Indictments Against State Senator Ortt Dismissed

An Albany County Judge has dismissed all indictments against state Senator Rob Ortt due to lack of evidence. Ortt was facing three felony charges of filing a false instrument.

The state Attorney General’s office accused the Republican of obtaining a “no-show job” for his wife in order to make up for a pay reduction he took to become the mayor of the City of North Tonawanda.

The judge’s decision references evidence that Niagara County Republican Committee funneled money through two companies, Synor and Regency Communications, that were later paid to Ortt’s wife Meghan. One exhibit submitted to the court shows the companies paid $21,500 to Meghan Ortt over a number of years which were reported on the couple’s joint income tax returns.

According to the court documents though, there was no proof that the defendant knew the money source was the NCRC. As a result, the judge wrote the evidence did not show that Ortt had knowledge campaign finance reports were false, nor that he had any intent to defraud the state.

“Today’s decision by Judge Lynch to dismiss these ridiculous political charges was welcome news,” Ortt said in a statement. “This quick and forthright dismissal exposed Eric Schneiderman for the power hungry, political opportunist that he is. It is my hope that this ruling today will force Mr. Schneiderman to think twice before concocting baseless charges to serve his own radical progressive political agenda again. My wife and I look forward to receiving a personal apology from Mr. Schneiderman.”

The decision does not clear former state Senator George Maziarz who was also implicated in the alleged scheme.

“We’re pleased that a trial date has been set for the corruption charges against Sen. Maziarz,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman.

“We disagree with the opinion regarding Sen. Ortt and are considering our options. Nothing in today’s opinion changes the fact that Meghan Ortt received money for a politically-connected no-show job. Only in Albany would a Senator argue that receiving money for a politically-connected no-show job isn’t a crime.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan celebrated the news in a statement as well.

“Rob Ortt is is a friend and colleague who has maintained his innocence from day one,” Flanagan said. “Now everyone will know what his Senate colleagues and I have known for a very long time — that he is a person of honor and integrity who did everything right.”

 

Judge Dismisses All Charges Against Senator Rob Ortt by Ryan Whalen on Scribd

Cuomo: ‘New Yorkers Deserve Better’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement Tuesday called the latest trouble for the New York City subway system “unacceptable” after a derailment left dozens with minor injuries.

“While the investigation is ongoing, this morning’s subway derailment is an unacceptable manifestation of the system’s current state,” Cuomo said in the statement. “New Yorkers deserve better. We are grateful to the first responders for their able assistance.”

Cuomo sought last week to gain more control over the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a measure that ultimately failed. However, he was able to push through the return of MTA Chairman Joe Lhota.

In his statement, Cuomo pointed to the Lhota appointment as having the expectation things will turn around for the battered transit system.

“It is my expectation that with new leadership brought by Joe Lhota, the MTA will address the fundamental issues plaguing the transit system and overhaul the organizational structure of the MTA,” he said. “As I have told Joe, any support the MTA needs to get through this crisis, will be provided.”

The problems plaguing the subway comes as state lawmakers have suggested more funding for the MTA. Cuomo has poured more capital spending into the system, but logistical problems have hampered the introduction of new trains.

NY-22: Tenney Takes Pre-Emptive Swipe At Brindisi

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi will launch his campaign for the House seat held by freshman Rep. Claudia Tenney with an event planned for Utica on Wednesday.

But Tenney is wasting little time to define her potential general election opponent for what could be a hotly contest congressional district next year.

“Frankly, I am excited that Anthony Brindisi has chosen to run for Congress because voters will have a very clear choice,” she said in a statement.

“I have spent years fighting for small business owners, family farms, hardworking families and the neediest among us against the corrupt, rigged system that has allowed Albany politicians and their cronies to literally steal from upstate New Yorkers while destroying our economy. I continue fighting that rigged system and those policies each day that I have the honor of representing upstate New York in Congress.”

She called Brindisi a “slick politician” who “pretends to be a moderate.”

