The long list of New York State officials slammed for ethical violations or hit with criminal charges grew by two in recent days, but it's hard to know whether that's cause for hope or despair.
Hope is in order if the string of those accused and convicted is a sign that state officials have finally gotten serious about cleaning up Albany. But despair may also be appropriate, since the line of elected officials accused of abusing the public trust seems unending. The latest to come under a cloud are Assemb. Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) and State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Queens).
Lopez, who also heads the Brooklyn Democratic Party, was censured and stripped of his chairmanship of the Assembly Housing Committee last week after the Assembly Ethics Committee found he had sexually harassed two staffers. Yesterday Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for him to resign if the allegations are true. Lopez has denied the charges.
Huntley was indicted yesterday in connection with an ongoing investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. She allegedly used state grants to benefit her associates in a nonprofit organization she founded. She's charged with two felonies -- tampering with evidence and falsifying business records -- and misdemeanor conspiracy. Huntley has denied any wrongdoing.
Albany has been dogged by corruption for years. The most recent offenders are former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. (D-Bronx), who was convicted in May of misusing public funds directed to health clinics in the Bronx, and former Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Brooklyn), who was sent to prison for seven years in April for his role in a bribery scheme.
State officials need to keep at it until the miscreants are all swept away and the message is clear that official wrongdoing will be punished.