New York Senate urged to expel Senator after probe

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York’s state senate should vote on whether to expel Democratic Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor, and if that resolution fails, vote on censuring him, a senate investigating committee said on Thursday.

New York State Senators' Pedro Espada (R) and Hiram Monserrate (L) join other legislators in a news conference on the steps of City Hall in New York City, demanding Mayor Bloomberg negotiate with them before they vote to reinstate his control of the largest school system in the United States, July 19, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East

The Democrats hold the senate by just two votes and analysts fear the battle over Monserrate’s fate could cause a deadlock that would make it much harder for New York to meet is March 31 budget deadline.

Senator Eric Schneiderman, who chaired the bipartisan Special Committee of Inquiry, told reporters at a web cast news conference the body weighed the “totality” of Monserrate’s conduct in making its recommendations.

“This is not based on the facts of Senator Monserrate’s misdemeanor conviction, it’s based on the review of all the conduct and other factors, including credibility and the lack of cooperation with the committee and what we note is a failure to take responsibility,” the Democratic senator said.

However, Schneiderman said the senate could reject the committee’s recommendations and instead punish Monserrate, one of the co-leaders of last year’s failed coup, by imposing a fine, for example.

Monserrate and Senator Pedro Espada last year sought to overturn the senate leadership under President Malcolm Smith.

Monserrate’s lawyer criticized the report and the committee, saying it had made up its mind before undertaking its probe.

“The Select Committee’s Report amounts to a self-serving document --full of material omissions, legal inaccuracies, and factual distortions -- designed to justify a result the Select Committee desired before even commencing its investigations report,” Joseph Tacopina said by email.

If the senate does not reject the findings, Monserrate will sue, and continue to serve as his community’s representative, he said. “We are confident that the courts will correct that injustice,” Tacopina said.

Monserrate’s expulsion would have been automatic if had been convicted of either of the two felonies with which he was charged, but Schneiderman said the legislature’s legal powers allowed it to do so anyway.

“I’m absolutely confident that we’re on firm legal ground,” he said. The last time New York state legislators were rejected was in the 1920 “Red Scare,” when five Socialist Party Assembly members were not allowed to take their seats.

Reporting by Joan Gralla; Editing by Andrew Hay