“Brindisi has worked hand-in-hand with Andrew Cuomo to make New York the highest taxed state in the nation, driving our residents and jobs out in record numbers,” she said. “Brindisi has advocated for and voted for Cuomo’s corrupt, self-serving initiatives like Start-Up NY, the corrupt and tragic Oneida Deal and the Buffalo Billion. After endorsing Hillary Clinton for President it is clear Brindisi will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi’s extreme left-wing agenda in Congress.”

Tenney served in a neighboring Assembly district to Brindisi’s central New York district, winning a three-way race last year for the seat vacated by outgoing Rep. Richard Hanna.

Slaughter Calls Again For Investigation Into Stock Connected To Collins

Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, once again, is reiterating calls for an investigation into stock trades surrounding Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics. This after share values plummeted Tuesday by more than 90 percent.

The collapse comes following the company’s announcement that a clinical trial for a multiple sclerosis treatment failed to show any meaningful results. According to a press release, while further analysis should be reported in the next month, “it is unlikely the result will significantly change.”

The company’s largest shareholder is Western New York Congressman Chris Collins. The Republican has strongly denied accusations he did anything illegal or unethical by talking up the stock to other members of Congress and friends in Western New York, some of whom purchased shares.

Slaughter said the collapse raises a whole new set of questions.

“This follows the company previously suggesting a great response to its drug and touting that it stood to generate as much as $3 billion in profits in this country alone,” she said. “This raises very serious questions as to when Congressman Collins knew about the drug’s performance and who is responsible for the suspicious trading before the drug’s failure was publicly known. Did Congressman Collins come here to make money for himself or to represent his constituents?”

An analyst for financial services company Motley Fool noted a “sell-off” appeared to begin Friday, days before the company announced the trial results, and shortly before the company announced a trading halt.

We’ve reached out to the congressman’s office for a response.

In Testimony, Paladino Defiant In Removal Case

For nearly six hours on Tuesday, Carl Paladino told his life story, his approach toward public office and his time on the Buffalo School Board. He now faces removal from the board for allegedly disclosing confidential information.

“I think we proved our case overwhelmingly that Carl Paladino violated his oath of office,” said Frank Miller, the attorney hired by the Buffalo School Board for the removal hearing. “The best proof of that was his own testimony.”

In that testimony, Paladino defended his writings in a newsweekly discussing the board’s 2016 contract talks with the teacher’s union in Buffalo. Board members argue Paladino revealed confidential information from an executive session. Paladino’s team disagrees.

“Our affirmative defense is include among other things that the executive sessions were entered into illegally,” said Dennis Vacco, Paladino’s attorney. “So if they are not entered into lawfully, they don’t get whatever protection comes with confidentiality.”

Paladino under questioning from his attorney also said he regretted writing a racist essay mocking Barack and Michelle Obama.

“I was thinking about Obama and his wife,” Paladino said. “My thinking got carried away… I sincerely regret my words.”

Paladino’s legal team argues the board is actually trying to remove him for the Obama commentary, not the disclosures.

“They want to remove him over that,” Vacco said. “He is facing removal over that. That is the whole part of our pre-text case. You’ve heard me say over several times during the course of the case that the unlawful disclosures was an extreme after thought.”

Throughout the day, Paladino’s manichean view of the world was on display, presenting himself as a rescuer of a troubled public system, standing up to sinister “schemers” like the teachers union president and incompetent naifs.

The hearing began last week, but Tuesday was the only day to draw about more than two dozen protesters outside of the state Education buildnig in Albany. Paladino himself was tight lipped after the hours of questioning.

“You’ll have to ask my boss if he’ll let me speak,” he told reporters, nudging Vacco.

Regardless of how State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia rules, School Board President Barbara Nevergold questioned whether Paladino can remain an effective member.

“In his testimony, he doesn’t feel he’s bound by policies related to executive session and I suspect other policies related to controlling the board’s behavior and controlling the board’s actions,” Nevergold said.

Closing arguments in the hearing are expected Wednesday, but a determination from Elia is not expected for several weeks.

