New York City

Lawmakers look for reform in wake of Sheldon Silver conviction

December 8, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver exits Manhattan federal court following his conviction on corruption charges on Nov. 30. AP Photo/Bryan R. Smith
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Following the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, there appeared to be a renewed push for ethics reform in state government.

Republicans in the Democratic-controlled State Assembly came out after Silver was found guilty and talked about the need to crack down on corrupt public officials.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis (R-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and both houses of the State Legislature to adopt ethics reform measures as their first order of business in the 2016 legislative session that begins in January.

“Speaker Silver is the 15th legislator convicted or forced to resign in my five years in Albany. And every time a member of New York State government is indicted or convicted, we hear the calls to clean up Albany, but little gets done,” Malliotakis said.

She pointed out that 130 years ago, Teddy Roosevelt, an assemblymember at the time, was speaking out about Tammany Hall corruption.

“And here we are 13 decades later still having the same conversation,” Malliotakis said. “We need to put a stop to this continuous cycle of corruption and adopt real, meaningful reforms once and for all.”

Malliotakis and other members of the Assembly’s Minority Conference are calling for adoption of the following anti-corruption measures: eight-year term limits for legislative leaders and committee chairs; requiring every appropriation to be specifically identified in the state budget with notification to the attorney general; prohibiting any appropriation to organizations that employ or compensate the governor, a legislator or family member; and stripping of pensions from those convicted of betraying public trust.

The reforms the GOP members are seeking also include limiting the power of an assembly speaker to secretly dole out grants without legislative approval, unilaterally stop legislation from coming to the floor despite bi-partisan support, and unilaterally strip members of leadership positions, stipends or staff allocation if they disagree with him or her.

Malliotakis said she is particularly outraged by the fact that elected officials convicted of felonies can still collect pensions. “No public official should collect taxpayer money while they are sitting behind bars for betraying the public’s trust,” Malliotakis said. 

There is also frustration among Democrats in Albany.

The New York Observer reported on Dec. 3 that State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins expressed frustration with the lack of meaningful ethics reform.

Stewart-Cousins told the Capitol Pressroom radio show that she would like to see strict rules in place to prevent lawmakers from campaign donations for money for personal purposes and wants to see limits on legislators’ outside incomes.


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