Dec 1st - 5:37 pm
Though former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver could be sentenced to 20 years behind bars for his conviction on seven felony corruption charges, it’s highly unlikely he’ll do that much time.
A court filing signed by federal Judge Valerie Caproni lays out the schedule of events after Silver was convicted, and the sides will have until March to file paperwork before any sentencing date is scheduled. (He has until Jan. 11 to file a motion for acquittal).
Buffalo Assemblyman Mickey Kearns said the Silver verdict felt like a validation of his call for the Manhattan powerbroker’s removal, and he plans to re-join the Democratic conference now that the ex-speaker is gone.
The state is no longer definitively saying that the long-awaited license for the Montreign Resort Casino will be issued by the end of the year.
About 200 people in Niagara Falls could soon lose their jobs. A Delaware-based chemical company, Chemours, will stop production at its plant on Buffalo Avenue in the city by the end of next year.
Congress has dropped plans to slash mass transit funding for “high density” states such as New York, meaning the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority will not be losing $3.6 million annually in federal aid after all.
…also restored: About $12 million in federal aid over six years for Centro, which provides public bus service in Central New York.
According to US Sen. Chuck Schumer, lawmakers have reached a deal on a five-year transportation funding bill that includes an extension of the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing for exports from U.S. companies.
Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani concluded that while he recalled some pockets of celebration in New York City after the 9/11 attacks, 2016 Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s claim about thousands of revelers in New Jersey was an exaggeration.
The Senate Republican Campaign Committee has $2.3 million in its hard money account, according to a disclosure report appearing on the state Board of Elections’ website.
Over half of Airbnb users in New York City might be breaking the state law banning short term apartment rentals, but very few are big-time illegal hotel operators, according to data released by the tech company today.
There will be no Teslas. But by 2025, New York City is planning to employ the largest municipal fleet of electric vehicles in the country, along with a sprawling network of charging stations to go with it.
One current employee of the NYC Human Resources Administration and one that had been fired were arrested today and charged with orchestrating schemes to steal $2.1 million from government benefit programs, the authorities said.
In a Newsday OpEd, Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor, outlined four ways to change Albany for the better following Silver’s conviction.
New York City reported 2,718 new HIV diagnoses in 2014, the lowest number ever recorded. City health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said that’s good news, “but not good enough.”
The East Ramapo School District, which has long been plagued by racial and religious divides, is starting to see signs of progress since a state appointed monitor began overseeing the district after years of academic and financial failure.
Sen. Terrence Murphy, a Hudson Valley Republican, has introduced legislation that would set up a process by which the state would keep watch over foreign refugees who relocate here.
State officials this week began accepting bids to demolish the Grandstand and century-old race track at the New York State Fair.
Four banks, including KeyCorp, vied to acquire First Niagara Financial Group, before the Buffalo-based bank struck its $4.1 billion deal with KeyCorp.
Dec 1st - 4:19 pm
David Gordon, a former Oneida County legisaltor and a self-styled “conservative Democrat” announced on Tuesday he had launched an exploratory bid for a potential congressional campaign in the 22nd House district.
The district is currently represented by Republican Richard Hanna, who once again faces a challenge to his political right from Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney.
Hanna is considered one of the more moderate Republicans in the House, and drew criticism earlier this year when suggested the investigation into Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi terrorist attack was politically motivated.
In a statement, Gordon said sending Hanna or any Republican for that matter to Washington would help enable another government shutdown.
“The American People continue to be strangled by political gridlock in Washington,” Gordon said. Our Country was founded in an effort to provide religious and political freedom. However, it seems as if we may be heading in the opposite direction. Sending another Republican back to Washington to be a part of a government shutdown is not going to move this Country forward.”
First elected in 2011, Gordon was a top ranked lawmaker by the Oneida County Conservative Party.
“The district constantly elects moderate Republicans,” he said. “How about electing a Conservative Democrat?”
Dec 1st - 2:44 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the anti-corruption panel he formed in 2013 and shuttered less than a year later as having “done its job” — which is to say, push the Legislature into approving new ethics and campaign finance legislation
“The Moreland Commission did do its job,” he said. “The Moreland Commission was to spur the Legislature to pass ethics laws. The ethics laws the Legislature passed are the strongest in the history of the state of New York.”
Cuomo added: “The Moreland Commission was not an investigative, prosecutorial commission.”
Cuomo formed the commission in July 2013 after state lawmakers refused to take up any ethics legislation following the arrest of now-former Sen. Malcolm Smith, who would be later found guilty of attempting to bribe his way onto the New York City mayoral ballot.
