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State ethics oversight questioned in wake of Assembly speaker arrest

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governorandrewcuomo
/
via Flickr
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (right) appeared Wednesday at the State of the State address along with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (left) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center)

Government watch dog groups say the arrest of one of the two most powerful men in the New York legislature on fraud and corruption charges highlights the need for better state laws against wrong doing. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo admitted that the charges against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are “a bad reflection on government."

Silver faces five federal counts, including bribery and conspiracy. He was released on $200,000 bail Thursday.

In an interview with the New York Daily News, Cuomo stopped short of saying Silver should resign is role as speaker of the Assembly, saying he didn’t know enough about the details of the case. But, the governor told the paper the federal complaint against Silver adds to the public’s cynicism about government. 

Citizens Union calls the charges against Speaker Silver a “sad continuation of the persistent corruption in Albany,” and called for better ethics oversight, and tougher penalties for public corruption.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says if the allegations are true, Silver might have broken a number of state laws as well, including concealing outside income on is disclosure forms, and conflicts of interest with lobbyists who had business before the state.

“The most maddening story here is, it’s once again the feds coming in and doing what’s supposed to be done by state officials,” said Horner. “The state spends millions of dollars on state watchdogs, and yet we don’t even hear so much as a growl from them.”

Horner says the governor and legislative leaders need to go “back to the drawing board” and create better state based ethics oversight.

State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, in an interview with Binghamton radio station WNBF, also questioned why state officials have not charged Silver. Cox, along with many Republicans are calling for Silver to step down.