Extras

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delayed the vote on the Republican leadership’s health care bill until after the July 4 recess.

Two subway cars of an A train derailed this morning at the 125th Street station in Harlem, causing dozens of injuries. As many as 34 people were hurt, with six transported to nearby hospitals, officials said.

Newly-minted MTA Chairman Joe Lhota said an emergency break was to blame for the derailment.

Sen. Mike Gianaris has launched a (well-timed) petition calling on Cuomo and state legislators to address weeks of chronic delays and historic failures throughout the MTA system upon their return to Albany.

EJ McMahon: “(T)o a degree unheard of at any time in the past 65 years, New York’s state treasury is swimming in excess cash that ideally could, and should, be devoted to projects like fixing the subways.”

Ken Lovett: “The coming summer of hell for commuters could morph into an election year train wreck for Gov. Cuomo in 2018 if things don’t improve, insiders warn.”

State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi plans to announce tomorrow that he will challenge Rep. Claudia Tenney in the 2018 election, according to two Democratic sources familiar with his decision.

The Court of Appeals dismissed the bulk of a lawsuit contending the state hasn’t lived up to a 2006 court mandate to increase funding for New York City schools by $1.9 billion, and by extension, funding for school districts throughout the state.

The president used the resignations of three CNN journalists involved in a retracted Russia-related story to resume his attack on the network’s credibility.

Hillary Clinton divulged details about her third memoir, out this fall, and shared her post-election reading list to attendees at the American Library Association conference in Chicago, saying it’s the “most personal” nook she has written.

Actor Alec Baldwin said that he will be bringing back his famous Trump impersonation to “Saturday Night Live” this fall.

Trump’s business will be paid millions of dollars to release the owner of a Toronto hotel complex from using his name.

The stock value of the Australian biotech firm Rep. Chris Collins championed to fellow lawmakers plummeted today, costing the New York Republican $17 million as investigators continue probing his relationship with the firm.

A pro-Trump outside group is stepping up its attacks on GOP Sen. Dean Heller over his opposition to the Obamacare repeal plan — a stunning act of retribution against a politically vulnerable member of the president’s own party.

House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he is still being “fully read-in” on the House Russia investigation and can retake control of the probe at any time, if he wanted to. But for now, he’s staying away.

Maurice Hinchey, who served the Hudson Valley for 38 years as a state assemblyman and congressman, has frontotemporal degeneration, a rare and terminal neurological disorder, his family announced.

The governor signed a bill into law that permits wine ice cream to be sold in smaller containers.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, has added to his legal team one of the nation’s most prominent trial lawyers, Abbe D. Lowell, his lawyers said. (Lowell once represented former state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno).

By focusing on quality-of-life issues, Republican New York City mayoral candidate and assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is highlighting concerns about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s management capabilities that have dogged him during his first term.

Katie Wilson, an Essex County Democrat, is planning a challenge to Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, next year, making her the second Democrat to enter the NY-21 race well in advance of the midterm elections.

De Blasio said he “does not see” Rikers Island being closed ahead of the 10-year time frame he proposed in his recently unveiled plan to shut down the sprawling detention complex, though he would be “surprised pleasantly that changes are happening quicker.”

Activists and voters in Jackson Heights slammed Sen. Jose Peralta for declining to show up at a town hall meeting they held last night at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, and in his absence, turned the event into a briefing on what they said were Peralta and the IDC’s failures in Albany.

The largely ambitious Saranac Lakes Wild Forest unit management plan includes a few cases of the state simply acknowledging what many people already use.

Happy 90th to a NYC icon, (the) Strand bookstore.

Biz Group Coalition Calls To Rescind Pay Equity Order

A coalition of business organizations on Tuesday called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to rescind an executive order mandating the collection of salary information for state contractors as a means of ensuring pay equity.

In a letter sent to Cuomo administration counsel Alphonso David, the groups, led by the state Business Council and others, criticized the executive order’s requirements for data collection as “burdensome” and questioned whether there was any authority to issue it.

