Tuesday, Sen. Kevin Parker was found guilty of two misdemeanors
relating to an altercation he had with a New York Post
photographer. He was acquitted of a felony assault charge
that would have ended his Senate career automatically. As
far as Albany’s oddities go, Parker’s case is a particularly
strange one. The Brooklyn legislator is exceptionally bright
and impassioned and has great political instincts. He has
battled off a number of challengers backed fiercely by New
York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
He also has the tendency to fly into rages. He is unable to
control what comes out of his mouth (he notoriously called
Gov. David Paterson a cokehead) and has had a number of physical
confrontations. During a heated debate about the expulsion
of then-Sen. Hiram Monserrate for his conviction on misdemeanor
charges after he slashed his girlfriend’s face, Parker reportedly
flew off the handle, cursing out Sen. Diane Savino and at
one point charging at her before he was restrained by his
Despite his legal troubles and his anger issues, Parker has
not been subjected to the sort of contempt from his colleagues
that Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate have been. Sen.
Ruben Diaz, who was best pals with Espada and Monserrate,
quickly issued a statement on Tuesday asking if the same legislators
who backed ousting Monserrate from the senate will begin similar
proceedings against Parker.
Diaz seems to be implying that there is more will among Democrats
to go after Latino members of the conference, who are a small
group, than members of the powerful black caucus. Diaz is
particularly curious about what Sens. Eric Schneiderman, Neil
Breslin and Liz Krueger will do regarding Parker’s conviction,
as they led the charge against Monserrate.
Sen. Schneiderman be consistent and show us what a true hero
he thinks he is by starting the same kind of Senate action
he organized to kick Hiram Monserrate out for his one misdemeanor?
I’d like to know what their plans are now,” Diaz said.
Sen. John Sampson told reporters on Tuesday that he does not
think the charges against Parker “warrant expulsion.” I think
that most rational people know what the deciding difference
is between the two senators. It isn’t race, it isn’t the nature
of their crime; it is politics plain and simple.
Had Monserrate kept his head down and played good Democrat
in the months after he was arrested and before he went to
court, the odds are (call me cynical) that Democrats would
not have gone after one of their own. Perhaps the nature of
the election year would have dictated they pursued expulsion,
but I suspect their real motivation was Monserrate’s decision
to turn coat and join Sen. Pedro Espada and the Republicans
in the senate coup.
Perhaps it was it was the convergence of the election season
and Monserrate’s betrayal that drove Democrats to expel Monserrate.
Sampson argued that it was the nature of the crime—domestic
violence, rather than violence against a reporter—that made
Monserrate’s expulsion necessary. Times Union capital
reporter Jimmy Vielkind asked Sampson how violence against
women is different from violence against journalists; Sampson
had no response.
is impossible to separate the politics here,” said Sen. Neil
Breslin. But, he added, “The severity of the crime, the fact
that Monserrate’s domestic violence was caught on tape, makes
it something much more serious.” Breslin said that race has
nothing to do with it.
Sampson’s opinion on the matter becomes less important by
the hour. Republicans are poised to take over the chamber,
and a number of them have indicated that they will introduce
legislation to create a commission to consider expelling Parker.
Democrats opened a Pandora’s box with Monserrate’s removal.
Sen. Andrew Lanza told the Daily News that the precedent
has already been set. “You can’t just decide when to apply
it or not to apply it,” Lanza said.
This is a fairly appropriate end to the Democrats’ brief reign
in the majority.
In a recent interview with Liz Benjamin, Breslin, who spent
plenty of time over the last two years being embarrassed by
his colleagues, told Benjamin that he felt Monserrate, Espada
and the rest of the four amigos cast a dark cloud over the
good things his majority did. Benjamin asked Breslin how he
plans to get along with the remaining members.
we have two out of the four. I will continue to work with
them and hopefully go in a direction of making positive legislation
for the people of the state of New York,” Breslin said. “I’m
not saying it’s easy. I have a difficult time in conference
because there are people I don’t want to sit next to.”
He told me that he hopes Diaz becomes marginalized now that
Democrats are back in the minority and that things return
“to a state of normalcy.”
So now Republicans will take over the chamber and Breslin,
who toiled for years in the minority, will go back there with
the rest of the Democrats, who are still a fractured bunch.
The Republican conference has a reputation for being a well-oiled
machine. Their members may be able to help Governor-elect
Andrew Cuomo pass a conservative budget, but don’t for one
second think they are any better behaved than Democrats.
One needs only to look to Sen. Vincent Leibell, who, as part
of a plea deal with federal investigators, pleaded guilty
to obstructing justice and failure to report taxable income
from 2003 to 2006. Federal investigators were looking into
whether Leibell was extorting money from a lawyer who did
work for a nonprofit that Leibell created. When Leibell found
out about the investigation, he met with the lawyer and told
him to deny the charges. The lawyer was wearing a wire.
Andrew Cuomo has his work cut out for him if he plans to get
ethics reform through the Legislature next year, but it is
absolutely essential that it isn’t just the federal government
policing Albany, because a great many legislators clearly
do not know how to carry themselves as public representatives,
and both the Parker and Leibell scandals will be fresh come
January to remind him of it. I asked Breslin which scandal
will be fresher on the public’s mind when Cuomo takes office.
“I think they both just get added to a pile,” he said. “It’s
a pox on both our houses.”