Nov 28th - 1:22 pm
Sen. Jeff Klein has now made clear that he and his fellow IDCers would like to form a so-called coalition government with the Senate Republicans, which, in his description, entails a true bipartisan power-sharing situation when it comes to running the chamber.
There was a notable lack of details in this morning’s Times story, in which Klein said “some type” of coalition government would take the politics out of policy debates and end the “constant hyperpartisan bickering” in the chamber.
“Mr. Klein outlined a system in which the leaders of the Republican caucus and the Independent Democratic Conference would work together to run the Senate, with joint control over committee agendas, the bills that are taken up on the floor and state budget negotiations,” Tom Kaplan wrote.
That sounds a lot like the bipartisan operating agreement forged between Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and then-Senate President Pedro Espada Jr. toward the end of the infamous Senate coup of 2009.
The agreement, which appears below, courtesy of a source with a long memory, was signed by Skelos and Espada and sent to all 62 members of the Senate on July 7. That was one day before then-Gov. David Paterson appointed Richard Ravitch to replace him as lieutenant governor, ending the succession problem and, in so doing, breaking the deadlock that had frozen the Senate after Hiram Monserrate returned to the Democratic fold without Espada and tied the chamber at 31-31.
On July 9, Espada returned to the Democratic conference and received the title of majority leader, while Malcolm Smith remained temporary president. Of course, we all knew it was John Sampson, who was elevated to the post of conference leader during the coup, was actually in charge.
One thing we don’t yet know – and a glaring ommission from Klein’s discussion with the Times – is what leadership post, if any, he or any other IDC member might be getting in return for their coordination with the Republicans.
A source familiar with the negotiations told me this afternoon that the deal is not yet set in stone because both Klein and Skelos would like to be temporary president, which is the position that wields the most power.
The Senate cannot organize or spend any money unless there is a temporary president in place. Whoever holds that title is also third in line to run the state should the governor and lieutnant governor be unable to do so.
The majority leader post is less significant, though it is referenced in law and carries with it some appointments to various boards and commissions.
The other really significant position in the upper house is Senate Finance Committee chair, which is currently occupied by Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican.
All confirmations must go through the Finance Committee, and the chair has an intimate involvement in the budget process. He or she also is able to hire and fire budget staff and make some appointments.
Interestingly, we haven’t heard a PUBLIC word from Skelos since Klein’s big reveal, although Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous went on Talk 1300 this morning with the NY Post’s Fred Dicker and called Klein’s coalition government statement “very powerful,” without either confirming or denying that talks to form a coalition are actually underway.
UPDATE2: I missed the kicker in Kaplan’s story, which is a quote from Skelos saying the following after callign Klein a “serious and effective legislator”…
“Together, we’ve ended the dysfunction in the Senate. I expect to continue working with him to deliver the bipartisan results New Yorkers need and deserve.”
UPDATE2: Also, in an interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau, Klein pushed back against the idea that he wants to empower the Republicans through his coalition government proposal, which he explained thusly:
“(W)e can now have a Democratic leader, an Independence Democratic Conference leader and a Republican leader – and that’s how you have a coalition government, and that’s where no one party has an advantage. It really forces Democrat and Republicans to really be policy driven.”
Could we be looking at a budget season with four men in a room instead of the traditional three? It’s going to be awfully crowded in there.
Sep 19th - 1:17 pm
Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to revoke the bail of former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., who was convicted in May after a prolonged and colorful trial of stealing close to half a million dollars from Soundview, the federally funded Bronx health clinic he founded and ran for years with the assistance of allies and members of his family.
Upon his conviction, Espada was barred from participating in Soundview’s affairs.
In the letter that appears below, prosecutors informed the judge that the Espada family has been slowly bleeding Soundview’s assets after selling it to the Institute for Family Health for $600,000 in June.
One day after Soundview deposited the proceeds from the sale, Espada’s son, Alejandro, who was heading the clinics in his father’s stead, doled out more than $350,000 to himself, his father, his brother, Pedro G., and a janitorial company the family controlled.
