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NYP: Senate Expels Monserrate Over Assault

February 10, 2010

Well, it’s finally happened…

The Senate voted 53-to-8 to immediately oust the senator, Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat convicted last fall of a misdemeanor for dragging his companion down the hallway of his apartment building.

The expulsion leaves the fragile balance of power in the Senate divided between 31 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Because legislation requires 32 votes to pass, Democrats will be unable to approve bills with just the support of their own conference. In an effort to minimize the disruption, Gov. David A. Paterson late Tuesday called a special election for March 16.

But rather than bringing the issue to a close, the expulsion vote could be the beginning of a lengthy legal fight that could create further instability in Albany’s volatile political atmosphere. Mr. Monserrate said on Tuesday that he planned to run in the special election.

Even as the Senate moved forward with the vote, Mr. Monserrate’s lawyers were drafting a temporary restraining order seeking to have him reinstated. One of the lawyers, Norman Siegel, said the order would be filed Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan.

“The New York State Senate does not have the constitutional and legal authority to expel Senator Monserrate,” Mr. Siegel said. “And even if they did, their actions have not been consistent with due process of law.”

In a fiery speech to the Senate just before the vote, Mr. Monserrate said he had been made a scapegoat, accused his critics of exploiting an “ethical bully pulpit” and called the process to expel him “the height of arrogance.”

“The actions that I’ve committed,” he said, “do not rise to the level of expulsion.”

During the vote, all but a few senators were silent and expressionless.

“Nobody was happy about this,” said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, the Manhattan Democrat who led the special committee that recommended that the Senate consider expelling Mr. Monserrate. “But most senators on both sides of the aisle felt that we had to do something. The days of sweeping things under the rug are over.”

Few other episodes have so grimly symbolized Albany’s reputation as a place where impropriety and ethically questionable conduct among public officials are commonplace.

As a member of the narrow Democratic majority, Mr. Monserrate used the threat that he would switch political allegiances to gain considerable leverage within his party. After he was arrested in December 2008 and details of the assault became known, no Democrats in the Senate openly criticized his conduct. He was given a committee chairmanship, though it was revoked after his indictment, and was even the beneficiary of a fund-raiser by the majority leader at the time, Senator Malcolm A. Smith of Queens.

In June, Mr. Monserrate was one of two Democrats who took part in the upheaval that temporarily resulted in the party’s loss of power in the Senate. His formerly loyal colleagues quickly turned on him.

Democrats lashed out: Mr. Smith’s spokesman called Mr. Monserrate “a thug,” and some Democrats began openly questioning whether he was fit to hold office.

Yet a week after the coup, Mr. Monserrate agreed to abandon his alliance with Republicans and was welcomed back into the Democratic fold. He was given back his committee chairmanship, along with its $12,500 annual stipend.

But once his trial ended in a misdemeanor conviction, the tide turned against Mr. Monserrate once again. Senator John L. Sampson, the Democrats’ leader, convened a special committee in October to look into the assault and determine whether it merited any disciplinary action from the Senate.

Last month the committee issued a lengthy report that castigated Mr. Monserrate, saying that he showed little remorse for injuring his companion and that he was more interested in preserving his political standing. The committee found that Mr. Monserrate’s actions demonstrated he was unfit to serve, and it recommended that the full Senate vote on a resolution to remove him from office. That report, completed on Jan. 13, set the wheels in motion for the vote Tuesday.

Though no provision in the State Constitution grants explicit authority for the Legislature to expel its own members, state law does. Legislators convicted of felonies are automatically expelled; the law is silent on those convicted of misdemeanors.

Still, expulsion has been extremely rare. The last time it occurred was in the 1920s, when six assemblymen who were members of the Socialist Party of America were kicked out of office.

The atmosphere was tense at the Capitol on Tuesday as Mr. Monserrate’s fate hung in the balance. Security around the elegant mahogany-paneled Senate chamber was tighter than usual, with uniformed State Police troopers standing guard in the lobby.

Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, who serves as the president of the Senate according to the State Constitution, took the rare step of acting as the presiding officer of the Senate on Tuesday, a position typically occupied by a Senate Democrat.

His presence at the Senate rostrum was intended to prevent any awkwardness if a group of Democrats tried to force an expulsion vote by challenging the presiding officer on procedural grounds.

In Mr. Monserrate’s northwest Queens district, where he has been popular since he was first elected to the City Council in 2001, there were still signs of support. But there was little question his standing has suffered considerably.

As she was walking her dog on Tuesday afternoon just around the corner from where Mr. Monserrate lives, Mary Reilly, 44, defended the senator.

“I look at what happened in that incident with him and his girlfriend as a personal thing,” she said. “I support keeping him in office.”

But Roger Deutsch, 57, said he believed Mr. Monserrate should go.

“This is not like cheating on your wife. He beat up a woman,” said Mr. Deutsch, a filmmaker. “And this is not just a personal matter. He committed a crime, and that disqualifies him from serving. In all decency, he should have resigned.”