The commission itself included district attorneys and legal experts who were deputized by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with the intent of giving them the authority to issue subpoenas aimed at the Legislature.
The press release from Cuomo’s office announcing the formation of the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption used the word “investigation” 10 times and “investigate” 16 times.
Cuomo shuttered the commission in March 2014 after an agreement was reached in the state budget that included ethics measures.
Those measures included the creation of an independent enforcement counsel at the state Board of Elections as well as new anti-bribery statutes.
The commission itself was dogged by reports that the governor’s office was tightly overseeing its activities. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office took control of the records generated by the commission soon after it disbanded and was reportedly reviewing the governor’s involvement.
Dec 1st - 1:25 pm
A special election will be held to replace former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver will likely be held on April 19, the day of the state’s presidential primary, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Tuesday in New York City.
Cuomo reiterated his statement released earlier on Monday in the wake of the verdict that he hopes lawmakers will take seriously new ethics legislation, though he also touted his own efforts to tighten corruption laws at the state level.
Still, a special election as called for by good-government groups this month to take up ethics legislation is unlikely, Cuomo said.
“I don’t think a special session is practical. It’s going to be on the agenda soon enough in January,” he said.
Cuomo reacted publicly for the first time to the news that Silver, the former Assembly speaker, was convicted of all seven counts of corruption on Monday in a case stemming from his receiving bribes that had been masked as legal referrals.
“When you have an act of corruption like this it really violates the public trust and it feeds into peoples’ cynicism about government,” Cuomo said. “Government I believe is a function of public trust.”
Cuomo said he was “intrigued” by the proposals to create a full-time Legislature, which would ban outside income, but that would require a constitutional change (New York is due to consider a referendum for a constitutional convention in 2017).
“I think it’s something worth talking about,” he said. “It’s very controversial. The constitution speaks to a citizen Legislature and a part-time Legislature. There are a lot of people who don’t want full-time legislators and full-time politicians.”
Cuomo defended his own efforts to pass anti-corruption measures, saying that, in effect, the system worked with the Silver convcition.
“You need strong laws, but then you need a person to know that if you break the law, you will get caught,” Cuomo said.
Silver, he said, was an example of breaking the law and being caught.
“He thought he was going to get away with it and he thought he could violate the law,” Cuomo said. “That’s the lesson I think people need to heed. If you violate the law, you will get caught.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo defended the Moreland Commission, a panel he devised to investigate the Legislature, which closed after an agreement was made on ethics reform in the budget last year.
“The Moreland Commission did do its job,” he said. “The Moreland Commission was to spur the Legislature to pass ethics laws. The ethics laws the Legislature passed are the strongest in the history of the state of New York.”
Dec 1st - 12:06 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has nominated Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore as the state’s next chief judge on the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court.
Cuomo made the announcement during remarks at a World AIDS Day event in Harlem on Tuesday and later confirmed in a news release from the governor’s office.
“Janet DiFiore is tremendously qualified to serve as Chief Judge of the State Court of Appeals,” Cuomo said in a statement. “She has served as both judge and prosecutor, and has spent her career working to ensure justice and fairness for New Yorkers.”
DiFiore is a former chairwoman of the much-maligned Joint Commission on Public Ethics and a former Republican-turned Democrat.
The nomination today comes on deadline to fill the expected vacancy for chief judge, though the Republican-led Senate is unlikely to return to Albany before the end of the year to consider her approval.
Jonathan Lippman, the chief judge since 2009, is required to step down Dec. 31 due to the state’s mandatory retirement age for judges — a measure he sought to unsuccessfully overturn through a constitutional amendment, which failed to pass on a ballot referendum.
DiFiore was among a list of seven potential replacements for Lippman forwarded to Cuomo by the state’s judicial nominating the commission. The list included prominent legal figures such as former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia and former Chief Administrative Judge Gail Prudenti.
DiFiore has served as district attorney in Westchester County since 2006. She first served as a Westchester County Court judge from 1999 through 2002 and was later elected to the state Supreme Court.
If confirmed, DiFiore would be the second woman to hold the top judicial post in New York.
“I am humbled by the incredible honor of being nominated to serve as Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals,” she said. “My professional life has been devoted to the fair administration of justice, and I would gladly continue my service to the people of New York on our state’s highest court.”
Updated: As a comment points out, the current vacancy is for Judge Susan Read’s seat. Judge Eugene Pigott retires at the end of next year.
Dec 1st - 11:05 am
Republican Sen. John Bonacic called for a ban on lawmakers earning income from “active employment” other than their government jobs — a call that comes a day after former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was booted from office after he was found guilty of seven counts of corruption.
