Zebrowski (D-New City) released a three-point plan to reduce corruption in New
York government and restore public trust. The plan released on Tuesday would
withhold pay for indicted elected officials, ensure speedy trials for those
facing public corruption charges and disqualify those found guilty of from ever
holding public office in the state again. Zebrowski also sent a letter detailing
his proposed legislation to the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption.
“We need to get serious about the epidemic of corruption in the public sector by putting in place the strongest penalties possible and sending a message to all elected officials that any violation of the public trust will not be tolerated,” said Zebrowski.
The legislation would require an indicted elected official’s salary be withheld until the charges have been resolved. If an elected official has the charges dropped or is found not guilty, the withheld salary would be paid. In the event of a guilty plea or verdict from a charge related to their public office, the elected official would be removed from office and their salary would be returned to either the state or municipality’s general fund. The withholding pay provision is the first of its kind in the nation.
The second component of the bill requires implementation of a system to expedite trials for elected officials accused of public corruption. The Office of Court Administration would have the power to appoint assigned judges for these cases to avoid delays. Zebrowski said everyone is entitled to the time necessary to present an adequate defense but when an elected official is the subject of an indictment, the public is potentially denied his or her services.
The third piece of the legislative plan would disqualify any state or local elected official, who has been convicted of a felony related to their office, from ever holding any public office in New York State. It would expand the current disqualification provisions, which only apply to members of the legislature, to include all elected officials. Zebrowski said it would remove the potential of a “revolving door” for those who violate the public’s trust.
“Many politicians accused of corruption or bribery remain in office collecting a paycheck, delaying their trial and in some cases running for reelection,” said Zebrowski. “These individuals have a right to a trial and are innocent until proven guilty but the public also has a right to honest and effective representation. We need a mechanism that will swiftly restore honesty when an official is indicted and recoup taxpayer dollars when that person is found guilty.”
Assemblyman Zebrowski plans to push his “zero tolerance policy” legislation next session.
“These new proposals will eliminate any incentive for indicted officials to stay in office and continue to collect a pay check,” said Zebrowski. “We have seen too many egregious public corruption cases in New York and most recently here in Rockland County.”
Earlier this year, the Spring Valley mayor and deputy mayor were charged in a public corruption probe along with the former tax certiorari attorney for Clarkstown, who was also the Bronx Republican Party chairman.