***

From NYTimes.

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5 Comments
  1. Young Republican permalink
    February 10, 2010 9:20 am

    Does anyone have anything to say about the fact that the GOP won three out of four special elections yesterday? The only one we lost was in Queens where we endorsed a democrat. (Just saying…)

  2. Spartacus permalink
    February 10, 2010 11:14 am

    http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/archives/2010/02/weprin_wins_spe.php

    Queens County — Assembly District 24>: David Weprin held the seat for the Democrats, keeping the Weprin seat in the Weprin family by fending off Robert Friedrich, a registered Democrat running as a Republican.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-a-singer/nys-assembly-special-elec_b_456173.html

  3. V.R. Fr. Giovani Gabrieli di Saluzzo permalink
    February 10, 2010 11:19 am

    In light of the historic vote to expel State Senator Hiram Monserrate from the New York State Senate yesterday, a lot of questions pop up concerning State Senator Martin Golden’s participation in any of this.

    In this election year of 2010, three questioners have been impaneled to ask relevant questions about State Senator Martin Golden’s actions and motives in the conduct of his current elective office. As part of that enquiry, it will be necessary to look into what and whose interests he has pursued during his tenure in public office, first as council-member, then as state senator.

    For this task, our panel of four have taken as their tags on Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn the names of three great historical inquisitors ( who will be asking the questions) and that of a spiritual, social and political reformer (who will put it all into context for us).

    They shall appear as the following:

    Inquisitors:
    Cardinal Santoro di Santa Severina, Grand Inquisitor and Prefect of the Holy Office
    Fra. Tomas de Torquemada, O.P., Inquisitor General of Spain
    V.R. Fr. Giovani Gabrieli di Saluzzo, Father Inquisitor of the Inquisition of Venice

    Spiritual Guide:
    Fra. Girolamo Savonarola, de Ferrara, O.P.

    Our introductory posting had been made by Fra. Girolamo Savonarola. However most of you will probably never see it, because it was “moderated” by I suppose the Moderator(s) of Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn. The rest of us tried to prevail upon that pesky Tuscano to modulate his introductory remarks as our spiritual director, but Savonarola could neither be modulated nor moderated. So without introduction I will start with some questions to the State Senator on behalf of the panel.

    Senator were you present at the vote to expel State Senator Monserrate from the New York State Senate?

    Why did the Republicans (present) unanimously vote to expel Hiram Monserrate from the state senate? Was it a party-line vote under discipline of the Republican leadership.

    Why should Hiram Monserrate be expelled from the state senate now?

    Weren’t you in your loyalty to your Republican leadership in the state senate willing to give him significant control of the New York State Senate not very long ago?

    Do you think it appropriate to entrust the fate of the New York State Senate and New York State as a whole to a criminal prosecutor, Grand Jury and a trial jury?

    Was Hiram Monserrate’s conduct the worst by a New York State Senator in almost one hundred fifty (150) years?

    Like Inspector Louis Renault in CASABLANCA, were you, “Shocked!!!” at this kind of conduct by one of your fellow state senators?

    In spite of recent “ethics reforms” in the state senate, do you think more “ethics reforms” are necessary for that body and for the individual senators, like yourself?

    On a some what related matter, what do you think of the recent inquiries concerning Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s campaign’s expenditures to/through the Independence party?

    Why do you think the Manhattan D.A. is investigating that expenditure?

    Do you know why he gave the Independence Party so much money, when he apparently gave the Republicans less?

    Do you think that Mayor Bloomberg should have given any money to the Republican Party?

    Do you know ANYTHING about specific Bloomberg expenditures on his campaigns in Bay Ridge in 2009, 2005 and 2001?

    Do you think that any of the money given by or on behalf of Mayor Bloomberg to various political parties might have been illegal?

    If that is found to be so, would you take steps in the New York State Senate to remove Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just like State Senator Monserrate?

    We are done for now.

    Senator Golden, please, get back to us with your answers as soon as possible. We have a lot more to cover next time.

  4. Gerry permalink
    February 11, 2010 12:27 pm

    Glad to see him go.

  5. V.R. Fr. Giovani Gabrieli di Saluzzo permalink
    February 11, 2010 3:29 pm

    Addendum to my posting of 2-10-10:

    Our introductory posting, previously made by Fra. Girolamo Savonarola, had been held up to be “moderated” by the unholy Moderator(s)of Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn. Although the principal inquisitors on our panel tried to prevail upon that pesky Tuscano di Ferrara to modulate his introductory remarks as our spiritual director, Savonarola would neither be modulated nor moderated. Once we had informed the unholy Moderator(s) of this space that there could be no moderating or modulating our spiritual advisor, Fra. Savonarola’s introductory statement, it was put forward in its original place at Fra. Girolamo Savonarola, Republica di Firenza , 2010 February 10 under “Atlas Shrugs in Brooklyn Rushes Past 100,000 Mark This Week!.”

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