Silver Accepts Harassment Findings Against Kellner

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver accepted the findings of the chamber’s ethics commission on Friday that outgoing Assemblyman Micah Kellner created a “sexually hostile work environment” and upheld sanctions placed on his office.

“I accept the recommendation of the Committee in full,” Silver wrote in a letter of admonition and reprimand to Kellner. “Therefore, I hereby and again admonish and reprimand you for your conduct. You have been found to have engaged in sexual harassment in 2012 and 2013 in violation of the Assembly’s Harassment Policy, in addition to and distinct from the previous findings of the Committee, upheld on appeal by Judge Levine, that you engaged in sexual harassment in 2009 and 2011.”

In a letter sent by the ethics committee to Silver on Wednesday, the panel also concluded Kellner violated the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy and found that his “conduct is unbecoming of a member of the Assembly and reflects poorly on the entire body.”

Kellner, a Manhattan Democrat, has been appealing sanctions that he sexually harassed members of his staff.

Kellner received a second round of sanctions after it was found he was in violation of rules imposed on his office, including having an intern.

The second round of charges leveled against Kellner were dismissed by hearing officer in November, with Judge Howard Levine determining in a letter that Kellner was not given enough notice earlier this spring following the new charge.

The letter to Kellner released today by Silver’s office accepts the findings in full from the ethics committee’s investigation that Kellner engaged in sexual harassment in 2009 and 2011.

Kellner blasted the development in response:

“Speaker Silver’s and the Assembly Ethics Committe’s actions in this matter have zero credibility after the Speaker’s hand-picked appeals officer questioned the legitimacy of the Ethics Committee’s investigation and the authenticity of the evidence on which they based their decision– ultimately leading the appeals officer to take the unprecedented step of throwing out these exact same charges in November. Speaker Silver has been making up this Kabuki theatre as he goes along, solely to protect himself, while failing to honor or complete the appeals process he put in place.”

EC 12-17-14f.pdf by Nick Reisman

Extras

How not to be late, a “self-help guide” for the chronically tardy NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

For his final press conference of 2014, President Obama exclusively called on female reporters. The White House had planned it that way.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have a private swearing-in on New Year’s Eve in Albany. On New Year’s Day, he’ll host public ceremonies in NYC and Buffalo, home to his LG, Kathy Hochul.

Cuomo to the anti-frackers: “You did a great job of making your voice hear, and that’s what democracy’s all about. I actually enjoyed seeing it in action - I know it didn’t always seem that way.”

Sen. Tom Libous said he would be calling Cuomo this afternoon to ask for the fourth available casino license be awarded for a “true Southern Tier casino.”

The state Thruway Authority passed a 2015 budget that leaves a $36 million gap in funding, leaving a decision about whether to raise tolls on the superhighway system until next year.

According to EJ McMahon, the Thruway budget was slightly revised from the one originally proposed, but “continues to assume rising tolls through 2018.”

The executive director of Gracie Mansion has been chosen as First Lady Chirlane McCray’s new chief of staff after the embattled Rachel Noerdlinger stepped down last month.

Dan Doctoroff bid farewell this afternoon to Bloomberg L.P., where he had served as chairman and chief executive since 2008.

Sen. George Latimer’s house in Westchester County is in foreclosure proceedings.

In recommending a fracking ban, acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said he wouldn’t want his own kids to grow up near a well site. Turns out, he’s unmarried and has no children.

More than 1 million workers in New York will get raises this New Year’s Eve, when the state’s hourly minimum wage increases from $8 and hour to $8.75.

Richard Lipsky penned an OpEd for The Boston Globe about why Mark Wahlberg should be pardoned for a felony conviction he received when he was 16.

The Justice League NYC, which has been organizing protests since the Eric Garner grand jury decision, met with de Blasio today.

Soon-to-be-former conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann wants to be a full-time critic of everything Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Campaigns and political committees spent more than $1.5 million on private jets  to fly in Bill and Hillary Clinton to stump for various candidates during the  2014 midterms.

The NYT editorial board calls on Cuomo to “put his energies into a vigorous effort to pass the long-stalled” GENDA.

GlobalFoundries will look outside the Albany region to fill 300 openings for equipment engineer technicians in the coming year, until the pipeline of mid-skilled workers meets the business’ growing demands.

Here are twelve 2014 moments when de Blasio criticized the policies of his predecessor, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and attempted to show his moves in a new direction.

