Assembly

Kellner Appeal In Sexual Harassment Case Denied

Assemblyman Micah Kellner’s appeal of a decision by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to strip him of his committee chairmanship and office allocations was denied by a former state judge, according to a report released Monday by the Assembly Ethics panel.

In the ruling from Judge Howard Levine, who was appointed a hearing officer in Kellner’s appeal, both the Ethics Committee’s ruling that the Manhattan Democrat engaged in inappropriate behavior that created a hostile working environment as well as Silver’s decision to impose penalties were upheld.

Levine said it was a “rational conclusion” of the Assembly Ethics Committee that Kellner created a hostile working environment through flirtatious comments directed at his office staff.

Kellner had argued in his appeal through an attorney that he did not receive his constitutional right to due process, nor did he have sufficient time to respond to the charges of sexual harassment.

But Levine wrote in the report that Kellner had “sufficient opportunity to refute and clear his name with respect to allegations of misconduct.”

Transcripts reviewed by Levine — including interviews with the Assembly Ethics Committee — showed Kellner apologizing for his comments and acknowledging they were immature.

At the same time, Levine found that a full hearing with evidence and witness testimony given is not a guarantee under the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

“Rather, the Assembly process at issue here (including the appeal) is governed by the Assembly Sexual Harassment Policy, which contains no provision for — or even any suggestion of — a full evidentiary hearing with open discovery and full cross-examination rights, either at the Ethics Committee level or in the context of an appeal,” Levine wrote.

Levine pointed the rejection of a legal fight brought by former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a Democratic former lawmaker from Queens who sought to overturn his explusion from the state Senate following domestic abuse charges.

Kellner lost his Democratic primary for city council last year and did not run for re-election to the state Assembly this year.

Decision of HAL 09 05 14.pdf by Nick Reisman

Timing Of Astorino’s ‘Silver Express’ Questioned

As Republican Rob Astorino’s campaign plans to tail Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bus tour this weekend with then “Shelly Silver Express,” the timing is being criticized for taking place during Yom Kippur.

Silver, an Orthodox Jew, is observant of the high holiday days in the Jewish faith.

“If you think it’s a good idea to hire a truck to drive around on Yom Kippur attacking any Jewish elected official – let alone an Orthodox one – you’re clearly not smart enough to be Governor of New York,” said a source close to the longtime Assembly speaker.

The criticism of Silver is being linked to Cuomo, who is promoting the women’s agenda this weekend with the “Women’s Equality Express” — part of an upstate cities tour with his running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul.

Astorino’s campaign plans to travel behind the bus with the “Shelly Silver Express” in a reference to the sexual harassment scandals that have engulfed the Assembly under Silver’s watch.

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, the executive vice president of the New York State Board of Rabbis, was also critical of the timing because Silver can’t respond himself.

“It is the height of insensitivity and lack of real understanding for Rob Astorino to be personally attacking the Jewish speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver on Yom Kippur thereby not even allowing him to respond to his attacks,” Potasnik said.

Astorino’s Campaign To Tail Cuomo Bus Tour

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s campaign undertakes an upstate bus tour to promote the Women’s Equality Act, the campaign of Republican Rob Astorino will follow along with the “Shelly Silver Express.”

Cuomo’s re-elction campaign will be traveling the state in a bus called the “Women’s Equality Express” with plans to appear in Albany, Syracuse and Rochester on Saturday.

The Astorino campaign is countering with a tour that will bring up the sexual harassment scandals in the state Assembly and blame Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not supporting an end to longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s tenure in the chamber.

“Sheldon Silver survived as Speaker because Andrew Cuomo protected him,” Astorino said in a statement. “Mr. Cuomo showed zero regard for the victims of these sex crimes, choosing instead to prop up a political crony by burying an investigation — a habit that continues to this day. Mr. Cuomo needs to explain at every stop of his tour Saturday whether equality was extended to Mr. Silver’s victims.”

Cuomo has been critical of the Assembly lawmakers — including Vito Lopez, Micah Kellner and Dennis Gabryszak — who have been accused of harassing staffers in recent years.

