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Kearns, Walter, Corwin react to sentencing of former Speaker Silver

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The sentence handed down Tuesday to former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver drew quick reactions by two local lawmakers, both of whom called for a serious effort to reform ethics in Albany.

Silver, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for multiple counts related to illegal kickback schemes, must also pay back $5 million gained from those actions and pay a $1.7 million fine.

"I do believe the fine is there because right now, he will receive his pension while serving his sentence in jail," said Assemblymember Michael Kearns (D-Buffalo). "I do believe the judge is sending a message to the Legislature that it's time we do pension forfeiture, and it's something I'm very supportive of."

Fellow Assemblymember Ray Walter (R,C, I-Amherst) issued a written statement shortly after Silver's sentence. It reads: "With the 12 year sentence handed down to Sheldon Silver today, we are reminded of how sorely ethics reform is needed in Albany. Since I was elected, I have been a vocal proponent of common-sense ideas to clean up state government. Unfortunately, during that time, we have seen multiple legislators face corruption charges and little action on vital reforms.

"If you're a leader or a committee chair, you shouldn't be able to accumulate power for decades like Sheldon Silver did. If you're convicted, I don't think you should be able to draw a pension funded by hard-working families like Sheldon Silver will. For the good of our state, I hope my Democrat colleagues stop talking about change, and instead make ethics reform a reality."

Kearns, who first ran for his seat on an anti-Silver theme, said there was little surprise among his peers, who were in session as the former Speaker learned his fate. He even suggested Silver is an "afterthought" as lawmakers work in the interest of the people.

"I think the judge said it best (when he said) Mr. Silver, those are not the actions of an honest person," Kearns said. "And his misdeeds, he'll have to pay for. And he has caused incalculable harm to the people of New York."

Assemblymember Jane Corwin (R-Clarence) also weighed in on the Silver sentencing. "With the sentencing of Sheldon Silver, a plethora of other sentencings scheduled and the on-going public corruption investigations in and around the state Capitol, it is no wonder that the top priority for New Yorkers is reforming Albany (as evidenced in a new Siena Research Institute poll)," the Clarence Republican said.

She noted that the poll found 97 percent of New Yorkers want the governor and state Legislature to enact reform now.

"The people of this state have waited long enough for Albany to reform itself. We need to pass real and meaningful reforms in Albany and we need it to happen now," Corwin said. "As the clock ticks on this year’s legislative session, Albany’s three men in a room have the opportunity to put their constituents’ priorities at the forefront. There is no more important issue right now than reform."

But will Silver's sentence prove to be a deterrent? 

"Going forward, I do think that there's a possibility that people will think twice that there's not self-dealing, they can't monetize their office, and they have to do the people's business," Kearns said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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