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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Monday, September 25, 2017

On Thursday, June 15, the New York state Senate Ethics Committee held its first session in eight years. 

During the meeting, the bonuses that committees’ vice chairs in the upper chamber receive on top of their $79,500 salaries, was debated. Critics argued that only the actual committee chairs are supposed to receive the bonuses.

This issue was discussed for close to an hour, and with no resolution in sight, it was placed aside to be addressed again at their next meeting. 

One Senate source told the Post, “We have no idea when that will be. It could be next year. It could be eight years from now.”

In June 2009, was the last time the state Senate Ethics Committee met, when the chair was Brooklyn Democrat Former Senator John Sampson. 

According to The Post, “He was convicted in 2015 of obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents about pocketing $440,000 from settlements when he served as a court-appointed referee in foreclosure proceedings. Sampson headed to prison last month to begin serving a five-year sentence. During Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ corruption trial, also in 2015, Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) testified that he was chair of the committee for a while but was ousted when he tried to hold a hearing.”

The legislative rules require committees to meet anytime a bill is referred to them. Since Sampson was chair, no bills have been sent to the ethics panel. 

According to the New York Times, it was clear that the members were quite rusty from not meeting in so long. NYT reports, “One senator, David Carlucci, a Democrat from the Hudson Valley, voted with a group of senators seeking to stop questionable stipend payments to his colleagues. But hours later, he tried to take it back. ‘He regrets the error and confusion it caused,’ Mr. Carlucci clarified through a spokeswoman.

When that motion led to a 4-4 stalemate, another senator, Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat from the Bronx, suggested that they break a tie with a coin flip. An awkward silence then ensued as the chairwoman of the committee, Senator Elaine Phillips, puzzled over the parliamentary rules, all while being periodically whispered to, Rasputin-like, by the Senate’s legal counsel, David Lewis. ‘I’m new to this committee,’ Ms. Phillips said afterward.

But if ethics reform in Albany has been something of a long-running joke, the creaky committee meeting on Thursday was its punch line.”

The meeting on Thursday lasted for around one hour. Besides the bonuses debate, the talks consisted mainly of minor resolutions and a short discussion of the positive move of actually having a meeting.

By Rebecca Gold