In the Lopez case, Silver approved settlement money to aides who accused the Brooklyn Democrat of sexual harassment and abuse. He apologized for his handling of the case and has insisted no laws were broken on his part.

State lawmakers and Cuomo this year approved a new hot line for state employees to report harassment to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

In Federal Indictment Scarborough Accused Of Misusing Reimbursement Money

The same day he was indicted on state-level charges of grand larceny and making false statements, Assemblyman Bill Scarborough on Wednesday was also indicted on federal charges of abusing reimbursement money.

Federal prosecutors allege Scarborough, a Queens Democrat, submitted 174 fraudulent per diem reimbursements between 2009 and the end of 2012.

According to the indictment, Scarborough received $40,000 more than legally entitled to during the three-year period, claiming that he was in Albany when he wasn’t or padding his time at the Capitol.

Records show Scarborough received $28,438 in reimbursements last year.

Scarborough’s offices in Albany and Queens were raided in March by the FBI. At the time, Scarborough denied any wrongdoing and acknowledged investigators were looking into his travel reimbursement.

The lawmaker was also indicted this morning on 23 counts of grand larceny and false statements stemming from misuse of his campaign finance account.

He becomes the third sitting state lawmaker to face federal charges. In the Senate, Sens. John Sampson, a Brooklyn Democrat, and Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican, are both under federal indictment.

241609796 Filed Indictment by Nick Reisman

Scarborough Arraigned On 23 Counts

Queens Assemblyman Bill Scarborough indicted on 23 counts of corruption charges ranging from grand larceny to making statements.

The charges stem from Scarborough’s use of campaign funds for personal purposes, according to prosecutors.

Scarborough pleaded not guilty to the charges in an Albany County court room this morning.

He is also expected to meet with investigators from the FBI later today.

His attorney E. Stewart Jones said investigators are misinterpreting campaign-finance records and the money paid to the Democratic lawmaker was meant to be a reimbursement of funds.

“Certainly no money was taken intentionally,” Stewart told reporters. “Mr. Scarborough was reimbursed. There was no crime committed here.”

He added the attorney general’s office has “misconstrued the financial records” stemming from reimbursements owed to Scarborough.

“Nonetheless, it’s his position that he spent money his campaign should have spent and he was entitled for those expenses,” he said.

Records show Scarborough has not filed a campaign-finance report with the state Board of Elections since January.

Stewart added none of the charges are related to per diem reimbursements for Scarborough.

Scarborough’s Albany office as well as his district office in Queens was raided by the FBI in March.

At the time, Scarborough said investigators were interested in his use of travel expenses and per diems.

WEA At Play In LI Assembly Race

Also from the Morning Memo…

Much has been written about the role of Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act in the battle for control of the state Senate. The issue has even spurred the governor to create a new minor party in hopes of galvanizing the female vote in November.

But the issue is also at play in contested Assembly races, and is the subject of a hard-hitting ad that started running yesterday on Long Island.

Its target is Republican Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, who is being challenged by Democratic Suffolk County Park Police sergeant Tom Schiliro.

The ad, titled “Absurd,” links Palumbo with former Republican Missouri Rep. Todd Akin, a 2012 Tea Party-backed US Senate candidate who infuriated both sides of the aisle with his comments during a TV interview about “legitimate rape.”

Akin lost his challenge to Sen. Clarie McCaskill, who had been viewed as the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the 2012 cycle.

Palumbo, like many fellow Republicans, has said he supports 9 of the 10 points in the Women’s Equality Agenda. He opposes the abortion-rights plank, which has prevented the act’s passage in the closely-divided Senate.

The Assembly, which is dominated by Democrats, passed the act in its entirety by a vote of 88-43 this past session.

In a press release, Assembly Higher Education Chairwoman Deborah Glick called Palumbo’s claim that dentists will be able to perform abortions under the WEA “outrageous” and “factually incorrect.”

“Here we go again with another colossally out of touch Republican man telling bizarre lies in order to deny women their constitutionally protected rights,” Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, said.

“…These comments call into question whether Mr. Palumbo is fit for office. He is either unable to understand the legislation he votes on, or he is being willfully misleading so he can advance his extremist anti-women agenda. Either way, it’s disgraceful.”

