Thursday, November 12, 2009

Judge Not...

In what is a departure from the bulk of the commentariat, Errol Louis of the NY Daily News believes that the state senate should cease and desist in its judgment action against Senator Hiram Monserrate: "Don't be fooled by the moral posturing going on in Albany, where a "special committee of inquiry" of senators has begun investigating the domestic violence case of their colleague, Sen. Hiram Monserrate. The panel is nothing more than a political kangaroo court, one that typifies the arrogance and conflicts of interest that are standard operating procedure in the state capital."

Louis feels that Monsrrate, having been acquitted of the more serious felonies involved in his case, should be next judged by the voters of his district: "Monserrate was convicted of misdemeanor assault and could spend up to a year in jail when he's sentenced next month. That should be the last word on the case, one that would give Queens voters something to think about when Monserrate stands for reelection in 2010."

Instead, Louis finds that the senate is setting up a farcical venue-one rife with conflicts of interest: "Several of the senators sitting in judgment over Monserrate have conflicts as well. One member of the committee, Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, is the mother (and client) of Evan Stavisky, whose Parkside Group political consulting firm is working for Assemblyman José Peralta, the pol running against Monserrate. Another senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has told the press that calls for Monserrate to resign were "appropriate," suggesting she's already made up her mind. "It's breathtakingly stupid for these members to get involved in this kind of conflict of interest," says David Grandeau, a consultant who spent 13 years as top ethics watchdog as chairman of the Temporary Commission on Lobbying."

Making matters worse, is the structure of the committee-as well as the question of of its jurisdiction over an incident that occurred before Monserrate had even been sworn in as a senator:

"Unfortunately, the Senate leadership is not content to let the court system and elections function as designed. Instead, they have cobbled together an inquiry process, which could lead to a vote to censure Monserrate or remove him from the Senate. Every pol involved in this farce should be ashamed of themselves, particularly the senators who are lawyers. Start with the fact that the whole ugly incident took place before Monserrate was sworn in as a state senator, raising the question of why the Senate has any jurisdiction over the matter at all. Instead of activating the mostly dormant Senate Ethics Committee, or the Legislative Ethics Commission, the Senate concocted a new panel, one with no set rules of what evidence can be admitted and what procedures will be followed. Unlike a court of law, there will be no neutral judge supervising the proceedings to make sure all constitutional rights are protected."

Now in our view-and we have watched as a laundry list of ethical and financial violations by Congressman Rangel have gone uncriticized by any of his fellow New York lawmakers-Louis is right, and the voters ought to be the final judge of this matter. And let's not forget that almost the entire Queens political establishment has lined up against Hiram; so his re-election next year will be a real challenge for the maverick pol.

But, if the voters decide that they still want Monserrate to represent their interests-and he is one elected official who has been unafraid to advocate on behalf of those who are less powerful, and do so forcefully-than the matter should rest there. Because, while much of the outcry over the Monserrate incident is righteously related to the nature of the offense he was charged with-as well as the accompanying video-there is also an element of the, "Monserrate should be removed," crowd that is lining up precisely because of how he has irritated the powers that be.

We understand fully, and find abhorrent, any incident of violence against either woman or children. And Monserrate needs to demonstrate that he understands this as well-and why there has been so much of a hue and cry over this incident with a woman he has told the world that he cares deeply about. But, that being said, we live in a country of second chances-and redemption should be a possibility if the person involved understands why his behavior has caused such pain-and seeks to rectify the actions and dedicate himself anew to becoming a better person. There is much good that Hiram can still do-and it should be up to the voters of the 13th Senatorial district to decide if they want him to continue to represent them.