- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The Watertown Daily Times on ethics reforms in the state Legislature.

Feb. 11

The onslaught of indictments against New York legislators continued last week when U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch unsealed a 26-page indictment accusing Brooklyn Sen. John Sampson of lying to the FBI about his silent ownership in a liquor store business that had petitioned the state for special favors on a tax bill.

This is Mr. Sampson’s second indictment. Last year, he was charged with illegally helping himself to money in an escrow account that held proceeds from mortgage foreclosure sales. That money allegedly ended up financing a failed campaign for the job of Brooklyn district attorney.

And if observers needed an another reminder of Albany’s venality, Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. went on trial in Manhattan on Feb. 3 to answer charges in which Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Capers accused Mr. Boyland of being for sale to the highest bidder. Among many things, Mr. Boyland allegedly stole taxpayer money by filing false travel reimbursement documents to the Assembly. He is accused of openly soliciting bribes from just about anyone who visited his office.

Mr. Boyland and his crony Ry-Ann Hermon have offered a unique defense. “He never had any intention of doing what they wanted,” their defense lawyer Nancy Ennis argued. “He never gave them any political favors.”

And at least once he used his father as the bag man to pick up alleged bribes offered by the FBI.

No honor here except for homage paid to the cross of greed. No thought of voters, only coordinated, arrogant bribe-taking.

Sen. Sampson and Assemblyman Boyland are still sitting in the Legislature drawing salaries and accruing pension benefits even though they appear to be fairly fully occupied defending themselves from federal prosecutors. They have never done the people’s business, and they are not now.

This embarrassing storm hovers over the Legislature to which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has pointedly offered a plan that he argues should stem the waves of greed that eat away at the foundation of good government. While some of his proposals are extreme and may not be viable solutions, his dogged pursuit of reform is commendable.

In his State of the State address in January, he said, “That’s what ethics reform is. That’s why I was arguing for ethics reform last year, and that’s why I’m arguing for ethics reform this year. I propose new anti-bribery and corruption laws, public financing of elections, independent enforcements at the Board of Elections and disclosure of outside clients with business before the state.”

But the message falls on deaf years at the Legislature - just maybe because so many members are facing criminal ethics actions that they feel they are immunized against criticism.

While not all of the governor’s plan - especially public financing of elections - are viable, his insistence upon reforming ethics laws, redefining public corruption and disclosure of conflicts of interest is in what’s best for the state. We have been battling corruption, especially in New York City, since Boss Tweed ran the city in the late 1800s, and then 50 years later corruption led to aggressive prosecutions of New York City’s politicians by Fiorello H. LaGuardia and Thomas Dewey. After the progress of those eras, we have regressed to a state that seems to have a perverse ability to elect criminals to the Legislature.

It is time that the John Sampsons and William Boylands are thrown out of office and that their successors join fellow legislators, the governor and all New Yorkers in passing rigid anti-corruption laws with penalties so severe that public corruption will be eradicated.


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