ALBANY -- Senate Republicans Monday night stuck by Majority Leader Dean Skelos after he and his son were charged with corruption in a scathing federal complaint.
Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), will continue to lead the Republican majority through the legislative session scheduled to end June 17, said Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset).
Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), speaking for the conference, said he doubted Skelos, 67, would lose his leadership position even if he is indicted. He was charged in a criminal complaint Monday by federal prosecutors.
"Presumption of innocence," LaValle said. "This conference strongly believes in that. He has the support of the conference."
No vote was taken, but LaValle said Skelos had a "strong consensus," although not unanimous support, after a nearly three-hour, closed-door session.
Earlier, Sen. Rich Funke (R-Fairport), said "I think it will be very difficult at this point" for Skelos to keep his leadership post.
Using information from wiretaps and informants, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the FBI alleged that Skelos extorted a real estate company to make campaign contributions to Republicans and finance the hiring of his son, Adam, through an Arizona-based environmental company.
In statements, Skelos denied the charges but didn't say if he would continue as majority leader.
Possible candidates for the Senate's top leadership job have included Senate Education Committee chairman John Flanagan (R-East Northport), Sen. Catharine Young (R-Olean), who led the Republicans' successful campaigns last fall, and Senate Finance Committee chairman John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse).
Onetime Skelos supporters were cautious in their reactions Monday to the federal charges against Skelos.
Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) declined to comment, while Flanagan said he supported Skelos but wouldn't comment further. Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), who is close to Skelos, also declined to comment.
"It's too early to say anything," DeFrancisco said in an interview before the closed-door meeting. "I'm sure we'll do the right thing. What that will be I can't tell you until I hear from other senators."
DeFrancisco wouldn't say if he's pushing for the majority leader's job himself.
"I can't say anything until I see what the situation with Dean is -- whether he wants to stay on, or what the majority of the Senate wants, the Republicans," DeFrancisco said in an interview. "That's when I will go to step No. 2."
DeFrancisco has for several weeks run the Senate floor and implemented the Republicans' agenda. He was serving in that role because Deputy Majority Leader Thomas Libous (R-Binghamton) also faces federal corruption charges. Libous is accused of lying to federal agents in an effort to land a lucrative job for his son, Matthew Libous, who has pleaded guilty to tax fraud.
Assemb. Claudia Tenney (R-New Hartford) called on Skelos to step down, saying his continued leadership would be "too much of a distraction" through the end of the legislative session.
Susan Lerner of the good-government group Common Cause said Skelos should resign his leadership post so he isn't operating "under a cloud."
Lawmakers still face thorny and critical policy issues. Among them is the extension of rent control regulations in New York City and whether to continue mayoral control of New York City schools. These policies expire this year if no action is taken.
Several statewide measures also are on the agenda. Among tSkelos became the Senate's Republican leader in 2008 when longtime majority leader, Republican Sen. Joseph Bruno, declined to run for re-election as he faced federal corruption charges. Bruno was eventually acquitted.