“The Executive Order may be well-intentioned, but it is fatally flawed and cannot be fixed through informal guidance or implementation plans,” said Heather Briccetti, the president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, Inc. “While we appreciate the administration’s willingness to delay implementation and provide for a public comment period, the fact remains that this order is simply unworkable.”

The executive order, issued in January, required information on salaries and job titles for employees of contractors who have work with the state.

The data was due to be reported to state agencies and authorities by June 1.

Executive Order 162 Letter David by Nick Reisman on Scribd

NYSAC: Give Permanent Sales Tax Authority To Counties

County government representatives on Tuesday called on the Legislature to advance what would be one of the most significant home rule changes in recent years: Giving county governments the permanent authority to extend their existing sales tax rates every two years.

Lawmakers are expected to return Wednesday for a one-day session to take up mayoral control of New York City schools with a one-year extension. The program expires June 30.

“NYSAC calls on the members of the State Assembly and Senate to provide counties with permanent authority to continue their current sales tax rates, a local home rule revenue authority New York City was granted nearly a decade ago but has not been provided to counties,” the Association of Counties said in a statement. “These local sales tax revenues enable counties and other local governments that receive a share of these revenues, to pay for state mandated programs and provide critical local services that would otherwise disappear.”

At the same time, the county governments need state lawmakers to extend sales taxes and other local tax issues, which had been packaged with a mayoral control bill approved by the Democratic-led Assembly in May.

“If no action is taken, Erie County anticipates lost revenue of $24 million in December 2017 alone and recurring annual revenue losses of $266.2 million going forward,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz in a statement released by the New York State Association of Counties.

“The loss of this funding would have an immediate negative effect on multiple county programs and would force drastic reductions in funding for road repairs, anti-opioid efforts, libraries, arts and cultural organizations, the Sheriff’s road patrol, parks, and many more county-provided services.”

Gianaris: Address Subway Funding

With lawmakers returning Wednesday for a special session of the Legislature, Queens Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris wants both chambers to take up the issue of subway funding.

The concern comes amid a drumbeat of worsening news for the Metropolitan Transit Authority and the subway system, including a derailment just this morning.

“The MTA crisis is real and it is upon us,” said Senator Michael Gianaris. “New Yorkers are suffering the consequences of years of underfunding and mismanaging of our mass transit system. It would be irresponsible for state leaders to allow this to continue without finding a solution and that is what we should do with the urgency this crisis demands.”

Gianaris has unveiled a petition to call attention to the issue in Albany.

His proposal would create a temporary 3-year surcharge for MTA region taxpayers who make more than $1 million a year and on New York City motel and hotel taxes. A higher tax would be charged on those who earn between $5 million and $10 million as well as those who make more than $10 million.

Gianaris estimates the plan would generate more than $2 billion annually.

A tax on the MTA region would be controversial for Senate Republicans to swallow, however, amid their hammering away at the issue of a payroll tax in 2010, which saw them ride back to power later that year.

Cuomo Formally Declares Special Session

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday morning officially called for a special session of the Legislature to extend mayoral control of New York City schools.

In his proclamation calling for a special session, Cuomo also left the door open to “other subjects as I may recommend.”

“The Governor is calling an extraordinary legislative session for Wednesday, June 28 to take up the issue of Mayoral Control,” said Melissa DeRosa, the governor’s secretary and top aide. “The Governor has discussed the extraordinary session with the legislative leaders.”

It’s possible lawmakers will also consider a measure to bolster pension benefits for New York City police and firefighter unions as well as an extension of local sales tax measures.

Mayoral control is due to expire at the end of the month and the governor last week criticized the Legislature for failing to reach an agreement as a “dereliction of duty.”

A special session is a rare occurrence in Albany under Cuomo. The last one was held in 2011, when lawmakers and Cuomo agreed on revised tax rates as they were due to expire for upper income New Yorkers. At the time, Cuomo did not formally call a special session, but struck a three-way agreement to bring the Legislature back to the Capitol.

Lawmakers are not required by law to act, but gavel in for a session.

Session Proc by Nick Reisman on Scribd