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NY's new Senate Majority leader, John Flanagan, says he has no law clients doing business with the state

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Jan. 14,

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Jan. 14, 2011. Credit: Howard Schnapp

ALBANY -- Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said Tuesday that he believes transparency and disclosure are needed to clean up Albany, but he won't reveal his former law clients because the law doesn't require it.

Flanagan (R-East Northport) resigned last week from the law firm of Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana to provide more time for the extensive duties of majority leader, he said.

"I am in full conformance with the law -- whatever the law requires to do," Flanagan said when asked whether he would identify his past law clients.

Flanagan said he doesn't expect additional ethics measures to be considered in the final weeks of the legislative session, which has been rocked by corruption charges against top legislative leaders, but praised laws enacted earlier this year and in 2011 to combat Albany corruption.

"I believe that we have to have the public trust," Flanagan said. "We want people to have confidence in our government. And I believe in transparency and disclosure."

This year the State Legislature passed and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an ethics measure that will require lawmakers to start revealing their law clients beginning in 2017, retroactive to 2016.

"The change in the law is not really effective in terms of disclosure until, I think, 2017, and I made a personal decision for a variety of reasons to just step away from my practice and I want to concentrate on this job," Flanagan said Tuesday.

"I don't have any clients doing business before the state," Flanagan told reporters Tuesday, his second day as Senate majority leader, after several years as Senate Education Committee chairman.

He said he didn't know whether his former law firm had any clients that did business with the state.

The firm's clients have included corporations, banks, retail chains, local governments, schools and a community college that are regulated by the state or had contracts with the state, according to the company's self-reported clients to the Martindale-Hubbell law directory posted online.

For example, one of the clients listed, the Long Island Home senior citizen facility, was awarded a $1.4 million contract from the state Education Department last year to consolidate rehabilitation services, according to state comptroller's office records. Another listed client, Nassau Community College, received $1.5 million in state and federal grants through the state Education Department for Liberty Partnership Programs to curb dropout rates.

Flanagan had practiced general law and real estate law, according to the firm's website.

The firm didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the last three months, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, whom Flanagan replaced, have been accused of federal corruption charges involving their official jobs, real estate interests and their jobs with private law firms.

"I think it's legitimate information for the public to know," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "But we accept at face value that he doesn't have clients anymore and so there is no conflict."

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