Pedro Espada’s attorney, Susan Necheles, also received $50,000. And Bienvenido Toribio, the man who acted as his bodyguard during the trial, got $5,200.
“Sadly,it is unsurprising that of all of the individuals and entities to whom Soundview owes money, the defendant and his immediate family received the majority of Soundview’s last funds and apparently did so without having to justify their claims to it,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carolyn Pokorny, Roger Burlingame and Todd Kaminsky wrote.
“In light of the fact that the defendant himself, his janitorial company, his defense attorney and his bodyguard together received one-third of Soundview’s final $600,000, it simply is not reasonable to think that the defendant did not communicate with his son, Alejandro, about how the money was to be allocated.”
Espada was reportedly granted release on a $750,000 bond on Dec. 16, 2010. He and Pedro G. face a new trial in Brooklyn on charges that the jury failed to reach a verdict on in May. They’re also facing a trial in Manhattan on tax charges.
A revocation hearing has been scheduled for Friday at 9:30 a.m.
May 15th - 1:00 pm
A source confirms to NY1 that former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. will indeed face a new criminal trial on the four charges on which the jury deadlocked yesterday after finding him guilty on four other charges of theft, embezzlement, and stealing federal funds from his Bronx health clinic, Soundview.
This new piece of bad news for Espada was initially reported by the NY Post.
While the jury struggled to come to a verdict in Espada’s case, the feds made it quite clear they had no intention of letting him go scott free in the event of a mistrial.
After the jurors finally returned a guilty verdict on four counts – each of which carries a prison sentence of up to 10 years – it was speculated that perhaps prosecutors would be satisfied. Apparently not.
This Espada in the same boat as another former Senate majority leader, Republican Joe Bruno, who was recently reindicted on federal corruption charges after his initial conviction on two counts of felony mail fraud was vacated following the US Supreme Court’s ruling that changed the so-called theft of honest services law.
The jury found Bruno not guilty on five other counts and could not reach a verdict on a sixth.
May 14th - 4:43 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who got the ball rolling against Pedro Espada Jr. during his stint as state attorney general, clearly feels vindicated by the jury’s conviction today of the former Senate majority leader on four counts of theft from his taxpayer-funded Bronx health clinic.
Espada has repeatedly accused Cuomo of targeting him in a political “witch hunt” in order to boost his own credentials as a erformer – a reputation on which he rode to the governor’s office in 2010 while pledging to clean up the infamously dysfunctional and corruption-ridden state Capitol.
The governor has largely declined to comment as Espada’s case wended its way through the legal system, but in the wake of today’s verdict, Cuomo released the following statement:
“As Attorney General, I brought an action against Pedro Espada for siphoning millions of dollars from a taxpayer funded not-for-profit and using the money to support a lavish lifestyle for himself, his family, and his friends, as well as for supporting his political operation. Mr. Espada was the prime example of government corruption.”
“”I worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York to initiate a criminal case, delegating my Deputy Chief of Staff, Mitra Hormozi, to become a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in order to facilitate the criminal action. These efforts between state and federal investigators culminated in today’s jury verdict, convicting Mr. Espada of multiple felonies.
“I commend the diligent work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI in seeing that justice was done in this matter.
“Those who would abuse the public trust have a pointed lesson in the downfall of former Senator Espada. My comments at the time I filed the original charges bear repeating: in New York, we will have no tolerance for government corruption. As Attorney General and as Governor, I have fought to bring performance, integrity and pride back to what was, at one time, the best state government in the nation. We are making progress.
“Mr. Espada has made many accusations and comments about me since my actions began. Today the jury spoke loud and clear making Mr. Espada a convicted felon.
“The State Department of Health will continue to work with other area health care providers in the Bronx as well as the insurance plans that cover Soundview patients to ensure that those individuals will have ready access to quality health care.”
