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Hawley says Silver conviction should lead to ethics reform in Albany

Staff Reports Posted 1 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Cuomo: Zero tolerance for officials who break public trust

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley said some good may come from the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges: ethics reform.

Hawley, R-Batavia, said Republicans in the Assembly have been pushing for ethics standards in the state capitol for years, but have been rebuffed by Silver and the Assembly majority.

“The conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on all seven counts yesterday signals a shift in the way business is done in Albany,” Hawley said in a statement today.

“Corruption and quid pro quos have been an unfortunate reality of New York’s culture for decades, and Silver’s conviction may be the beginning of the end of tolerating these types of abuses,” Hawley said. “For years, members of the Assembly Majority blindly re-elected Silver as Speaker and voted yes on his hand-picked legislation in exchange for campaign donations, district pet projects and political protection. My hope is that the powerful, entrenched autocrats who once controlled the state’s political process are a thing of the past and the Assembly finally embraces real ethics reform.”

Silver served as Assembly speaker for two decades. The Manhattan Democrat was convicted on all seven counts against him.

He was charged with honest services fraud, extortion and money laundering. He is accused of obtaining nearly $4 million in exchange for using his position to help benefit a cancer researcher and two real estate developers.

Gov. Cuomo issued this statement on Monday: “Today, justice was served. Corruption was discovered, investigated, and prosecuted, and the jury has spoken. With the allegations proven, it is time for the Legislature to take seriously the need for reform. There will be zero tolerance for the violation of the public trust in New York.”

Silver stepped down as speaker last January. Because he is convicted, he will have to automatically give up his Assembly seat. He could face up to 20 years in prison for each count.

Hawley said the conviction should prompt the State Legislature to pass strong ethics standards.

“The Assembly Minority Conference has led the charge on meaningful ethics reform for years,” Hawley said. “While others, including the governor, have touted watered-down reforms and passed useless one-house bills, we are the only conference to champion the strongest anti-corruption package in state history. The Public Officers Accountability Act would restrict campaign spending, make it a crime for failing to report corruption, and institute term limits for legislative leaders. Furthermore, we have introduced a bill that would strip corrupt public officials of their pension and retirement benefits. Unfortunately, both of these bills were defeated in committee by the Assembly Majority. Unless true ethics reforms are passed in Albany, we run the risk of further corruption as we have seen far too often over the past several years.”