Get Liberated ! - not regulated 


Mr. Velella pleads

By Times Union editorial
First published: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 

He's off to prison for a year, but his case shows the urgent need for reforms

So this is why the state Legislature has a re-election rate of merely 99 percent. Not every state legislator will be back come January for another term. Sen. Guy Velella, R-Bronx, will be in prison by then. His Senate seat will be quite a prize in the November election, open to all comers in a district where neither party has one of those typically overwhelming enrollment advantages.

Mr. Velella pleaded guilty in state Supreme Court on Monday to a felony charge of fourth-degree conspiracy. He admitted helping steer state contracts to people in exchange for payments of thousands of dollars in fees to his father's law firm.

He follows former Assemblywoman Gloria Davis, D-Bronx, who went off to prison herself last year on a bribery conviction.

Say what you want about the state Senate, or, for that matter, the Assembly, but the rule is no felons allowed. That much is stipulated in the state constitution.

Misdemeanors are another matter, which is why Assemblyman Roger Green, D-Brooklyn, has managed to stay in office despite conviction on charges of accepting reimbursement for travel expenses he never actually incurred.

Mr. Velella's 28 years in the Legislature, including 18 years in the Senate, were effectively over by the middle of last week. That's when he stopped raising money for his defense fund. Those efforts were unseemly in their own right, complete with hitting up other Senate Republicans for more than $150,000 in contributions and dipping into his campaign fund.

So here's Mr. Velella, at 59. What will he do after his year in prison?

Collect a fat pension, for one thing. All those years on the state payroll are good for a pension of about $80,000 a year. Even for felons.

Governor Pataki has been trying to put a stop to such an outrage. The Legislature, though, has shown no interest in passing a law to ban anyone convicted of a public corruption charge from collecting a state pension. Those rules for legislators only go so far.

The race for Mr. Velella's successor, meanwhile, promises to be unusually competitive. Credible Democrats and Republicans alike have expressed interest. Our advice to the voters of the 34th district -- a severely gerrymandered territory that extends through the eastern part of the Bronx, into Westchester County, and back down the northern part of the Riverdale section of the Bronx -- would be to hold out for someone who won't stay in Albany forever, and will act honorably, or at least honestly, while he or she is there.


submitted  by: Werner Hetzner

source:  Albany Times Union



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