May 14th - 1:12 pm
Albany County Legislature Chairman Shawn Morse seized on the conviction of former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. on four counts of felony theft (so far) from his taxpayer-funded Soundview Health Clinic to tee off on his Democratic primary opponent, Sen. Neil Breslin, for voting to accept Espada back into the conference following the 2009 coup.
“I am glad to see today’s guilty verdicts for disgraced ex-Senator Pedro Espada,” Morse said. “This is yet another step in cleaning up our state Government and giving New Yorkers the Legislature they deserve. ”
“While I hope this is the final end of Pedro Espada’s role in government, we still need to take ahard look at how this situation arose, and the bad choices that were made that allowed him to lie, cheat and steal from the taxpayers for as long as he did.”
“My opponent, who was one of those who supported Mr. Espada in exchange for keeping his position in the Majority, now admits that he ‘shares in the guilt’ and the ‘shame’ for his past support. Mr. Breslin may admit his guilt now, but it would have been far better if he never supported Mr. Espada for Majority Leader in the first place. ”
“The damage that Neil Breslin’s support of Mr. Espada did to the state, to his reputation, and to the reputation of Democrats as a whole is still being felt. The next time Mr. Breslin is offered the chance to support a criminal in exchange for more power, I hope he thinks better of it.”
Breslin has repeatedly made clear his less-than-friendly feelings about Espada – at one point (after the coup was settled and the Democrats had returned to the majority, thanks to the retun – with strings attached – of Espada and his co-conspirator, former Sen. Hiram Monserrate, to the fold) even saying that his colleague was a “crook” who belonged “in jail.”
The senator even used that statement in a campaign ad back in 2010 – the year he successfully fended off a primary challenge from Luke Martland.
But it’s also true that Breslin ultimately did not object when his fellow Democrats voted to allow Monserrate and Espada to return to the conference, restoring him to his post as Insurance Committee chairman. Last January, Breslin was tapped by Democratic Leader John Sampson to serve as deputy minority leader, a position that carries a $20,500 stipend (lulu).
NOTE: A reader reminds me that Morse has a Senate Democrat connection of his own. He hired the consulting firm Red Horse Strategies to run his campaign. The firm’s founders left the public payroll in 2008, but have retained ties – and contracts – to the conference on and off since then.
UPDATE: Breslin’s response:
“I believe we as elected officials need to hold ourselves to a higher ethical standard. The people entrust us to do what is right and we have a duty to represent them in the most honest and ethical way possible. No one with a criminal record should ever be elected to office.”
“I called for former Senator Espada’s ouster long before his conviction today. I am proud to say that I have been one the most outspoken voices of reform in the New York State Senate. I will continue to be that voice of reform because the people of Albany and Rensselaer Counties, and all of New York State deserve no less.”
May 4th - 5:30 pm
We’re still awaiting a decision from the jury in former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr.’s federal corruption trial, but we do have some (more bad) news to report about the embattled former Bronx Democratic lawmaker.
With very little fanfare, the state Legislative Ethics Commission posted a decision and notice of civil assessment on its website today, fining Espada $80,000. 18 (can’t forget those 18 cents) for “knowingly and willfuly” violating the Public Officers Law by participating in the hiring of his uncle, Juan Feliciano Jr., to an $80,000-a-year “special assistant” post with the Senate.
That fine includes restitution for the $70,000.18 Feliciano received in salary (he was only on the Senate payroll for 11 months), plus a $10,000 fine.
Last December, the commissioner first issued a notice alleging Espada was guilty of two violations Public Officers Law, each punishable by a fine of up to $40,000 or, if the commission so chose, referrable for prosecution as a criminal misdemeanor.
Of course, Epsada currently has much bigger legal fish to fry, since the feds have accused him of embezzling millions of taxpayer dollars from the Soundview Health Network he founded in the Bronx. A $80,000 job for a relative seems like small potatoes, by comparison.
