

Smith led the Senate Democrats when they initially took control of the Senate in 2008. Smith had to cut deals with a number of senators to get that position. Last year, Smith joined the Independent Senate Democratic Conference, which lacked any minority members at the time. Smith was named chairman of the IDC in February of this year.

The IDC touted its seperation from the ethically challenged Demcoratic conference and the fact that they were ready to succeed where the Democrats had failed. But Smith and IDC Leader Sen. Jeff Klein were both part of the leadership structure of the Senate Democrats when they controlled the Senate. Smith's arrest could alter control of the Senate.

The IDC has yet to address Smith's arrest. Senate Democrats who would like to regain control of the Senate have been mum on the arrest as well.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bahara issued this statement:

Today’s charges demonstrate, once again, that a show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government. The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself. As alleged, Senator Malcolm Smith tried to bribe his way to a shot at Gracie Mansion – Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes. After the string of public corruption scandals that we have brought to light, many may rightly resign themselves to the sad truth that perhaps the most powerful special interest in politics is self-interest. We will continue pursuing and punishing every corrupt official we find, but the public corruption crisis in New York is more than a prosecutor’s problem.

USA v. Smith, Halloran, et. al. by Gotham Gazette

]]> (David Howard King) State Tue, 02 Apr 2013 15:34:51 +0000
Ex-Aide To Bronx State Senator Pleads Guilty To Grand Larceny The former fiscal chief of a Bronx charity founded by state Sen. Ruben Diaz, Sr. pleaded guilty to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the organization.

Clement Gardner pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny on Thursday after charges against him were brought up in December by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. Originally facing two counts of grand larceny and six counts for falsifying business records, Gardner will be sentenced to two to six years in a state prison on March 20. The judge will also enter an order for restitution equal to the amount — $560,000 — he was convicted of embezzling.

Gardner as the fiscal chief for the Christian Community Benevolent Association, as well as for Christian Community in Action Inc. — a now-defunct charity that had ties to the benevolent association.

In March 2012, the attorney general’s office first suspected Gardner of embezzling at least $75,000 from the charities, during which time he also received between $48,000 to $54,000 in yearly pay. Gardner, who also worked in finance for the Diaz senate campaign, pled guilty to embezzling from both charities.

When the charges were first brought up against Gardner, Diaz fought off speculation that he was involved in any wrongdoing, distancing himself from the organization he founded by saying he was no longer with it.

“If Mr. Gardner did something wrong and he put that organization to shame, he deserves it,” Diaz told the New York Times.

The groups received almost half a million dollars in member item allocations in fiscal year 2006-07 through Diaz .

The funds for both Bronx-based organizations were supposed to be directed to education and recreational programs. The city's Department of Investigation said it found, however, that Gardner was writing checks that directed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his personal account.

"This defendant played a shell game with public funds, cheating the Bronx community and pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars," wrote DOI Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn in a statement on Thursday.

A lawyer who had been previously listed as Gardner's attorney didn't immediately respond to an email Thursday.

]]> (Administrator) City Thu, 28 Feb 2013 23:30:51 +0000