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Upstate GOP Lawmaker Indicted on Felony Charges; Pleads Not Guilty

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On Thursday March 24, in Albany County Court State Senator Robert Ortt of Niagara County was indicted on an eight-count felony charge. The Republican legislator allegedly arranged a $21,500 paying no-show job for his wife, before he became a senator. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement., “New Yorkers deserve full and honest disclosures by their elected officials — not the graft and shadowy payments uncovered by our investigation. These allegations represent a shameful breach of the public trust.” Also indicted was former Sen. George Maziarz, whom Ortt replaces.  Maziarz is charged with covering up $95,000 in secret campaign-cash payments to an ex-staff member. Ortt, who  was also a previous  mayor in North Tonawanda near Niagara Falls, faces three counts of offering a false instrument for filing. Maziarz faces five counts of that charge, a low-level E felony.

As reported by NY1 News, Ortt’s indictment comes at a time when the balance of power in Albany is hanging on a thread. Republicans hold the Senate majority by just one seat. Even that fragile hold depends on the alliance of state Senator Simcha Felder, who is actually a Democrat. “I am saddened and I am sickened at the ridiculous, baseless charges that have been put against me by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman,” said Sen. Ortt . “I have no doubt the only reason I am part of this case, part of this investigation is to make it more appealing and to further Eric Schneiderman’s partisan agenda.”

For the time being, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is standing by Ortt. “Absolutely,” said Flanagan. “I believe in our system of jurisprudence. And I have great faith in Rob Ortt. He’s been a good friend and a good colleague.” Mainline Senate Democratsstopped short of calling on Ortt to resign his seat. “I’m sure he is going to be back here next week. And the primary thing I’m concerned about are the people we represent and getting the New York State budget done in a timely fashion,” Flanagan said. Lawmakers are currently busy at work trying to craft a state budget by the end of next week. Many GOP insiders are confident that the charges against Ortt will not affect the critical timeline, or change the number of votes they have for the budget.

By:  Hadassa Kalatizadeh

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