Similarly themed ads will soon be running in other Assembly races, paid for by DACC, according to a Democratic source familiar with the conference’s political playbook.

Here’s the script of the new ad:

Female narrator: When it comes to women’s health, some politicians say the most ridiculous things. Remember the Senate candidate who said rape never results in pregnancy because…

GOP Missouri Rep. Todd Akin (circa 2012): “If it’s a legitimate rape, uh, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

Female narrator: Now here on Long Island, Assemblyman Palumbo is worried the Women’s Equality Act will interfere with his next teeth cleaning.

Palumbo: “I look at this and say; ‘So, you’re allowing dentists to perform abortions, isn’t that right?”

Female narrator: “No, Assemblyman Palumbo. That isn’t right. It’s absurd.”

Watch Here >>

Biz Council Sees Gains In Past Session

The state Business Council on Monday presented a rosy picture of the 2013-14 legislative session, praising the Senate and Assembly for approving “pro-growth” measures ranging from tax reform to controlling state spending.

While the lobby group acknowledges more is to be done on energy and health care issues, the Business Council presented positive scores for not just the state Senate (under a coalition of Republicans and independent Democrats) but also Democrats in the Assembly, a conference not necessarily known for endearing itself to the business community.

“As in past years, the strongest support for our issues comes from the Senate and Assembly Republican conferences, with a high number of both scoring 80 percent or more, while members of the Independent Democratic Conference also achieved positive scores,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of government affairs for The Business Council. “With two-house passage of a number of Business Council priority bills, we also saw a sharp improvement in scores in the Assembly Democratic conference. Where just 25 Assembly Democrats topped 50 percent pro-business in 2012, in this two-year cycle, all but 14 members scored 50 percent or higher.”

Pokalsky is a guest on Capital Tonight this evening.

The scores for the Senate and Assembly can be found here.

The positive reaction comes as the Business Council is mulling whether to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a second term.

The group backed Cuomo’s election in 2010 over Republican businessman Carl Paladino (who notoriously got into a shouting match with The New York Post’s Fred Dicker at the group’s annual meeting in Bolton Landing).

Cuomo’s first term has been marked with holding spending increases at under 2 percent year over year, a cap on property tax increases and a general push toward making the state more business friendly.

But business groups gave pause in May when Cuomo was endorsed by the labor-backed Working Families Party, pledging to support a faster increase in the state’s minimum wage, local control for a minimum wage increase as well as a full takeover of the Senate by the Democratic conference.

Primary Day Primer

What was supposed to be a rather sleepy election year, with the exception of a few contested legislative races here and there, has turned into something worth watching, thanks to Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu.

When the duo of liberal law school professors launched their long shot challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul, they breathed some life into an otherwise ho-hum primary season, and also exposed the weakness on Cuomo’s left flank.

Just how significant that weakness is will be determined in part by the percentage of the vote Teachout manages to garner today.

The benchmark for a protest candidate that most people have been using is the 17 percent labor activist Jonathan Tasini received in his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton in 2006. I’ve heard predictions that Teachout receives as much as 40 percent of the vote today – though that seems incredibly high.

Much depends on the turnout – specifically where the bulk of voters show up at the polls. Generally speaking, anything under 20 percent of the vote will be considered under performing for Teachout, while closer to 30 – or higher – will be a significant blow to the governor.

But the mere fact that Cuomo is facing a challenge at all has been interpreted as a weakness by the national media, especially when it comes to 1) his usefulness to potential 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton in the brave new world of progressive-dominated Democratic politics, (NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is poised to rise even higher there), and 2) his own White House aspirations.

Tasini’s 17 percent was largely an anti-war vote. What’s going on with Cuomo is more complicated.

There are numerous groups upset with Cuomo and his fiscally conservative/socially liberal approach to governing the state: Public school teachers, unionized state workers, anti-fracking activists, good government advocates.

And then there are the self-described “progressives” who say Cuomo is to blame for the IDC-GOP power-sharing deal that kept the Democrats from assuming their rightful place in the Senate majority and prevented the passage of all manner of legislation – from the Women’s Equality Act to the DREAM Act to a public campaign finance system.

