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Sun., Sep. 21
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Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Felons with benefits

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Thursday, another member of the New York State Assembly was found guilty of extortion and myriad other charges.

A federal jury in Brooklyn convicted William Boyland Jr. of soliciting a quarter of a million dollars in bribes from undercover FBI agents. In the trial, he conjured up a unique defense — he was just gaming the system by seeking bribes without any intention of providing favors.

He was led off to prison and immediately expelled from the Assembly as required by law. What is not required by law is forfeiture of the New York state-funded pension rights earned while he served 11 years in the Assembly representing a portion of Queens County.

He is at least the ninth New York City politician convicted of political corruption charges in the last two years. Federal Judge Sandra Townes ordered him held for sentencing on June 30 when he faces a prison term of up to 30 years.

Federal authorities continue to aggressively pursue elected officials who have proclaimed with deeds their mission in government is to fill their personal pocketbooks by soliciting bribes or misappropriating state funds. All the while, the Legislature continues to ignore complaint after complaint about corruption. The leaders of each house, the minority and majority, simply refuse to initiate reforms or to act on proposals from the governor to clean up their act.

However, just last week the entire freshman class in the state Assembly renewed legislation that would strip pension benefits from officials convicted of felony corruption. Republican and Democratic members of the Assembly offered the same bill last year, but it was held hostage by the Assembly majority.

That is hardly a surprise. Similar legislation in the Senate suffered the same fate last year.

Instead of reform, what has happened? Three years ago, the Legislature passed a law forfeiting pension benefits — but from officials who weren’t in the retirement system. In other words, they passed a law that means nothing because all senators and Assembly members participate in the system.

When will the leadership of the Legislature recognize that thievery and graft are unacceptable? When will the Senate and Assembly pass legislation that holds their members to the same law-abiding standard that the rest of society accepts as a daily lifestyle?

Every member of the Legislature should sign on to sponsor the proposed legislation prohibiting pensions for convicted felons. Maybe then Sheldon Silver, Dean Skelos and the Independent Democratic Coalition will wake up and set a standard of conduct that does not depend upon federal investigators and prosecutors to enforce.

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