By DAVID KLEPPER
ALBANY (AP) - The new leader of the New York state Assembly promised to focus on ethics and integrity after colleagues elected him Tuesday as the first African-American speaker, replacing a lawmaker whose two-decade reign ended with federal corruption charges.
Democrat Carl Heastie vowed to create a new office of ethics compliance and take other steps to clean up Albany’s tradition of corruption and backroom dealing.
“We will change the cynicism into trust,” Heastie said. “Our state deserves a government as good as its people.”
Sheldon Silver, who held the speakership for 21 years, is charged with taking nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks. The Manhattan Democrat has said he expects to be exonerated and intends to keep his seat in the Assembly. Silver attended Tuesday’s session, casting a vote for Heastie from his new desk in the Assembly’s back row.
Democrats hold a more than two-thirds majority in the chamber, and Heastie easily won the post over Republican Minority Leader Brian Kolb.