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Federal convictions now lead to immediate firing for NY pols

A new state law will automatically strip public officials of their jobs if they’re convicted of federal felonies — closing a loophole that’s existed for more than 35 years.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill Friday to overcome a provision in federal law that says a conviction isn’t considered official until after sentencing, which often occurs many months after a guilty plea or jury verdict.

Previously, only crooked officials convicted of felonies under state law were subject to automatic expulsion from the public payroll.

The new law ensures “parity between the federal and state criminal procedure process while at the same time ensuring that unethical public officials are removed from office as soon as possible,” according to a legislative memo.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Nassau County), who co-sponsored the legislation, said he was inspired in part by former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Center) and former Nassau County Executive Ed Magano, who were both convicted in separate federal corruption cases.

“It just struck me that this could create some real problems down the line for taxpayers,” Gaughran said Monday.

Assemblyman John McDonald III, the bill's co-sponsor, said crooked politicians could use the extra time in office to abuse their powers.
Assemblyman John McDonald III, the bill’s co-sponsor, said crooked politicians could use the extra time in office to abuse their powers.
New York State Assembly

The bill’s other co-sponsor, Assemblyman John McDonald III (D-Albany), said the time between conviction and sentencing in federal court offered the opportunity for a crooked pol to abuse his or her powers before losing them.

“One can only let their mind wander what could happen when an elected official who had that gap, what havoc could they have enforced in their community?” he said.

McDonald, who was the mayor of upstate Cohoes from 1999 to 2012, said that experience meant “I can think of a few situations — particularly simple things in regards to civil service lists and taking care of people on the way out the door.”

Former Cohoes mayor Shawn Morse
Former Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse refused to resign in 2019 after pleading guilty to federal wire fraud.

Ernest D. Davis
Former Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis had to be removed from office in a primary election after pleading guilty to a federal crime.


In 2019, then-Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse, a Democrat, pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud, a felony, for stealing $12,250 in campaign contributions that he spent at hotels, restaurants and stores.

Morse had ignored earlier calls to resign but was ousted by the city’s Common Council hours after his conviction.

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis also pleaded guilty in 2014 to federal misdemeanors for failing to file personal and corporate income tax returns and refused to resign.

He was finally removed by city voters in the 2015 Democratic mayor primary.

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