Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Read your own clip file: the Courier-Life chain lets Roger Green explain it away

In an article published in several editions of Brooklyn's Courier-Life chain this week, state Assembly Member Roger Green discusses his potential run for Congress against Rep. Edolphus Towns. The incumbent Towns doesn't come off well--his spokesperson apparently declined to be named. But more curious is the newspaper's incomplete treatment of Green's ethical lapses:
While some have questioned Towns’ voting record, Green, if he decided to run, will be doing so with a checkered past.
In 2004, Green pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of petty larceny stemming from billing the state for travel expenses that were already paid for from a prison-services company seeking state contracts.
As part of his bargain, Green escaped felony charges, which would have prevented him from standing for re-election. After his conviction, Green resigned his seat only to run again and regain it that same year.
“When I was re-elected [after the conviction], I received the largest vote of any African-American assembly member in the borough. I think my apologizing for what occurred embraces the narrative of African-American males in this society, which is about resiliency and human redemption,” said Green.
Green said he looks at U.S. Senator John McCain, who was part of the investigation related to the savings and loan scandal and later admitted mistakes, but went on to be one the nation’s most respected lawmakers.

But it was not just a question of resiliency and redemption. As the Courier-Life's then-Brooklyn Politics columnist Erik Engquist reported 6/14/04, Green's resignation was part of a plan:
Green would rather have not resigned at all, but he did so in a deal with Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver to prevent (or at least forestall) the release of the Assembly Ethics Committee's report on his misconduct, which would have prompted his colleagues to punish him.

The Assembly's refusal to release that report has been criticized by both editorialists and good government watchdogs, and Engquist's column pointed out that, while Green cited other lawmakers for ethical lapses, Green has a lot of trouble casting himself as a reformer.

One of the white lawmakers Green cited: Marty Markowitz. The New Yorker has reported that, when Markowitz first ran for Borough President in 1985, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for failing to disclose a campaign contribution from a local businessman; he paid a nearly $8,000 fine, and performed 75 hours of community service. By contrast, according to recent press reports, Green paid $3,000 in restitution and $2,000 in fines, and was sentenced to three years' probation.

Another statement by Green deserves further analysis. One reason he received "the largest vote of any African-American assembly member in the borough" is that he faced no opposition in the Democratic primary--tantamount to election--and token Republican opposition. The New York Times explained on 11/2/04 (In District Lines, Critics See Albany Protecting Its Own) that it looked like cronyism:
While many New Yorkers might wonder about the fate of some candidates in today's election, Roger Green is not likely to be among them. Mr. Green ran without opposition in the Democratic primary and faces a little-known Republican rival as he seeks to return to the Assembly, completing a political comeback just months after he resigned from the Legislature in disgrace after pleading guilty to billing the state for false travel expenses.
Mr. Green's likely return to the Assembly is a textbook example, critics say, of one of the most brazen ways Albany protects its own: By carving up legislative districts to assure that incumbents face little or no opposition. In Mr. Green's case, the redrawing took place before his resignation, and after a significant challenge in a primary.
Mr. Green could have faced another formidable primary challenge this year from Hakeem Jeffries, a lawyer who made a vigorous but ultimately unsuccessful run against him two years ago. But this time around, Mr. Jeffries could not challenge Mr. Green, since his Brooklyn block was carved out of the 57th Assembly District, which Mr. Green represented.
"The district was cut out by just that one block," Mr. Jeffries said. "It's unfortunate that the dysfunctional nature of the Legislature in Albany allows politicians to slice and dice communities to meet their own needs."

The Times Union of Albany has produced the most thorough coverage of Green's lapses. The Albany County probation department concluded that Green was either of limited mental capacity or dishonest because he denied that he knowingly violated the law, the newspaper said. The probation officer called Green's story of why he submitted fraudulent reimbursement requests "very convoluted," according to a 3/25/04 article. Green's lawyer, without providing specific details, said facts in the probation report were "demonstrably untrue" and Green told the newspaper on 3/31/04, "It's not the first time a black man's intelligence has been questioned."

In a 12/22/05 editorial headlined "Enough, Mr. Green," the Times-Union decried Green's potential run for Congress: "So much for any sense of remorse... Next year, depending on what he runs for, [the people of Brooklyn] should vote against him for Congress or vote him out of the Assembly - anything to deny him of his shameless aspirations."

I should add that City Councilwoman Leticia James--now an antagonist on the Atlantic Yards issue--was Green's senior staffer during the period of time he billed the state for expenses he didn't pay for. She defended Green in the 6/4/04 New York Times, which reported: City Councilwoman Letitia James said, "The people in this community are still with him." Also, she told the New York Sun, in a 6/2/04 article: "There was no intent on his part to do anything wrong," said Council Member Letitia James, who formerly served as Mr. Green's chief of staff.

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