NYS State Senate: You Can Bet They’re Up To No Good
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
How much more do we need?
The release last week of the State Inspector General’s 308-page report on the Aqueduct Racino bidding and selection process comes as a surprise to an insider. It should not surprise the people either.
State Senate Democratic leaders manipulated the choice of who would build the Aqueduct Racino by leaking information to and showing favoritism for a troubled bidder that was donating to Democratic candidates and had ties to key political figures – including Queens power-broker minister former Congressman Floyd Flake, State Inspector General Joseph Fisch said in the report released last week.
The Tribune and the dailies reported regularly during the multi-year process that it was rotten and the people complicit in it clearly had motives other than what was good for the people of the State of New York.
The report conveyed the reality that the Senate Democrats led the Democrat-controlled New York State government with total disregard for honesty, integrity or serving the people. It painted a picture of the Assembly Speaker more intent on political posturing than public service and of a Governor either corrupt or inept.
Because of the bizarre process approved by the legislature delegating the decision making to the “three men in a room,” we have no idea of what is criminal and what just stinks or both.
We hope that those elected who tried to deal this multi-billion dollar effort to their best financial interests are indicted and face the music. But whether criminal or not, we don’t need those who corrupted the process to remain in government.
And sadly, we don’t need those that allowed the process to be corrupted and sat silently by, to remain in government.
I’m not sure how far-reaching my last statement is.
But anyone in the Senate Leadership is suspect.
Perhaps the entire Democratic Senate caucus knew or should have known.
Perhaps even the Republican Senators knew or should have known.
Perhaps the entire Assembly knew or should have known.
Likewise, the sad, accidental Governor and a portion of his very large staff knew or should have known.
What does this all mean?
Albany is corrupt.
Not maybe but absolutely; and those who are not corrupt remain silent.
Last week, I rejected the candidacy of a member of the State Senate leadership, Eric Schneiderman, who is the Democratic candidate for Attorney General. He was stupid, silent or complicit in one of the biggest attempted hijackings in the history of the State of New York.
Inspector General Joseph Fisch – appointed by the Dems – accused those elected to run the State of badly mishandling the selecton of the operator to build and run the Aqueduct Racino. And Eric Schneiderman was one of the boys.
He is now stating that he is returning the $76,000 in contributions to his AG campaign made by the three State Senators most involved in the attempted hijacking: Senate Dem Majority Leader John Sampson, Senator Eric Adams who chaired the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and Queens’ own Senate President Malcolm Smith.
The NY Times quoted Schneiderman as saying: “The allegations reported today are beyond disturbing — they are horrendous.”
Sorry Mr. Schneiderman, it very well may be the job of the next AG to prosecute some of the elected bastards who tried to betray the public trust. And sir, you sat too damn close to the rats and you smell of cheese.
The Republican Senate caucus called the conduct “criminal” and if you ask their former leader Joe Bruno who was allowed to self-deal for years, the Republicans Senators should know.
There is no simple answer.
Albany is corrupt.
Albany is corrupting.
And sending the same jokers back is prolonging the joke on the people.
Shame on us all.MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
Monserrate Indicted For Dragooning Employees Of Nonprofit
By HENRY STERN
The other shoe dropped last week for Hiram Monserrate. The first State Senator to be expelled from that body since 1781, Monserrate was indicted by a Federal grand jury for using employees of a non-profit group he sponsored while a City Councilmember to labor on behalf of his unsuccessful campaign for the State Senate in 2006.
The two federal charges against Monserrate stem from his relationship with the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment Inc., (LIBRE), a now defunct social services agency to which Monserrate was closely linked. He secured City funding for LIBRE to operate.
The indictment alleges that Monserrate used employees of the tax-exempt organization to register voters and collect signatures to get him on the ballot in his failed Senate bid against John Sabini.
LIBRE is the latest nonprofit to come under scrutiny for its subordination to the elected official who secured its funding. It joins the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, founded by Vito Lopez, and Espada’s Soundview Health Center in the Bronx.
