Gonzalez: Sheldon Silver can help New York by resigning (but wont!) / NY: Cauldron Of Corruption

Gonzalez: Sheldon Silver can help New York by resigning

While Silver is innocent unless proven guilty, the stink of corruption in Albany is so unbearable that those at the top must be held accountable. The Assembly has also become a national joke with its long list of members found guilty of felonies. Silver permitted a culture of corruption to flourish.

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Thursday, January 22, 2015, 9:48 PM

The time has come for Shelly Silver to resign.

Sure, Silver remains innocent unless proven guilty of federal criminal charges that he secretly pocketed millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from a real estate developer and personal injury law firm over many years.

But the stink of corruption in Albany is now so unbearable that those at the top must be held accountable.

Silver has presided for more than 20 years over a Legislature that has turned into a national joke.

The list of Assembly members from New York City found guilty of felonies in recent years includes Gloria Davis, Eric Stevenson, Nelson Castro, Brian McLaughlin, Tony Seminerio, Clarence Norman, Gabriela Rosa and William Boyland Jr.

Who can forget Vito Lopez, the former Brooklyn assemblyman and serial sexual predator, and one of Silver’s most trusted colleagues? A state ethics panel found Lopez sexually harassed eight female staffers over many years. The panel also found that Silver secretly settled complaints by some of the victims with financial payments without divulging Lopez’s actions.

Likewise, another ethics probe found Silver’s staff initially failed to act on a 2009 sexual harassment complaint against another assembly member, Micah Kellner. Silver subsequently disciplined Kellner when the complaint became public.

MIKE GROLL/APGov. Cuomo has had to answer questions about corruption charges filed against Assembly Speaker Shelton Silver.

As for the state Senate, you could fill a separate prison wing with all its convicted members.

No one is saying Silver could have controlled the actions of all his colleagues, and the truth is most of them go to Albany to do an honest job.

But Silver permitted a culture of corruption to flourish.

A panel found that former Assemblyman Vito Lopez sexually harassed eight female staffers over a period of years.

And now we know why.

According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, all this time Silver was using his public post to enrich himself, collecting secret kickbacks from private firms while doing no work for that money.

He deserves his day in court like any citizen accused of a crime. But as he battles to clear his name, Silver cannot hope to wield the authority of Assembly speaker as he did in the past.

Politics in Albany changed this week. Neither Gov. Cuomo, nor Republican leaders of the Senate, nor Silver’s own members in the Assembly will treat him now as they once did.

Silver should recognize that and step aside. The leader who failed to curb the rot has been consumed by it.

Cauldron Of Corruption

Prosecutor Slams 3-Men-In-Room Method

January 24, 2015 By Larry Neumeister , Associated Press

NEW YORK – A federal prosecutor who charged New York’s Assembly speaker with multiple felonies called Friday for an end to the state’s "three-men-in-a-room" method of governing, saying people should get angry because sometimes it seems as if Albany is a "cauldron of corruption."

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, saying he was speaking more as a citizen than a prosecutor, told a New York Law School audience that he believes power in the state is "unduly concentrated in the hands of just a few men" – the governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate president.

"But I think it wouldn’t just be me, but lots of people would have questions about three men in a room, like why three men? Can it be a woman? Do they always have to be white?" he asked. "The concept of three men in a room seems to have disappointingly taken root as opposed to being questioned. It’s almost become like part of the furniture, the political furniture."

Bharara’s comments came a day after New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on charges that he collected nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks since 2002 and disguised it as legitimate income. Released on bail Thursday, Silver said he was confident he would be vindicated.

The prosecutor questioned whether it was sensible to put power in the hands of so few people in a state of nearly 20 million people, saying "it seems sometimes that Albany really is a cauldron of corruption."

Bharara quipped that there were more than three men in a room in his office when it was decided to charge Silver.

"And it’s weird to me a little bit that officials and writers joke about it, good naturedly, as if they’re talking nostalgically about an old sitcom coming up after ‘Happy Days.’ It’s ‘Three Men in a Room,’" Bharara said in a speech laced with humor.

He said putting power in the hands of so few may discourage some people from running for public office.

"Why would you bother to run for the Legislature in the first place? Real people don’t waste their time that way," he said.

He said being one of only three makes it more likely to become corrupt.

"You don’t tolerate dissent because you don’t have to, you don’t allow debate because you don’t have to, you don’t favor change or foster reform because you don’t have to and because the status quo always benefits you," he said.

"On the other side of the coin, if you’re one of the three men in the room, you keep people in the dark because you can, you punish independent thinking because you can, you demand lockstep loyalty because you can, you get swept up in the power and the trappings because you are never challenged and because you can easily forget who put you there in the first place," he added.

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