2010-02-05 / Editorial/Opinion
It’s Time For An Investigation
There have been many disquieting stories about State Senator Malcolm Smith, who serves as both the Senate’s President and our representative to the legislative body. Any one of the stories, taken alone, should be enough to spark a state ethics investigation. Taken together, they reveal a picture of greed and unethical behavior that surely should trigger an investigation. However, our state ethics laws are so skewered toward protecting the wrongdoers, that such an investigation is anything but certain. Just two weeks ago, Smith’s earmark of $100,000 for the Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a charter school he founded and to which he maintains strong ties, came into question, as did his push to pass a state law that would allow double the number of charter schools in New York City. Tied to those questions is the growing belief that Beach Channel High School is being closed primarily to clear the room for another Smith-founded charter school, this one a high school to accommodate his PPA students once they graduate from the middle school. On the heels of those questions came allegations from a national group that recently filed a state ethics charge against Smith in connection with a non-profit organization that he and Congressman Gregory Meeks founded in 2001. Two of the original board members for that non-profit were Smith’s wife and the wife of a former business partner, Darryl Green, who had been convicted in 2004 of stealing money from those who purchased his expertise about minority hiring. Green is also a partner with former Congressman Floyd Flake in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group, which was just awarded a multi-million dollar contract from the Senate and the Governor to run a gambling Racino at Aqueduct Racetrack. Smith worked for Flake and remains a close friend. In addition, Smith, Meeks and City Councilman James Sanders Jr. brokered a deal that required the developer of a huge cargo facility on Rockaway Turnpike to provide $250,000 for community development in southeastern Queens. That money was given to the non-profit started by Smith and Meeks, reportedly on Smith’s “suggestion.” Records show the money going in, but little coming back to the community. The Aqueduct deal also raises red flags because the Flake group was not the highest bidder. In fact, all three incidents raise red flags and indicate that an investigation is due and due soon.