By Howard Koplowitz
Of the 13 legislators who left office due to scandal or ethical misconduct from 2005-10, nearly a quarter of them were from Queens, according to a report released Monday by good government group Citizens Union on turnover in the state Legislature.
The number of state legislators leaving office due to criminal charges or misconduct has tripled in the last six years compared to the six-year period from 1999-2004, the report found.
Former Flushing state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin was sent to prison on corruption charges and ex-Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio resigned in June 2009 after being indicted for corruption.
Erstwhile state Sen. Hiram Monserrate was kicked out of the Senate for cutting his girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, with a broken glass.
While the report did not document the departures of statewide officials, former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi of Forest Hills resigned in 2006 over a scandal involving him having the State Police chauffeur his ailing wife.
From 2005-10, 13 lawmakers were booted from office due to criminal charges or misconduct while only four legislators left for the same reasons from 1999-2004, the report found.
“This acceleration of criminal and ethical misconduct among our state’s elected officials over the past four years is alarming and needs strong corrective action,” said Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey. “There are many good and decent state legislators with high ethical standards, but the rapidly growing number of elected officials who have left office because they violated the public trust is a big unaddressed problem. If there ever was a need to address this crime wave of misconduct, the time is now to enact meaningful ethics reform.”
The report found one of every 11 state legislators who left office since 2009 have done so because of ethical misconduct or criminal charges.
The report also noted Monserrate of Queens was the first legislator in 90 years to be removed by the state Legislature for wrongdoing.
“In the vast majority of cases, criminal charges or charges of ethical misconduct resulting in departure from office have been brought from authorities outside of the Legislature,” the report found.
“The state Legislature has too many examples of corruption and misconduct that serve to diminish public confidence in government at a time when leadership and integrity is greatly needed to address the fiscal problems facing our state,” said Alex Camarda, director of public policy and advocacy for Citizens Union. “The Legislature must clean up its own house so the public has renewed faith that it can right the direction of our state’s economy. Legislators must be beyond reproach to make the tough budgetary choices ahead.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.