Kruger: Just Doing My Job

Sen. Carl Kruger returned to Albany today – four days after turning himself in to face federal corruption charges – and refused to comment on either the case or his “personal life” (in other words, the outing of his alleged live-in boyfriend on the cover of the Post).

Despite widespread speculation to the contrary, the scandal-scarred Brooklyn pol did not end up offering any apologies to his colleagues – either behind closed doors or on the Senate floor.

Unlike his colleague, Sen. Shirley Huntley, who didn’t show up to work after a report this weekend (also in the Post) that she’s under investigation for alleged wrongdoing involving member items and a nonprofit by the AG’s office, Kruger did show up for work in the chamber, sitting in his usual seat and casting votes – including a “no” along with his fellow Democrats on Sen. John Bonacic’s constitutional redistricting reform bill.

UPDATE: Kruger was actually relegated to the corner of the chamber by his colleagues, who decided to add insult to injury in this case. Kruger’s old seat was given to his replacement as the ranking member of the Finance Committee, Sen. Liz Krueger.

“I’m a state senator representing the 27th senator senatorial district in Brooklyn and that’s what I’m here for, and I thank you for your attention,” Kruger told the reporters who hounded him after session.

“As I said, and I will repeat, I am not going to comment on the cases as the process goes forward. I am here to do my job, and that’s what I’m doing today…I’m here to represent my community. I’m a state senator. I appreciate that you folks have a job to do, and I want to cooperate with it. At the same time, that’s my statement, and it’s the statement that we’ll continue to make.”

Kruger didn’t say whether he intends to resign (why he would while he still has his seat as a bargaining chip to offer the feds is beyond me…although former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno did). He also wouldn’t comment on the cold shoulder he’s been receiving from his fellow Democrats.

Cuomo Directs IG To Investigate Bronx Bus Crash

Governor Cuomo just announced that he is directing Inspector General Ellen Biben to investigate how the driver of the tragic bus crash this weekend in the Bronx was able to obtain a license. That crash claimed the lives of 15 people.

Various news outlets reported today that the driver, Ophadell Williams, had a criminal past including a manslaughter conviction. Police also said Williams story that he was clipped by a tractor trailer was not true.

“Given Ophadell Williams’ criminal record and driving history, I have directed the New York State Inspector General to commence an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding how Mr. Williams was able to obtain and retain a commercial driver’s license,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement.

Skelos Is Focused On A 3-Way Budget Deal

Here’s Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos telling me in an interview that will air on CapTon tonight (8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.) that he’s focused on getting an on-time, three-way budget deal – something he believes is well within the realm of possibility.

Skelos dismissed all talk of a potential government shutdown showdown with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has made it quite clear he’ll follow the lead of his predecessor, David Paterson, and put his budget proposal extender bills and force it down the Legislature’s throat in the absence of a deal on or about April 1.

(Let’s give them a few days wiggle room; April Fool’s Day is a Friday, after all, so maybe Monday, April 4 would still be considered in the on-time realm?)

“I think the governor, I know the governor wants to get one on time, too,” Skelos told me. “We talked last night. We talked today. And he is really focused on getting it on time.”

“And I don’t think anybody wants to go through the extenders if the budget is late…Nobody wants us to shut down government, and I don’t think anybody wants it to be a situation where the Assembly and the Senate goes two ways and you put a budget together. My objective is to have a three-way budget.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said much the same thing during a CapTon interview last week and reiterated it – albeit briefly – to reporters today.

Thanks To IDC, Constitutional Redistricting Bill Passes (Upated)

Sen. John Bonacic’s bill to establish a nonpartisan redistricting commission via a constitutional amendment that won’t kick in until after the 2012 elections passed 35-24 with the four “independent” Democrats joining with the Republicans to push the measure over the finish line.

Had it not been for the “yes” votes of at least one of the IDC members – Sens. Diane Savino, Dave Valesky, Dave Carlucci and Jeff Klein – the measure would not have had sufficient support to pass, as Sen. George Maziarz is still at Albany Med after he fell and hit his head earlier today.

