Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Five Political Scandals To (Sorta) Shake Brooklyn

Posted By on Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 11:37 AM

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Veteran Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, virtually a caricature of a sleazy, old-school political boss, resigned yesterday from his position as Kings County Democratic Party Chair amid numerous accusations of sexual harassment.

In case you haven't happened to be anywhere in the vicinity of The New York Post this week, Lopez had been censured by an ethics panel for "both verbal and physical sexual abuse" of female staffers, including "multiple incidents of unwelcome physical contact" as well as "putting [his] hand between [a staffer's] upper thighs, putting [his] hand as far up between her legs as [he] could."

Additionally, news broke this week that State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had helped Lopez quietly settle a separate harassment claim earlier this summer, using $103,080 of taxpayer money. Silver has already apologized for his handling of the cover-up, and an investigation seems inevitable.

So yes, the whole thing has been pretty sketch. In typical fashion, nearly every other politician in the state demanded that Lopez step down from his leadership position, and step down he did, but not before claiming that all the allegations against him were utterly fabricated.

Though it hasn't (yet?) become a downfall of Weiner or Spitzer-esque proportions, Lopez has joined a long, storied line of local politicians bringing scandal (and shame, of course) to our borough. Consider a few more recent examples:

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Charles Hynes Protects ultra-Orthodox Pedophiles - 2012

It's hard to choose just one abhorrent scandal to discuss when it comes to Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes (we have a full list here, if you're so inclined), but one of his most high profile missteps has been his seeming indifference to widespread and increasingly public sexual abuse of children in Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox community. You see, this is a big, big voting bloc for Hynes.

This past May, the embattled D.A. drew a huge amount of public criticism amidst allegations that he has allowed a double standard for enforcement of sexual abuse policies among the ultra-Orthodox, keeping names of abusers secret from the public (a departure from general policy), and allowing rules set within the group requiring incidents to be reported to rabbis first and police second, if at all.

Much like Lopez, Hynes has been criticized by more or less everyone who's anyone politically, including Bloomberg, who told the New York Times that he "completely disagrees" with Hynes on the issue.

Hynes has yet to reverse course on the matter, so this scandal is actually still in play, and will be until his re-election race in 2013. It could be a close one, seeing as an actual opponent recently entered the picture.


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Carl Kruger's Bribe Economy - 2011

Back in 2011, things went pretty awry for another stalwart Brooklyn Democrat, then-State Senator Carl Kruger, with the release of a 53-page criminal complaint detailing what turned out to be a massive "broad-based bribery racket" Kruger had set up with a few colleagues, including fellow Brooklyn Democrat Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr.

In exchange for lifting bureaucratic red tape for everyone from lobbyists to hospitals to corporations, Kruger had taken in over $1 million in bribes in order to fund things like a beloved four-door Bentley and a lavish Mill Basin home once belonging to the Luchese crime family.

In spite of a publicly maligned vote against a 2009 Senate Bill favoring same-sex marriage, Kruger was rumored to have had a romantic affair with Michael Turano, a gynecologist who had been one of his many co-conspirators and with whom he reportedly resided at the Mill Basin property.

Claiming that he wanted to spare Turano the difficulties of a prolonged public trial, Kruger pled guilty and was given a 7-year prison sentence this past April.


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  • Gothamist

Vito Fossella Jr.'s Secret Family - 2008

Fossella, a former Congressman whose constituencies encompassed both Staten Island and Bay Ridge, had long been looked at suspiciously for what many believed to be lavish, undocumented use of campaign funds for personal expenditures.

However, things only came to a head for the local five-term Republican after a 2008 DUI arrest in Virginia (he clocked in at 0.17 blood alcohol level), the investigation of which quickly unraveled to reveal a mistress and 3-year-old daughter in addition to his wife and three other children. It was pretty embarrassing.

In the midst of flogging by both his fellow politicians and the press, Fossella at one point started crying on the floor of the House of Representatives, and soon after announced that following the end of his current term, he would not seek re-election.


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  • Jules Antonio / Flickr

Angel Rodriguez Takes Bribes To Build A Fairway - 2002

City Councilman Angel Rodriguez was one of Brooklyn's most promising politicians and a contender for City Council speaker, until 2002, when an undercover cop caught him attempting to trade a $50,000 bribe and a $1.5 million real estate discount in exchange for a positive vote on a planned Fairway supermarket location in Red Hook.

Rodriguez initially stayed on the Council and fought the charges, but eventually plead guilty and was sentenced in June 2003 to more than four years in prison. With time off for good behavior and alcohol treatment, he was released to a halfway house in June 2006, and has since been laying low with his family in Sunset Park.

"I'm trying not to be a public person anymore," he told the Daily News in a short 2007 interview. "I just want to live a regular life, try to contribute. I'm trying to stay out of the public eye."

So, you may not feel great about civic responsibility, but hasn't it been sort of fun to reminisce? No? Well, what can we say, this kind of thing has been happening since politics were invented. If you really need some cheering up though, try checking out New York's handy new system for online voter registration. See, it's not all bad out there!

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

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About The Author

Virginia K. Smith

Virginia K. Smith

Bio:
Virginia K. Smith is the Assistant Editor at The L Magazine and a Bushwick resident. Her profile picture was taken at Summerscreen, because she is a real team player.

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