Monserrate’s relationship with LIBRE was intimate. Over his seven years in the Council, Monserrate steered more than $2.7 million in City discretionary and capital funds to LIBRE, including more than $2 million for a community center, which was never built.
Monserrate’s connection with LIBRE ran deeper than money. According to the indictment, Monserrate “played an important role in selecting LIBRE’s staff and the members of its board of directors.”
The chair of LIBRE’s board of directors alluded to in the indictment is current Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, Monserrate’s former chief of staff and his hand-picked successor for his former Council seat which he resigned when he was elected to the Senate. For those who have not followed Queens politics, it would be understandable to overlook the connection between Ferreras and Monserrate. Ferreras carefully distanced herself from Monserrate during her February 2009 campaign to replace him on the Council, presumably because at the time he was under investigation for slashing his girlfriend’s face.
Currently, Ferreras lists no mention of her association with Monserrate or LIBRE in her bio on the City Council’s Web site, despite the fact that they were her principal qualifications for election.
Monserrate’s relationship with Ferreras has soured along with his political and personal fortunes since he appeared at her 2009 victory party. Last month, Ferreras claimed that Monserrate was responsible for the slashing of her tires, several vulgar notes left on her car, and an assortment of other allegations of harassment.
It does not appear from published reports that Ferreras ever filed formal charges against Monserrate. Councilmember Ferreras failed to return several phone calls seeking comment and clarifications for this column, but she did issue a statement to the media saying that she has “been cooperating with authorities from the very beginning.”
The newly unsealed indictment implicates not only Monserrate, who surrendered to authorities, it alleges a conspiracy where others colluded with Monserrate to skirt the campaign finance laws. The co-conspirators are unnamed in the indictment, but presumably one of the people involved is former LIBRE executive director Javier Cardenas, who Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and mail-fraud charges and is cooperating against Monserrate.
According to the indictment, around May 2006, Monserrate sent an email from a personal email account to an unnamed member of his Council staff requesting a database of voters LIBRE had newly registered, apparently at Monserrate’s request. A month or two later, “Monserrate stamped numerous LIBRE checks that were thereafter issued to individuals who had participated in LIBRE’s voter-registration and petition-gathering activities with a signature stamp of the person who was then the chair of LIBRE’s board of directors,” The chair of LIBRE’s board of directors at the time was Coun-cilmember Ferreras.
The check stamping allegation, which is detailed in the indictment, raises the question of who really was in charge of LIBRE’s finances. In an Oct. 18, 2008 Times article about Libre’s suspiciously slipshod accounting practices, Monserrate referred all questions about LIBRE’s accounting practices to Ferreras, saying, “She’s the person to have the conversation with,” he said. “I wasn’t the director. I don’t know what paperwork was there, what books were there.”
Contacted at the time for comment, Ferreras said LIBRE’s records were in the organization’s offices. “I personally don’t keep the records,” Ferreras told the Times.
As Monserrate’s case advances it is likely that we will learn more about LIBRE and what, if anything, Councilmember Ferreras knew about her former boss’s alleged manipulation of the nonprofit. What is for certain is that no matter how hard Speaker Christine Quinn tries to leave the slush fund scandal in the Council’s past, the investigation is still very much ongoing and just how many of her members were involved is still yet to be determined. Another Councilman who was elevated to chair the Civil Rights Committee, Larry Seabrook of the Bronx, is currently under a 13-count indictment for a litany of corruption charges, and former Councilmember Miguel Martinez of Manhattan is already serving time in Federal prison.
It gives us no satisfaction to watch one elected official after another done in by their greed and contempt for the law. This parade of corrupt politicians denigrates New Yorkers’ faith in local government, and further degrades the reputation of the City Council.
We continue to encourage our prosecutors, Federal, State and Local, to pursue every elected official who has abused the public trust until all of them are rooted out. Regrettably, the only way to keep some of our legislators’ hands out of our pockets is with handcuffs.StarQuest@NYCivic.org