There’s a new area code in Suffolk County: It’s 934.

Cuomo has signed a bill into law to preserve the dark skies over the Adirondacks.

Cuomo To Hold Swearing-In Ceremonies In NYC, Buffalo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will eschew a public swearing-in ceremony in Albany for the One World Trade site and Buffalo, an administration official confirmed.

The locations were first reported by The Daily News.

Cuomo, who will take the oath of office for a second, four-year term on Jan. 1., will hold a private swearing-in ceremony at the Executive Mansion in Albany on New Year’s Eve.

The governor on New Year’s Day will hold a public ceremony in Manhattan near the One World Trade site and in Buffalo, with an exact location expected to be announced next week.

Cuomo will be taking office alongside Lt. Gov.-elect Kathy Hochul, a former congresswoman from western New York.

It’s not surprising that Cuomo would want to spend some time in Buffalo on his inauguration day, given the attention he has lavished on the area in his first term.

Cuomo in 2010 held his swearing-in ceremony in Albany on the second floor of the state Capitol, a day that he also chose to re-open the second-floor office suite that had been closed off since the Pataki administration.

Moody’s Down On Speed Camera Implosion

The credit rating agency Moody’s gave a dim analysis of Nassau County’s rejection of a speed camera program after initially budgeting revenue from violations.

Albany lawmakers earlier this year approved a speed-camera program for Nassau County near schools, but officials there ultimately scrapped the program following public outcry.

Moody’s examined the speed-camera situation in Nassau County and a similar situation in New Jersey that also scaled back its implementation.

The agency concludes the problems with the programs constitute a “credit negative” due to the impact on local governments not being able to access new forms of revenue in the midst of tax caps, poor sales tax growth and opposition to tax hikes.

More from Moody’s:

“Net county collections from the cameras, after the vendor’s contracted share, were $21 million between September and November, indicating the county would have exceeded the $30 million (1% of total revenues) in speed camera revenue for which it had budgeted in 2015. Neighboring Suffolk County (A3/stable), which had projected only $2.5 million from speed cameras for 2015, chose to scrap its plan earlier this month before it had even begun, partially based on the Nassau experience.”

Reed: Congress May Override State Fracking Ban

GOP Rep. Tom Reed on Friday raised the possibility of the federal government exploring ways of superseding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to prohibit hydrofracking in the Southern Tier.

Reed, who represents the area of the state where natural gas deposits are especially rich, told Fred Dicker on Talk-1300 this morning the federal government could have the authority to overrule the ban, which will be formally put in place by the state Department of Environmental Conservation next year.

Reed compared the move to a federal telecommunications measure that overrode local zoning on the placement of satellite dishes.

“So the federal government could have a role here,” Reed said. “Obviously when we talk about energy, we’re talking about our energy security and that has national implications.”

Cuomo on Wednesday backed the proposal made at his year-end cabinet meeting to ban the controversial natural gas drilling process after Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker could not determine whether the practice could be conducted safely in New York.

Reed, in the interview, said he wanted to see the scope of the state’s fracking prohibition.

“I think it’s going to depend on how far the New York ban goes here,” Reed said.

He also criticized Cuomo over the ban, charging that it was a political decision.

“This is about presidential politics, trying to win a presidential primary,” Reed said. “Maybe he’s worried about trying to win a governor’s race four years from now.”

Moody’s: Casino Win A ‘Credit Positive’ For Host Communities

Winning a bid to host a casino resort is a “credit positive” for the host municipalities in upstate New York, a Moody’s analysis released on Friday found.

Nevertheless, there is a note of caution from the credit-rating agency: Given the troubles of the gambling and casino industry across the country, the long-term benefits of the projects could be “muted.”

The state’s gaming facility location board on Wednesday awarded casino licenses to project bids in Sullivan County, Schenectady and the town of Tyre in Seneca County.

Moody’s points to the revenue and job creation expected to be generated by the projects.

The counties hosting the casino resorts will receive “host fees” with $14.7 million going to Sullivan, $13.1 million expected for Schenectady and $6.9 million going to Seneca County.

The towns and nearby school districts will be in line for smaller amounts.

Moody’s also expects the host municipalities to see increases in local property tax bases driven by the new construction and the growth in sales revenue

Moody’s says the outlook on the gaming industry in the United States writ large is negative due to weakening revenues, lower demand and high fixed costs — suggesting the long-term impact in New York from casino revenue may be elusive.