Bonacic has stated in the past he supports limiting the money lawmakers can make in the private sector, but it remains to be seen whether a drumbeat will grow at all for a “professional” Legislature that would ban private-sector employment in the wake of the Silver verdict.
Previously, lawmakers have suggested linking a professionalized Legislature to a boost in the base $79,500 salary, which hasn’t been increased since 1998 (Lawmakers earn more in some cases for committee chairmanships and leadership positions).
Silver was able to amass $4 million in legal fees that prosecutors claimed were actually bribes. He was convicted on Monday of fraud, extortion and money laundering charges.
“Every legislator was shocked to hear about the questionable practices of the former Speaker, and his accumulation of ill-gotten millions while in public office,” Bonacic said. “:All of his questionable conduct was also done in a very secretive way, and I am not surprised by the jury’s guilty verdict.”
Lawmakers in leadership positions in recent months have distanced themselves from their outside businesses following the arrests of both Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Both men were listed “of counsel” at law firms though it was unclear what, exactly, they did to earn their pay.
Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, ended his relationship with his law firm where he was partner, as did Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.
“I believe that if we ban outside income from active employment for elected officials, and pay them a livable wage to raise their families, it will go a long way to cure the temptation of a few to engage in this type of bad behavior,” Bonacic said.
Dec 1st - 7:58 am
The conviction of Sheldon Silver on all seven counts of corruption shocked Albany political observers in part because the former speaker and Manhattan Democrat had been such a fixture at the Capitol.
For the first time since Gerald Ford was in the White House, Silver won’t be in Albany for the new legislative session when it convenes in January.
Still, the reverberations from Silver’s conviction could still be felt for a long time (he plans to appeal the conviction).
Nevertheless, some conclusions can be drawn after a year of corruption arrests and convictions.
The public is fed up: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is two for two. In addition to Silver’s conviction, former Sen. Tom Libous, the number two Republican in the chamber, was found guilty in July of lying to the FBI. Libous, a Binghamton lawmaker, was only hit with one perjury charge in a case that hinged an unrecorded FBI interview from five years ago. Silver’s guilty verdict, too, came after prosecutors sought to have jurors connect the dots for quid pro quo in a complex scheme that involved legal referrals Bharara’s team insisted were actually bribes. This should give Dean Skelos, the former majority leader of the Senate now on trial alongside his son Adam, pause. The case for Dean and Adam Skelos is seemingly more straightforward and includes embarrassing conversations caught on wiretap Bharara has been all-too-happy to introduced as evidence. As NYPIRG’s Blair Horner said in a statement on Monday, the tipping point for Albany may have been achieved. When they’re paying attention, voters tend to view Albany with a jaundiced eye. The Silver conviction only furthers that view.
A chronic headache for Cuomo: The corruption arrests and convictions in a separate branch of state government aren’t directly threatening Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legacy, which has included legislative high points such as same-sex marriage, a controversial gun control law and taming New York’s budget process. But Cuomo, who once declared “I am the government” will continue to have corruption in the Legislature as looming and distracting issue for his time in office. Bharara, too, has shown interest in Cuomo ranging from the financing of the Committee to Save New York, the shuttering of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission and the spending in the Buffalo Billion economic development project. For now, there’s been a lot of smoke, but no fire. At the moment, Cuomo has been reduced to bystander status in the Albany corruption circus; proposing package after package of ethics, campaign finance and disclosure reform, only to have it watered down in the usual legislative sausage making process. In a statement released on Monday evening, Cuomo did hint at possible ethics reforms. But he also made clear it’s up to the Legislature to take action on the issue he’s pushed for nearly every year he’s been in office.
Behavior can change: The Bharara effect, arguably, is already in full force. As the legislative session was winding down in the spring, state lawmakers publicly stated they were concerned with conducting the usual business of horse trading in Albany, given the close tabs the U.S. attorney was keeping on Albany. A vote in exchange for support on another issue — typical Albany stuff one might say — was now being fussed over as a potential spark for a new federal probe. This presents a worrying interpretation for some lawmakers on what exactly is illegal (Don’t steal! Don’t trade money for a vote!), but the mood this year at the Capitol went from chilly in January to downright frosty in June following the parade of arrests.
Dec 1st - 5:22 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City. The federal corruption trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, continues in Manhattan.
At 8:30 a.m., NYC Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi keynotes the eighth edition of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Newsmaker series, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, 6 MetroTech Center Gymnasium, Brooklyn.
At 9 a.m., Community Healthcare Network hosts free HIV screening in honor of World AIDS Day, Port Authority Bus Terminal; West 41st Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, Manhattan.
