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Former NYS Senator Calls On His Successor To Focus On Ethics Reform

Terry Gipson
Terry Gipson

A former New York state senator has written to his successor, calling on her to break the silence on ethics reform. The freshman senator from Dutchess County is biting back.

Former one-term state Senator Terry Gipson, a Democrat, penned a letter to the woman who defeated him in November, Republican Sue Serino, asking that she make ethics reform a top priority.

“There would never be a greater opportunity for a newly-elected official, no matter what party they’re in, to step up and say that this is unacceptable. And if nothing more than that was said, that would be a step in the right direction. But to hear nothing, to hear just complete silence, to me, as a constituent… as a person who is concerned about our state government was just unacceptable. And I thought it was important that I write that letter.”

Here’s Serino.

“I really find it kind of ironic, especially since he voted to defund the Moreland Commission, and that was a commission that was set up for the sole purpose of identifying corruption and enacting reform,” says Serino. “And if he would have paid attention, Allison, during the campaign, Terrence Murphy and I along with [Putnam County] Executive Odell, we actually had a press conference about wanting more transparency and ethics reform, so I don’t know what he’s talking about.”

She refers to newly-elected state Senator Terrence Murphy and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell. Serino says ethics reform, including transparency, is a top priority.

“And actually one of my first actions here in Albany was to sign on to Senator Marcellino’s bill, I think it was S.1923, and it proposes that any elected officials convicted of a felony involving their position must give up their pension benefits,” says Serino.

Credit Courtesy of Sue Serino

She is one of five co-sponsors of Carl Marcellino’s bill. Again, Gipson.

“I made it a real high priority with me, and I just wrote a letter to my state senator as a constituent asking that she continue that because we need people there holding these people to the highest standards possible,” Gipson says. “I have not heard back from her, but I remain optimistic that as a constituent that I will have somebody representing me that will do the right thing and speak up to make sure everyone knows that we are watching.”

As for whether Serino or one of her staff members will respond to Gipson:

“I don’t believe so. I don’t think there’s a need to, right Allison?” Serino says. “Like I said, if he would’ve paid attention he would’ve known. I talked about this, I had a press conference on it. I don’t know if it’s just him trying to stir the pot. I don’t know what his motives are, but I have a job to do and that’s what I’m focusing on.”

Gipson points to recent indictments and convictions of various elected officials as evidence of the need to prioritize ethics reform. One example is Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the state Assembly who resigned following federal charges that he took nearly $4 million in kickbacks. Silver has denied the charges. Here’s Gipson.

“When I was in the state Senate, I made ethics reform a top priority for the initiatives that I had put forth and I just believe that it’s very important that our representatives hold our elected officials accountable, making sure that they’re being as transparent as they can with how they’re using their campaign funds. I’m a big supporter of term limits,” says Gipson. “I believe that we need to revolutionize the way we fund campaigns to make it possible for the best and the brightest to run for office.”

Serino underscores her focus on ethics reform.

“Throughout the campaign I was also very vocal about my support for restrictions on lobbying activity, or bidding on state contracts, reform to restrictions on outside income, and term limits for our bodies’ leaders, which is what we had voted on in our rules, that was the first thing that we did - eight years that we wanted for committee chairs and for leadership,” Serino says.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are proposing to limit lawmakers’ outside income, capping it at $12,000. Serino declined to comment on the proposal, saying she has not yet had a chance to review it.

And Gipson has been out and about, attending events along with elected officials. His Facebook page is active with news of these events and his views on the news of the day.  Gipson says he is eyeing a return to public office, though says he has not decided which one.

“Well, let’s just say that I’m exploring every possible option for running for public office that’s available to me, both now and in the future,” says Gipson. “And when I figure out which one is the right fit and where I can be of the most service, then I’ll make a decision.”

Among consideration are his old state Senate seat and the 19th congressional district post, currently occupied by Republican Chris Gibson, who recently announced he would not seek re-election in 2016.

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