Editorial: When the mayor is a felon

Originally published in The Albany Times-Union

When Cohoes Mayor Shawn Morse admitted to felony wire fraud in U.S. District Court on Aug. 20, the Cohoes Common Council moved to take him off the city payroll and swear in a replacement. But Mr. Morse may have had the right to keep his office a little longer.

There's a gray area in New York about how to treat elected officials who plead guilty in federal court. State Public Officers Law says an elected official must vacate that role if convicted of a felony. But in federal court, a conviction via a guilty plea isn't considered final until sentencing.

A guilty verdict? Yes, you're done. A guilty plea? Opinions vary.

State Sen. James Gaughran of Suffolk County is planning legislation to straighten it out, so that future felon officeholders won't be left wondering.

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