“Gaming revenues, particularly outside of Las Vegas (Aa2/stable), are down in areas across the country and it remains to be seen if the estimates provided by the Gaming Commission and the casino companies themselves come to fruition. Significant increases in traffic and tourism will likely require an additional police presence. Host municipalities may also need to improve existing infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, in order to accommodate increases in traffic.”

Libous Seeks 4th Casino License for S. Tier

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican, is among S. Tier residents reeling from this week’s news that the region lost out on two badly needed potential local job creators: Fracking and a casino.

Appearing on CapTon last night, Libous said he is “fired up” over the decisions. While a fracking ban seems definitive and difficult to challenge – though there is some talk of lawsuits, as Cuomo predicted – Libous does see a remedy for the casino situation.

“We’re not happy; there’s a lot of disappointed and angry people here, and I’m trying to figure out what our next step is,” the senator said.

“I’ve got my people looking to see if we can do something with that fourth license that wasn’t given…it would make sense to me that we might have an option at that,” Libous, the second most powerful GOP member in the Senate, continued.

“…It would be my goal to get local leaders together, and try to see if we can’t get that local license.”

“They said they would grant four, and the one in Seneca County is 120 miles away from us. I think it would be great if we could get that license, and that’s what we’re going to try to do. That’s the most realistic approach right now.”

Libous declined to blame Cuomo for the Gaming Facility Location Board’s decision, which he called “flawed” and “bad”, saying the casino legislation was purposely designed to prevent either the governor or lawmakers from influencing the process.

“Whether the governor had any input in that, that’s something you’d have to ask him,” said the senator, who has long maintained a close relationship with Cuomo (the governor even attended the senator’s son’s wedding in 2013).

“I don’t believe he did….the siting commission made a mistake. That’s what happened, and I’m not happy with their decision.”

Libous said that if the fourth license was awarded to Tioga Downs, a new casino would be up and running there within six months – faster than any of the other facilities that received licenses will be opening their doors.

Tioga Downs owner Jeffrey Gural was furious over the fact that the S. Tier was passed over for a casino in favor of Tyre in the Finger Lakes, and he was not shy about making his views public.

Libous plans to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. this morning to make his call for the fourth license public. But he may be tilting at windmills.

After the casino decisions were announced Wednesday, Gaming Facility Location Board Chairman Kevin Law was asked whether it was possible to go back and recommend a fourth license down the road.

Law responded: “We actually spent time really trying to figure that out. Do we want to say three at this time and maybe we’ll pick a fourth? No.”

“We reached a unanimous consensus that these three selections that we made have the best shot for success,” Law added. “There shouldn’t be a fourth.”

Also, during a stop in Sullivan County on his casino victory tour yesterday, Cuomo said he did not “anticipate” doing any more licenses.

The governor said he wants to make sure the casinos given the green light succeed and don’t have to worry about additional competition – other than what already exists in an increasingly crowded (and, from a national standpoint, troubled) gaming landscape.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet with members of the Justice League NYC, which has been organization protests following the Eric Garner grand jury decision. This meeting will be closed press.

At 8 a.m., ahead of a NYC Board of Correction public hearing, advocates of jail reform will hold a rally to protest the proposed creation of Enhanced Supervision Housing Units, 455 1st Ave., Manhattan.

At 10:10 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will be Sen. David Carlucci’s special guest on the “Albany Report” radio show, exclusively on WRCR 1300 AM.

At 10:30 a.m., former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani makes his annual visit to Hale House Mother Hale Learning Center; 154 W. 22nd St., Manhattan.

At 10:40 a.m., US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will tour the Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the SUNY Cobleskill with President Debra Thatcher, culinary students, and instructors, 114 Rockland Lane, Cobleskill.

At 11:30 a.m., the Thruway Authority board meets at its headquarters to approve its 2015 budget, 200 Southern Blvd., Albany.

At noon, the Assembly will hold a joint public hearing to examine the adequacy of the fee schedule for medical provider reimbursement proposed by the Workers’ Compensation Board to be used under both the workers’ compensation system and the no-fault system and to determine its impact on access to quality treatment and return to work rates, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

At 2:10 p.m., de Blasio speaks at the NYPD Promotions Ceremony, 1 Police Plaza, Manhattan.