Savino admitted during the floor debate that Bonacic’s bill isn’t perfect, but also said she doesn’t expect to have another opportunity in her lifetime to cast a vote for redistricting reform and so decided to support the measure.

Sen. Dave Valesky, who was carrying the independent redistricting commission bill when the Democrats were in control, offered it up as an amendment and was promptly shot down.

More >

Cuomo And The Post, A Long-Term Engagement?

A reader suggested I check out this week’s episode of “The Media Project,” a half-hour show on the current – and some would say rather sorry – state of the journalism industry, paying particular attention to comments made by the station’s president and CEO, Alan Chartock.

At the tail end of the show that airs Sundays, Chartock and his fellow co-hosts, SUNY Albany Professor Rosemary Armao, and Daily Freeman Publisher Ira Fusfeld, discuss a recent Gotham Gazette article about the cozy relationship between Post State Editor Fred Dicker and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Chartock suggested that there’s something larger at stake for the governor, who has a reputation for micromanaging the media, than simply managing his message during his first few months in office – namely, a potential White House bid.

“I know personally that Andrew Cuomo in his heart of hearts understands, because after all this fellow from the Post was the one who destroyed his father – there was no two ways about it – did it almost single-handedly,” Chatock said.

“And he knows that sooner or later, and I know he knows this, don’t ask me how there’s certain privileged communication here, that at some point this guy will turn like a mad dog.”

“…I think the deal is not with the reporter, I think the deal is with Murdoch, to be honest with you, I think the Murdoch organization.”

When Fusfeld jumps in to speculate that Murdoch’s media empire, most notably FOX News, might support Andrew Cuomo if he did try to take his political act national, Chartock says:

More >

Maziarz Hospitalized, Whither Redistricting? (Updated)

Sen. George Maziarz fell and hit his head in his Albany apartment was hospitalized, his office confirmed.

The Niagara Falls Republican’s staff sent out the following press release (UPDATE1: There was a Tweet on this, but it didn’t come from the senator himself. Mea culpa)…

In the release, Maziarz, who is not in the chamber for session, said his spill took place this morning (he didn’t provide any further details on how that occurred).

He said he is “fully recovered” and “feeling fine,” but nevertheless will remain at Albany Medical Center throughout the remainder of the day and overnight “for observation.”

“I expect to be released tomorrow morning and I am anxious to get right back into the swing of things in a very busy work week at the Capitol,” Maziarz continued.

“I regret that I had to be excused from session today, but I wanted to be upfront with my constituents about what happened. Their understanding and support is most appreciated.”

Given the slim margin in the Senate – albeit slightly less so, thanks to the defection of the renegade four Democrats who formed their own independent conference – the absence of a single senator matters very much.

The Senate GOP only has 32 members, and, thanks to Maziarz’s slip this morning, now doesn’t have sufficient votes in the chamber to pass any legislation – including the constitutional amendment redistricting bill currently being debated on the floor – without assistance from the Democrats.

If the IDC doesn’t provide votes to the GOP on this one, it’s going to be hard for the majority to pass this bill.

Wrinkle: IDC member Sen David Valesky introduced the independent redistricting commission bill when the Democrats were in the majority. That bill is now being championed by Sen. Mike Gianaris. Valesky just stood and offered an amendment to the GOP bill that needed unanimous consent – it was struck down. His erstwhile minority conference colleagues were furious, I’m told.

UPDATE2: According to a Senate Democratic staffer, Sen. Liz Krueger went up to Valesky after his bill was voted down as an amendment and accused him of colluding with the GOP to cover his own butt on this one, telling him: “I just saw you take your cue from (Deputy Senate Majority Leader) Tom (Libous), what’d he buy you off for this time?” Ouch.

The constitutional amendment bill is being carried by Sen. John Bonacic. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s redistricting program bill is being sponsored by Sen. Rules.

CSEA Defends Developmental Disabilities State Workers

This came out earlier today, but I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight an amazing investigation by NY Times Capitol Bureau Chief Danny Hakim that revealed widespread problems in the more than 2,000 state-run group homes.

The story is pretty harrowing and demonstrates that workers who systematically abused people who were unable to defend themselves – and in some cases even tell anyone what was happening to them – were relocated to other homes instead of disciplined and defended by their union in the rare cases when they did get into trouble.

