Add Nasasu County DA Kathleen Rice to the list of elected officials calling on Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. to voluntarily abdicate his leadership post and the perks that come with it in light of his current legal troubles.


(For the record, Espada doesn’t receive a lulu for the majority leader job. He does, however, get a $12,500 stipend for his position as Housing Committee chairman).

Rice is the first of the would-be Democrats seeking to replace AG Andrew Cuomo to issue a formal statement in the wake of his filing of a civil suit yesterday that accused Espada of bilking his Bronx nonprofit of some $14 million worth of charitable funds.

The DA also issued a challenge to her primary opponents to join her in calling for Espada to step down. That strikes me as a barb particularly directed at the lone Senator in the field, Eric Schneiderman, who so far hasn’t said anything about Espada’s predicament.

UPDATE1: Schneiderman called in to say that while he has not issued a public statement on Espada, he has made clear his opinion on Espada, which is that he cannot comment on the specifics of the case, but believes the senator should give up his leadership post.

A number of observers consider the fact that Schneiderman and his fellow state lawmaker and AG hopeful, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, are elected officials both a blessing and a curse.

While their status and longevity in the political process makes them known quantities – especially to the party players who will help get them on the ballot at the convention – the taint of Albany is going to be hard to shake, particularly at a time when disgust with the Capitol and anti-incumbent sentiment is running so high.

Here’s Rice’s statement in full:

“In light of the deeply troubling allegations contained in the Attorney General’s lawsuit, I believe State Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. should voluntarily and immediately give up his leadership post and all of the perks that go with it,” Rice said.

“Our state is in dire need of ethical and political reform and this cannot be accomplished with the Senate’s majority leader facing the charges contained in this lawsuit.”

“Reform will undoubtedly be a central component of the campaigns of those seeking to be the next Attorney General. I’m asking those running for this office – and running to help lead the reform movement in this state – to join me in calling for Senator Espada Jr. to relinquish his leadership post so that the state can begin moving forward.”

“With reform at the top of the next AG’s agenda, I believe that we have a right to hear where the candidates and potential candidates are on this crucial issue.”

“Let me be clear; I’m not asking for extended commentary on the allegations contained in the report, nor am I asking for opinion on whether or not Senator Espada is guilty of these allegations, or whether or not he should face criminal charges. Such commentary today could undermine the credibility of the future Attorney General.”

“What I am asking today is a simple yes or no question: Given the allegations, do you believe Senator Espada should be in a leadership position within our state government?”

UPDATE2: And now there’s a formal statement from Schneiderman, too. Here it is:

“In light of the extraordinarily troubling charges against him and other ongoing investigations, Senator Espada should immediately give up his leadership position and forfeit his stipend. While it is inappropriate to comment on the specifics of a pending lawsuit filed by the Attorney General’s office, it is clear that public officials must be held to the highest ethical standard. No one is above the law.”