At 5 p.m., a pro-police rally (and potential counter-rally) take place, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo fired the first salvo in what’s shaping up to be a contentious battle over education reform, signaling he plans to push next year for sweeping changes – like making it easier to fire low-performing teachers and increasing the number of charter schools.

Cuomo made his intentions clear in a letter to the Regents chancellor and outgoing state education commissioner. NYSUT slammed the governor’s questions and the letter’s overall tone as showing “ignorance about what parents want and the real issues facing public education.”

Gerald Benjamin, director of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach at SUNY New Paltz, said it was unusual for the governor to release such a letter publicly rather than communicating privately with legislative leaders. “He’s playing hardball.”

DFS Superitnendent Ben Lawsky said he would ease record-keeping requirements in the state’s proposal for a virtual currency licensing regime and provide a transitional license for startups, but concerns remain that the final rule will set too high a bar for anti-money laundering compliance.

New York landowners blocked from cashing in on the natural gas boom by the state’s just-announced fracking ban may fight back in court, but experts say energy companies are unlikely to spend their money and time on lawsuits when they’ve already lost their investments.

Cuomo defended the state’s decision, saying it wasn’t worth jeopardizing the public’s health for the jobs the drilling could create.

Though he said he had nothing to do with the selection process, Cuomo took a mini victory lap yesterday of counties that won the casino sweepstakes. (Bad weather kept him from making it to Seneca County).

Southern Tier residents are reeling from the one-two punch of no casinos and no fracking. “The casinos went down, fracking went down – come on; this place is dead in the water now,” said Binghamton resident Pat Shea. “This whole area was thumbed at, snubbed, like it was nothing.”

It’s a totally different situation in the Catskills, where Monticello casino boosters are celebrating after winning one of the three upstate license recommendations announced this week.

Bob McManus: “The fruits of Andrew Cuomo’s first term went on display one after another this week — and what a withered bunch of grapes they turned out to be.”

State legislators, highway officials and even those stuck on highways for 30 hours during the November snowstorm in Western New York are expected to participate in the state Thruway Authority’s self-review of its performance now underway.

Federal prosecutors plan to sue New York City over widespread civil rights violations in the handling of adolescent inmates at Rikers Island, making clear their dissatisfaction with the city’s progress in reining in brutality by guards and improving conditions at the jail complex.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first-year agenda has faced next to no resistance in the City Council, a feat some say is inextricably linked to his successful effort to install his choice for council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Police precincts across NYC are reportedly calling off their planned annual festivities because they can’t afford to take officers off the street while protests against police brutality continue to crop up almost nightly.

An organizer at NYC’s largest union, SEIU, surrendered to cops and was charged with busting an NYPD lieutenant’s nose during a videotaped mob attack on the Brooklyn Bridge.

More >

Siena Poll: New Yorkers Back AG As Special Prosector

A majority of New Yorkers support giving Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the power to investigate other instances of police brutality, a Siena College poll released on Friday found.

The poll found that by a 58 percent to 33 percent margin, New Yorkers would back giving Schneiderman the power of special prosecutor to probe other instances of police brutality after a grand jury chose to not indict a New York police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“A majority of Democrats, independents, voters from every region and race agree that the Attorney General and not local district attorneys should have authority in cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers, although Democrats, New York City voters, blacks and Latinos feel most strongly about this,” Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said. “Only majorities of Republicans and conservatives think people of color are treated fairly by our criminal justice system. Two-thirds of Democrats and a plurality of independents disagree, as do a majority of downstaters, particularly New York City, and people of color. Whites and upstaters are closely divided.”

Scheniderman this month requested Gov. Andrew Cuomo issue an executive order granting him the special prosecutors role.

So far, Cuomo has said he’s reviewing the request, but raised questions with how broad the scope of those investigative powers should be.

The poll found that 55 percent of New Yorkers believe the grand jury should have made an indictment in the case, which has set off a wave of protests across the country and sparked a discussion over criminal justice reform legislation at the state level.

Meanwhile, most New Yorkers 52 percent to 35 percent believe the state’s criminal justice system does not treat people of color fairly.

Broken down politically, Republican voters by a 2-to-1 margin believe the grand jury was correct in not indicting Garner.

“Similarly, large majorities of Democrats, New York City voters, blacks, Latinos and younger voters want the Feds to bring civil rights charges, while Republicans are opposed, and upstaters, suburbanites, white and older voters are closely divided,” Greenberg said.