At 10 a.m., Sen. Rich Funke will announce legislation to establish a new state-wide, tax-free weekend for the sale of Christmas trees and evergreen products, Woody Acres Farm, 1530 Harris Rd., Penfield.
At 11 a.m., Cuomo delivers remarks and receives the World AIDS Day Leadership Award from the End AIDS NY 2020 Coalition, The Apollo Theater, 253 W 125th St., Harlem.
At 11:45 a.m., NYC First Lady Chrilane McCray will attend a groundbreaking for supportive housing unit Lynn’s Place, 1060 Reverend James Polite Ave., Brooklyn.
At noon, LG Kathy Hochul tours downtown businesses in Batavia, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, 210 E. Main St., Batavia.
At 12:35 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will join senior members of the administration and elected officials at World AIDS Day 2015 to make an announcement, Apollo Theater, 253 West 125th St., Harlem.
At 2:30 p.m., Hochul meets with with Genesee Community College officials to highlight workforce development initiatives and STEM career path training, 1 College Rd., Batavia.
At 5:30 p.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other Council members host a Diwali celebration, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.
At 6 p.m., the North Bronx Democratic Club holds its holiday dinner with state Sen. Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj and honors Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Correction Officers Benevolent Association’s Norman Seabrook, and others, Maestro’s Caterers, 1703 Bronxdale Ave., the Bronx.
Also at 6 p.m., de Blasio, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Nilda Mesa, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency Daniel Zarrilli and climate advocates will host a Sustainability Tele-Town Hall with reporters on climate change.
At 6:30 p.m., Assemblyman Michael Blake holds a fundraiser with former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe, 40/40 Club, 6 W. 25th St., Manhattan.
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who held a seemingly intractable grip on power for decades as one of the most feared politicians in New York, was found guilty on seven federal corruption charges, ending a trial that was the capstone of the government’s efforts to expose the seamy culture of influence-peddling in Albany.
The charges carry a maximum of 130 years behind bars, though Silver is expected to face significantly less. He remains released on bond. “I’m disappointed right now,” Silver said. His attorney Steven Molo vowed a “vigorous” appeal.
“Ultimately I believe after we file the legal challenges, we’ll have a different result,” said Silver outside the courthouse.
Arleen Phillips, AKA Juror No. 6, was one of the holdouts in convicting Silver and also tried to get excused from the case. She ended up voting to convict him after seeing he had not disclosed outside income from the Manhattan law firm, Goldberg & Iryami. “I was wondering, why wouldn’t it just be out in the open just like the other things, why was this kind of hidden?” she said.
A few hours after Silver’s conviction, Gov. Andrew Cuomo hinted at a push for bolstering the state’s ethics laws.
By law, Silver was automatically expelled from his 65th Assembly District. Moments after that, his state government website was scrubbed of any mention of his nearly 40 years in office, including 21 as speaker. Staffers also wasted no time taking down his nameplate from his office in the Legislative Office Building as Silver’s aides huddled behind closed doors.
Cuomo will likely call a special election to fill the seat Silver has held since the mid-1970s. The fate of the now former assemblyman’s remaining staffers will be in the hands of his replacement, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Said Heastie in a post-verdict statement: “I am deeply saddened by the events that have taken place this year, culminating with today’s conviction of former Speaker Sheldon Silver. Words simply aren’t enough. We will continue to work to root out corruption and demand more of elected officials when it comes to ethical conduct.”
Government-watchdog groups expressed optimism that the conviction would serve as a spur for a more aggressive round of action, perhaps targeting legislators’ income or the so-called L.L.C. loophole, which allows large unfettered contributions to political campaigns.
“Hopefully this will be the tipping point at which New York’s political leadership will gets its heads out of the sand,” said Blair Horner, of the New York Public Research Group. “Gov. Cuomo must now call a special session devoted to ethics reform.”
The New York Times says the Silver verdict and ongoing trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos “should sound a loud alarm to all the players in Albany who have become so accustomed to the abuse of power that they can’t see how it infects every aspect of lawmaking,” adding: “If the lawmakers still don’t get the message, voters should take heed. It is well past time to throw out anyone who doesn’t fight for a complete change of that toxic culture.”
Skelos was sitting in his own public-corruption trial when he learned that a federal jury across the street convicted his longtime colleague, Silver, of trading his political influence for financial gain. The former majority leader was stoic upon hearing the news.
“My case is what I’m focused on, what my attorneys are focused on,” Skelos said. “As I said in the beginning, I’m very confident I’m going to be found innocent.”