According to the commission, Espada never responded to its formal notice of investigation, issued in November 2009, nor did he appear or submit evidence to the hearing at which the commission presented evidence that Feliciano and the former senator are indeed related and the familial connection between them was the reason Feliciano landed his taxpayer-funded job.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Espada-in-new-ethics-tangle-2426171.php#ixzz1twFNIG9O
May 2nd - 5:01 pm
Sushi lover, love-letter essayist, Mamaroneck resident and erstwhile Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, on trial for bilking the state out of millions of dollars in Medicaid money from his Soundview health clinics, delivered an anti-Andrew Cuomo following his courtroom appearance today.
Jurors began deliberating the case on Monday.
The governor, who as attorney general filed a civil lawsuit against Espada over siphoning $14 million from his health clinics for meals and other personal perks, “has been given carte blanche to do anything he wants” said Espada.
“That is as dangerous as it gets,” Espada said.
The former Bronx lawmaker, protected from the rain by an rather tough-looking customer holding an umbrella, spoke to reporters following his appearance in federal court in Brooklyn, where is facing corruption charges. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Espada, decked out in a matching pink tie and pocketfold, later lapsed into a Yoda-like syntax: “He’s worse than the steamroller. He has no moral compass, Mr. Cuomo does. He operates in the shadows.”
Feb 17th - 3:56 pm
A Bonx judge has granted the health care center founded by forme State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. an immediate stay from being removed from the state Medicaid program.
The state had removed Soundview Health Center from the program after Espada and his son were arrested on charges they illegally funnelled state money to the hospitals for personal gain. Under the stay, state agencies are also instructed that they cannot contact, transfer, or convince Soundview’s patients that it will no longer be participating in the New York Medicaid program.
“Our community and our patients are a step closer to achieving the healthcare and choice they are due ,” said Constance Bruno, Board Member, “and Soundview will continue to provide excellent healthcare and services to our thousands of patients, employees and families.”
The Stay remains in effect until the next court date on March 5th.
Jan 18th - 8:19 am
Former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. and his son, Pedro G., were indicted yet again for allegedly bilking hundreds of thousands of dollars from their healthcare network, Soundview, which received both federal and state funding.
The superseding indictment that appears below was handed down late yesterday.
It adds two counts of false statement (basically allegedly the former Bronx lawmaker lied to the federal government about profits realized by a janitorial services company he and his son had set up to contract with Soundview and his own compensation) to the litany of charges the Espadas are facing – all of which they deny.
Arraignment will be next Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m.
Dec 27th - 5:48 pm
In a classic example of grabbing the lion’s tail, former Sen. Pedro Espada released a statement late this afternoon to not only blast the Legislative Ethics Commission, but also called on Albany’s new ethics panel to investigate Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Espada was responding to a report from the Legislative Ethics Commission that said the former pol broke the law when he his uncle, Juan Feliciano Jr., for an $80,000-a-year job as “special assistant.”
Espada then makes a pivot to call for the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics to investigate Cuomo. As AG, Cuomo charged Espada last year with pocketing $14 million in public money from his Soundview Health Clinics (The Espada statement was released by Soundview).
Espada alleges that Cuomo uses state property for private fund-raising, closes community health care centers for “personal political vendettas” (I’m assuming Espada is talking about his own health care network. Just a hunch I have) and makes an allusion to the Committee to Save New York.
The statement doesn’t refute any of the substantive claims made by the ethics commission and the swipes at Cuomo don’t seem to make much sense. The CSNY stuff has raised eyebrows, but Cuomo has kept the committee at arm’s length.
Here’s the statement:
“The report generated and released by the Legislative Ethics Commission is false from beginning to end. It is indicative of the work created by a group recently deemed unnecessary and a waste of resources by legislative leaders and is particularly disheartening during time in which so many New Yorkers face real issues such as joblessness, a depressed economy and a need for delivery of vital services,” said Mr. Espada, former Senate President Pro Tempore and Majority Leader.
“It is my hope that the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics will take up real ethics violations such as the use of state owned assets by Governor Cuomo for private fundraisers, the closing of Community Health Centers due to personal political vendettas and the use of money from interest groups who do business with the State to fund television ads explicitly pushing the Governor’s agenda,” noted Mr. Espada