Opinion Editorial on Ethics
Tom DiNapoli: Want To Stop NY Corruption? Let's Try Electing Some Honest People, MaybeCeleste Katz
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has a simple solution to the scandals that have rocked Albany in recent days: Try electing more honest people.
“Ultimately, it gets back to we need more honest people doing this kind of work and unfortunately, as we have seen in too many cases, people feel discouraged about being involved in government and running for office,” DiNapoli (pictured with Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings) told reporters in Albany Monday.
DiNapoli said the best way to “enhance the pool of talent available” for public office would be to change the structure of elections, starting with public financing of campaigns.
The comptroller also cited his own proposal – which has so far languished in the Legislature – to impose increase financial penalties on public officials found guilty of misconduct.
The penalties would be in addition to any other criminal penalties levied on the official and would be equal to the “gain received or imparted by the guilty public servant” from his crime.
“The charges are horrendous,” DiNapoli said of the federal complaints revealed last week against state Sen. Malcolm Smith of Queens and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of the Bronx. “On the face of it, there is no excuse for that kind of behavior.”
DiNapoli, a former assemblyman, came to the defense of Speaker Sheldon Silver and rejected the notion that his fellow Democrat should be forced to give up his powerful post.
“I have not seen the speaker’s name mentioned in connection with those activities,” DiNapoli said.
DiNapoli talked to the press after speaking at a forum on the “Fiscal Crisis Facing New York’s Local Governments” hosted by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.
The comptroller said fiscal distress was the “new normal” for local governments and called for municipalities, among other things, to do a better job of long-term budgeting and engaging the public in their decision-making.
He also called for the state to boost assistance to local governments, which has not kept up with inflation.