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April 18, 2013

It's past time to fight corruption

When we hear of one outrage or another, it’s common to say: “there ought to be a law.” But sometimes, we learn of something that seems so obvious that we’re left incredulous and utter: “You mean, there isn’t a law? Really?”

That was our reaction last week when state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said he is signing on as a sponsor to legislation that would strip elected officials of their public pensions if they are convicted of felonies while in office.

So unless something is done, some state legislator corrupt enough to be convicted of a serious crime will still be allowed to feed at the public trough?

C’mon. Say it ain’t so.

But alas, it is so. And alas and alack, getting rid of those pensions won’t be easy. It will require an amendment to the state constitution.

The reason why talk of fighting corruption is all the rage in Albany these days is the case of Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith, from Queens, who allegedly tried to bribe New York City Republican Party bigwigs to let him appear on the GOP ballot in the upcoming mayor’s race;

Getting rid of Smith’s pension seems cause enough to merit amending the state constitution, but what the heck took so long? After all, New York — the state that brought us Tammany Hall — has a rich recent history of shady politicians.

In 2009, former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno was convicted on corruption charges, leading the Associated Press to remind us that former Assembly Speaker Mel Miller was convicted of fraud in 1991, and Sen. Guy Velella went to jail for bribery conspiracy in 2004. Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi — re-elected while under indictment — was convicted of using state workers to chauffeur his wife in 2006. Also in 2009, former health commissioner Antonia Novello, once the U.S. surgeon general, was convicted of using state workers to help her with shopping and other personal business.

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