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Reaction To Senate Leader Arrest Mixed In North Country


New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has been trying to maintain normal Senate proceedings in the wake of his arrest by federal authorities on corruption charges.  The Long Island Republican is being supported by his caucus — for now. In New York’s North Country, WAMC’s Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, opinions are mixed on whether the Senate leader should stay or leave.

A 43-page complaint was lodged against Dean Skelos and his son by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara on Monday.  That night Senate Republicans met and decided to keep Skelos as leader of the chamber.
45th District Republican Betty Little was at the caucus and says for more than three hours they discussed the situation. She is among those who stands firm in her support of the Senate leader.  “Senator Skelos believes he could stay on as leader and the consensus of the conference  was to agree to that.  We did not believe that at this point in the session, with only six weeks left that it would have an impediment to what we need to get done.  We have a lot of legislation to do. It’s just a very busy part of the session. We also believe that you are innocent until proven guilty. This is a complaint.  If this becomes a huge distraction and is impeding his ability to lead then that’s something he’ll have to address.”

Not all Republicans are standing by Skelos.

Essex County Republican Committee Immediate Past Chair Ron Jackson says the charges are serious and are disappointing for a Senate leader.  He met Skelos several times, says he never warmed up to the Senate leader and felt Skelos’ actions tended to pander to public opinion. Jackson hopes the charges prove false, but is also adamant he should leave.   “He should do the right thing for the party and the state and resign.  He should not remain in his position as leader of the Senate while this cloud is over him.  If for some reason it turns out those aren’t true, well,  he can run again at some other time.  So as far as I’m concerned the time has come for Mr. Skelos to step down.  The Senate’s got too many important decisions in front of it to have a tainted leader.”

115th District Assemblywoman Janet Duprey would not weigh in on whether Skelos should step down as leader. She’s disappointed to see a near repeat of what happened in the Assembly chamber in January.   “People have a tendency to use a broad brush and say everybody is in the same category.  I will repeat again that many of us are very ethical.  We’re not taking money illegally. We’re not cutting deals on the side.  As I’ve said about the former Speaker they’ll have their day in court.  Innocent until proven guilty. So I’m not pre-judging anyone. My concern as a member of the Assembly is I watched us shut down here for six weeks. The Senate is in a very different situation where their committee structure can continue to move. My concern is that we have a lot of really outstanding  legislation that has to get done.”

Duprey, the sole Republican on the search committee seeking a director for the new Office of Ethics and Compliance, says reforms are needed to solve problems on both sides of the aisle.   “We have heard several folks say ‘Well it’s all New York City Democrats.’  Well, it’s not. There isn’t any political party that’s exempt. I’m not sure there’s any region that’s exempt. And the voters have to be paying more attention. I have watched an Assembly member that we sanctioned when I was a member of the ethics committee for sexual harassment. It was all over the New York City tv stations and all the newspapers for months and he won his next election by something like 87 or 88 percent of the vote. We need to have an enlightened and smart electorate to say let’s elect the right people too.”

Skelos dismissed the complaint as a “press release” and told reporters in Albany Tuesday that he is innocent.

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