CSEA released the statement that appears below that says the charges in Hakim’s story are “serious and disturbing” and abuse of clients “under any circumstance is not acceptable and not to be tolerated.”

That said, the union insists the allegations are “just that until proven.” It also notes CSEA is required by law to provide members with a “vigorous defense” if they’re brought up on charges, and their employer – in this case the state – is obligated to prove those charges.

CSEA OPWDD Response pdf

Report: State Supreme Court Upholds NIFA Takeover

Newsday is reporting that a state Supreme Court has upheld the financial takeover of Nassau County by NIFA (the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority).

NIFA took control back in January, claiming the county’s budget was $176 million out of balance.

County Executive Ed Mangano quickly filed suit to challenge the ruling. And has even run ads to pushback against the negative press from the decision.

The Newsday report says Mangano has not decided whether or not to appeal the ruling. But he did issue a statement calling on NIFA “to lay politics aside and provide suggestions to fix our County’s finances without raising property taxes.”

Krueger/Kruger Update

Some news from the Senate Democratic conference from two members who share a virtually identical last name and once upon a time held some of the most powerful committee posts in the chamber.

liz krueger headshot

I’m told members have been informed that Sen. Carl Kruger will NOT be showing up to conference (now slated to start at 2 p.m.) after there were widespread complaints – and at least two threats to boycott – about his plan to show up and apologize to his colleagues for the federal corruption charges he faces.

Senators are starting to head to their conference room on the third floor of the state Capitol because they want to discuss some key bills expected to come up for a vote today – including Sen. John Bonacic’s constitutional amendment redistricting measure – but they’re pledging to walk out if Kruger shows up.

As you’ll recall, Kruger was stripped of his post as the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee last week by Senate Minority Leader John Sampson after he turned himself in to face corruption charges.

(No pleas have yet been entered in the Kruger/Boyland/Lipsky et al case, but the senator and the lobbyist – at the very least – are expected to fight to defend themselves).

Kruger chaired the Finance Committee when the Democrats controlled the chamber. His vice chair was Sen. Liz Krueger, a reform-minded Upper East Sider. The two did not get along. (Kruger once described the relationship as a “marriage” – this came after she exploded at him during a closed-door conference and reportedly dropped the f-bomb).

As of today, Krueger will officially step up to become the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee. She is the first woman of any legislative conference to take her party’s top spot there. In keeping with her past practice, she will not be accepting the $20,500 lulu for this position.

“My first priority is to ensure the budgetary process proceeds in an open and transparent way, without delay, so we are able to pass a balanced budget that is both fair and on time,” Krueger said in a press release.

“New York, like many other states, is facing fiscal difficulty, but that does not mean we should make hasty decisions which disproportionately affect one group over another. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo, the Assembly and members from both sides of the aisle in the Senate to ensure that this happens.”

Koch To Senate GOP: Constitutional Amendment Not Cutting It

Not surprisingly, former NYC Mayor Ed Koch is not buying the Senate Republicans’ argument that passing Sen. Jon Bonacic’s constitutional amendment bill to create a five-member nonpartisan reapportionment commission satisfies their campaign-year pledge to reform the redistricting process.

In a letter sent today to Bonacic and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Koch noted the bill in question – S3331 – “would not apply for the current redistricting cycle to be completed next year and therefore would not meet the requirements of the New York Uprising pledge, which specifies that the reforms apply to the redistricting pursuant to the 2010 Census.”

The former mayor says that if the Republicans want to go the constitutional amendment route, which requires passage by two separately elected Legislatures and a public referendum, after passing a bill that would apply to the 2012 elections, “no one would object to that.”

Koch does not employ the dreaded “e” word – that would be “enemy” of course – either in this letter or at a press conference at City Hall in Lower Manhattan this afternoon. He appears to be holding out hope that a deal might yet be worked out and sticking to the “more flies with honey” strategy for the moment.

There will be robocalls going out, although there’s no date set for those yet, in which Koch tells constituents of senators who signed his NY Uprising pledge that they now appearing to be renegging on that promise.