May 07, 2010

NY needs new public corruption law because “New York state government needs to restore the public tr

By CREW Staff

Yesterday, the former President of the New York State Senate, Joseph Bruno, was sentenced to two years in federal prison following a conviction for corruption-related charges:

A federal judge sentenced former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno to two years in prison on Thursday after admonishing the rags-to-riches political leader for failing to apologize for, or even acknowledge, his crimes.

"I know you don't believe you did anything wrong," U.S. District Judge Gary L. Sharpe told Bruno. "You're not sorry because you don't believe you did anything wrong. ... (But) you trampled on the integrity of the state Legislature."

The Syracuse Post-Standard sees the Bruno case as more evidence of why New York needs to pass stricter legislation:

The average citizen might lament that a law is needed to require public servants to do their jobs without engaging in corruption — except perhaps in New York, where public corruption investigations and convictions are all too common.

To address that problem, the Public Corruption Prevention and Enforcement Act was introduced this week in the Senate by Sen. Eric Schneiderman, D-Manhattan, Sen. David Valesky, D-Oneida, and 12 other co-sponsors, and in the Assembly by Micah Kellner, D-Manhattan. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus W. Vance Jr. helped draft the proposal, which would give the attorney general and district attorneys powerful new tools. “This legislation will enable local prosecutors to regain their traditional role in rooting out and prosecuting public corruption, and bring honor back to public service,” Vance declared.

The law imposes a duty on all public servants — elected, appointed or hired, in Albany and across the state — to provide honest services to their constituents. It creates new categories of felony offenses, expanding the definition of “corrupt schemes” from actions that involve public property, services or resources to efforts to corrupt the operation of government itself. It ensures that bribery offers, as well as completed bribes, are treated as crimes. It adopts an array of conflict-of-interest bans on legislators’ “member item” grants, and increases public disclosure of outside income and gifts received by lawmakers.

If this law were already in place, advocates say, the state attorney general or a district attorney could have prosecuted Joe Bruno, rather than depending on federal intervention. “It is unfortunate that this legislation is necessary,” Valesky said of the measure. “But New York state government needs to restore the public trust.”


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