Teachout, who has received a handful of endorsements – including from PEF and NOW-NYS – is banking on these the upset of these disaffected Democrats and the power of the grassroots/social media to turn people out today.

Cuomo is going the more traditional route, relying on the well-oiled GOTV machines of unions like SEIU 1199 and HTC and the traditional Democratic Party apparatus to push him and Hochul over the finish line to victory.

The Hochul-Wu battle is a wild card, since both candidates are relative unknowns, though Hochul has a leg up on her opponent in WNY after serving as Erie County clerk and (albeit briefly) a congresswoman.

Hochul’s conservative views and votes – necessary for someone representing a GOP-dominated district – have become fodder for Wu, who has accused her of being too far to the right to lead a blue state like New York.

Wu has been endorsed by the New York Times, but, as CapTon Insider and election-data-crunching-guru Bruce Gyory notes, former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn got the Gray Lady’s nod in the 2013 mayor’s race (along with endorsements from the NY Daily News AND the Post), and she finished a weak third in the Democratic primary.

A win by Wu would stick Cuomo with a running mate he doesn’t want or like – a conundrum that occurred to his father and Al Del Bello back in 1982 – and also leave him unable to combine votes in the general election from the WFP and Independence Party lines (unless he can get Hochul off them and Wu on).

Unwilling to follow in his father’s footsteps on this one, Cuomo has been pulling out all the stops on Hochul’s behalf, urging voters to pick her based on her “experience” as an elected official, which he insists is necessary to serve as LG.

Other races we’re watching today:

- The IDCers. Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein vs. former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell. This primary was supposed to melt away after Klein, as head of the IDC, agreed to a deal to make a deal to abandon his GOP allies and instead share power with his Democratic colleagues next year.

That agreement grew out of the WFP endorsement deal for Cuomo that was brokered by de Blasio – a point the Senate GOP is now using as a campaign platform.

Koppell refused to drop his challenge to Klein, however. He’s no longer supported by the WFP or any major labor unions and has trailed Klein in fundraising, but he has the backing of DailyKos and other liberal netroots types, along with the NYT endorsement.

Queens Sen. Tony Avella vs. former NYC Comptroller John Liu. This fight also survived the IDC deal, even though Avella is a member (the newest member) of the breakaway Democratic conference. Liu is trying to make a comeback after losing the NYC mayor’s race last year. He’s a prodigious fundraiser, which got people affiliated with him into some hot water with the feds.

This race has split labor and Democratic leaders, with some remaining loyal to Liu – including the Queens party organization. But the district is only 25 percent Asian, and Avella has a strong base of support, which means Liu has his work cut out for him. This could be a very tight contest that goes into overtime and comes down to paper ballots.

More >

Assembly Spends More On Outside Attorneys

Add another $58,000 to the Legislature’s legal costs.

The state Assembly was approved for a contract amendment with Whiteman Osterman and Hanna LLP for outside legal aid, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Meanwhile, the comptroller’s office approved $50,000 in payments to Rossein Associates for outside counsel relating to the Assembly’s sexual harassment investigations.

An additional $10,000 to Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP was also approved in order to pay for outside investigations as part of the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

Both the Senate and Assembly have increasingly relied on the use of outside legal firms and counsel to handle either sexual harassment investigations, lawsuits and the probe from the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption as lawmakers sought to quash subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel.

In non-legal related spending, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office has also approved a $894,000 revenue contract with Swank Motions Pictures, Inc. in order to gain public performance licneses in order to show movies at the state’s correctional facilities.

The state also approved a $5.2 million payment for capital upgrades at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills.

Rosa Resigns, Officially

Assemblywoman Gabriella Rosa formally resigned in a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dated June 30.

The letter, released Wednesday, comes after the Manhattan Democrat admitted to a “green card” marriage as well as making false statements during bankruptcy proceedings.

“Please know that I am very proud of the work we did together in the Assembly to make our state a more just place to live, work and do business,” Rosa wrote in the letter to Silver. “None of this could not be accomplished without your wise leadership. I thank you for your guidance and support.”

Rosa by Nick Reisman