Monserrate must go

Diane J. Savino

January 22, 2010

By Staten Island Advance Editorial
January 22, 2010, 10:59AM

Given the go-along-to-get-along, ethics-free culture that prevails in the state Legislature, you might have expected that Democrats in the big top known as the New York State Senate would close ranks around an embattled colleague and start mumbling excuses for him . . . or ducking questions about him altogether.

     After all, the Democrats are desperately trying to hold onto a razor-thin, one-vote majority that, according to Albany rules, allows them to ride roughshod over the Republican minority. That was the core issue in last June’s “coup” fiasco.

    But once in a blue moon, state legislators surprise us by actually doing the right thing, instead of the politically advantageous thing.

    This week, a special Senate committee recommended that state Sen. Hiram Monserrate be censured or even expelled from the Senate for his atrocious, abusive behavior toward his girl-friend in December, 2008, in his Queens home.

     The woman, Karla Giraldo, suffered several gashes in her face, apparently the result of being slashed with a bottle. Immediately afterward, Ms. Giraldo told medical staffers at a Queens hospital that Mr. Monserrate had attacked her in his apartment.

    Then, there was also surveillance video of Mr. Monserrate dragging Ms. Giraldo by the hair across the lobby of his apartment complex.

    Somehow, in the days and weeks following the incident, Ms. Giraldo backed Mr. Monserrate’s preposterous claim that her facial injuries were the result of an “accident.”

    In court, the lawmaker was found guilty of a misdemeanor charge for dragging Ms. Giraldo, apparently in an attempt to get her away from his house and distance himself from the ugly episode. However, the presiding judge somehow rationalized an acquittal on a felony charge. Had he been convicted of a felony, he would have automatically lost his seat in the Legislature.

    A less shameless elected official might realize that it was time to go in any case, but not Hiram Monserrate. He vows to stay on, threatens to sue his colleagues and says he’ll refuse to quit the Senate if they move to oust him.

    His attorney, the peripatetic Joseph Tacopina, insists fellow lawmakers have no authority to expel their disgraced colleague under the state constitution and the committee’s report is “biased” and “self-serving.”

    And Sen. Monserrate, true to form, claims, without batting an eye, that the ordeal has made him more sensitive to the issue of domestic abuse.

    However, it seems a good many of his colleagues are undeterred in their determination to rid their already suspect chamber of this goon.

    The committee, which consists of five Democrats, including Sen. Diane Savino, and four Republicans, including Sen. Andrew Lanza, wrote in its damning report that Sen. Monserrate’s behavior that night, taken together, “damages the integrity and the reputation of the New York State Senate and demonstrates a lack of fitness to serve in this body.”

    Sen. Savino heartily agrees with the report, to her credit. She says that if the motion to expel Mr. Monserrate makes it to the Senate floor, she’ll vote in favor of it. She says the combination of Ms. Giraldo’s injuries and the documented facts in the case don’t allow for any lesser punishment.

    Similarly, Mr. Lanza, said Mr. Monserrate’s behavior is “very troubling,” but wouldn’t commit himself on the issue of expulsion, although he said he’s “leaning” in favor of it.

    We don’t think there’s anything more to weigh here. As Ms. Savino said, the facts speak for themselves and cannot be denied or fudged to make his behavior any less despicable. A person like this doesn’t belong in elective office, even in Albany.

    We hope Sens. Savino and Lanza will prevail on their colleagues to force Senate Democratic leader John Sampson to bring the issue to the floor for a vote and let the legal chips fall where they may. Mr. Monserrate must go.

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