Cuomo himself has suggested he will push for a variety of criminal justice reforms, including greater transparencies for grand juries as well as strengthening police training and requiring some officers to wear body cameras.

The governor’s administration this week moved to ban hydrofracking in the state, but the poll found New Yorkers remain divided on the natural gas drilling issue.

Thirty-eight percent of voters say they are opposed to fracking, while 35 percent of those polled back the drilling method.

“Fracking has closely divided New Yorkers for several years. And while it has the intuitive partisan divide with Democrats opposing and Republicans supporting, from a regional perspective the results might be a little counterintuitive as New York City and upstate voters narrowly oppose fracking and a plurality of downstate suburbanites support it,” Greenberg said.

Similarly, New Yorkers are split on the DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. Forty-four percent of New Yorkers back the measure, while 48 percent do not. Cuomo will likely once again be under pressure from liberals in the Legislature to include funding for the DREAM Act in his state budget proposal.

A broad majority of New Yorkers continue to support Cuomo’s two-year-old gun control law known as the SAFE Act, but they are split along partisan lines.

By a margin of 58 percent to 33 percent, New Yorkers back the law, which Cuomo has said remains a significant legislative achievement for him.

The measure has the support of 69 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents, 67 percent of voters from New York City and 61 percent from the downstate suburbs. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans oppose the law.

And not surprisingly, there is widespread opposition to a pay raise for state lawmakers: 63 percent of those polled do not believe the Senate and Assembly should receive their first salary increase since 1998.

That sentiment cuts across party, geographic, gender and ideological lines.

Cuomo has said he is sympathetic to lawmakers who are pushing for the pay hike from the current $79,500, but has sought to have them enact sweeping ethics and campaign finance legislation, including the creation of a system of public financed campaigns and curtailing outside income.

For now, there has been no significant move to have lawmakers return to Albany in a special session to take up that legislation and vote themselves a raise.

The Siena College of 639 voters was conducted from Dec. 11 through Dec. 16. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

SNY1214 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Extras

BuzzFeed will receive a $4 million tax break from the state to expand its Manhattan offices.

…The announcement comes on the heels of news that Buzzfeed has signed one of the year’s biggest leases in Midtown South, which has increasingly become a focal point for NYC’s tech and creative industries.

When it came to siting upstate casinos, the Gaming Facility Location Board played it safe.

PBA President Pat Lynch told officers to use “extreme discretion,” in response to what he said was a lack of support from City Hall and Washington after the Eric Garner grand jury decision.

Lynch also said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio “thinks he’s running a f@#$ing revolution,” and called a protest of the Garner decision by black congressional staffers “stupid S@#!.”

Eva Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy Charter Schools, called off an anti-de Blasio press conference after the DOE agreed to find space for her network of expanding charter schools.

Seventy-six percent of New Yorkers disagree with de Blasio’s quest to ban horse-drawn carriages from Central Park, a Q poll found.

PETA named de Blasio its “person of the year.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Lyme bill into law.

He also vetoed a bill that would have put a halt to state plans to eradicate a species of swan.

There will be no toll increase involved when the Thruway Board meets tomorrow to approve the 2015 budget.

Richard Nixon Nixon’s grandson, Christopher Cox, and his wife, Andrea Catsimatidis, heiress to the Gristedes supermarket fortune, are getting a divorce.

…and also, this.

The governor is holding an open house at the executive mansion on Dec. 31 instead of New Year’s Day. Tickets are available through a lottery.

“When I visit New York, I often get a headache from all the pollution. I notice that the governor hasn’t banned the use of cars.”

The four-year graduation rate for New York City students entering high school in 2010 reached 64.2 percent - a small uptick from 61.3 percent the previous school year.

Statewide, a total of 76.4 percent of students who started high school in 2010 graduated before June 2014 – up slightly from the 74.9 percent in 2009.

Rush Limbaugh thinks Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush would be the perfect ticket for 2016.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson phoned Clinton recently to tell her to run for president again. (He expects his state to “decide the nation” in the race).

A Clinton adviser recently met with the head of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the liberal issues group most closely affiliated with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Grant Loomis, the deputy chief of staff for Rep. Chris Collins, has been named as the new vice president of government affairs for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

Former Gov. George Pataki thinks the NYPD is the best police department in the nation.