The NY Post: “US Attorney Preet Bharara and his team deserve hearty congratulations for their unceasing effort to get to the bottom of Albany’s influence-peddling. Indeed, in finding him guilty — on all counts — of selling his political office for $4 million in secret deals, the jury sent a clear message: Corruption may be business as usual in Albany, but it’s also a crime.”
The guilty verdict against Silver “still casts a shadow that hangs over Albany,” Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell said in a statement. “We need to change the way things work in Albany,” the Manhattan Democrat insisted.
Casey Seiler: “For the first time since 1977, the state Assembly will convene a legislative session without Sheldon Silver. Instead, the slow-walking, low-talking owl who endured for two decades as one of Albany’s all-powerful “Three Men in a Room” could be headed for a very different kind of room.”
Nov 30th - 7:33 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement Monday evening reacting to the guilty verdict in the Sheldon Silver corruption case hinted at yet another ethics legislation push, calling on state lawmakers to “take seriously the need for reform.”
“Today, justice was served,” Cuomo said. “Corruption was discovered, investigated, and prosecuted, and the jury has spoken. With the allegations proven, it is time for the Legislature to take seriously the need for reform. There will be zero tolerance for the violation of the public trust in New York.”
Silver was found guilty on all seven counts of corruption, which included fraud, extortion and money laundering.
Cuomo had previously refrained from commenting extensively on the Silver corruption case since the former speaker’s arrest in January. But the governor nevertheless did push in the wake of Silver’s arrest last year for a package of anti-corruption, ethics and disclosure measures.
In February, Cuomo outlined and proposed a reform package at New York University. Ultimately, lawmakers approved new disclosure requirements for those legislators who have legal clients as well as new campaign finance laws.
Good-government groups criticized the agreement at the time for falling short of addressing structural ethics problems in state government.
A push for ethics and other reform-related measures was virtually non-existent in the wake of the arrest of now former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos in May.
Cuomo has sought ethics and disclosure measures, as well as campaign finance reform laws virtually every year since taking office.
But major victories for good-government watchdogs such as public financing of political campaigns and ending the practice of donating unlimited funds to political campaigns through a web of limited liability companies has alluded passage so far.
Nov 30th - 6:15 pm
Despite ongoing jury drama in the federal corruption trial of ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon, the (now former) Manhattan lawmaker was found guilty on all seven counts lodged against him by US Attorney Preet Bharara.
Exiting the court, Silver said he was “disappointed” by the verdict, but plans to “continue the legal fight.”
The DN’s Ken Lovett says Silver’s conviction “is not just a victory against the once powerful legislative leader, but a huge blow against the unseemly way Albany has conducted business for decades.”
The White House offered Gov. Andrew Cuomo detailed updates on in-state refugee resettlement amid pushback by other governors to the administration’s goal of resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees through September 2016.
New York has started a statewide toy, coat and school supplies drive for families in need. Donations can be made at various drop-off locations around the state.
US Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and freshman Republican Rep. John Katko agree on keeping $2 million a year worth of federal cash flowing to the Centro public bus service over the next six years.
…some members of the public made their way into the Schumer press conference, peppering the state’s senior senator with questions.
A new book from Syracuse author Hart Seely finds poetry in the sometimes rambling, often rabble-rousing campaign rhetoric of Republican 2016 front-runner Donald Trump.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner should follow Cuomo’s lead and appoint a special prosecutor to oversee police-involved civilian deaths, the Rev. Al Sharpton said.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli departs Wednesday for Paris, where world leaders are gathering to discuss what they can do to ameliorate the effects of climate change in coming decades.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio chalked a claim by the governor’s office that de Blasio is failing to manage the city’s homeless crisis up to “political posturing.”
The National Restaurant Association plans to file a lawsuit against New York City’s health department over its requirement that chain restaurants post warning labels on foods that contain more than the recommended daily limit for sodium.
A juror who last week complained of chest pains associated with a chronic heart condition was dismissed this morning from the jury in the trial of former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam.
The first public hearing of the Commission on Legislative, Judicial and Executive Compensation heard a widely supported proposal today to raise most state judges’ pay to $203,100 a year.
In a half dozen conversations with top Entergy leaders, Schumer has tried both pleading and frank warnings to convince them to keep the Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant running in Oswego.
Investor Warren Buffett will campaign with Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton in his hometown of Omaha next week.
The State Department released a WikiLeaks-related email from Clinton’s personal account that official watchdogs for the intelligence community and the department flagged over the summer as appearing to contain classified information.
The New York State Board of Regents has established a committee to study the Algebra I test results to determine whether the bar for passing was set too high.