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October 2, 2014

You wanna play games? You wanna play rough? Ok, well, say hello to my little friend … the per diem.

No, this wasn’t the crime of the century – notwithstanding the headline: “Queens Assemblyman Charged with 23 Felonies.”

Mr. Scarborough’s expense reports were padded – to the tune of about 8k a year over five years, according to the AG and the feds. If there’s a trial, Mr. Scarborough’s attorney will say that the so-called padding involved legitimate expenses for which the client simply lacks adequate documentation. He lost a receipt here. He lost a train ticket stub there. That doesn’t mean the travel wasn’t warranted or the expenses weren’t real.

And as for the part about using 40k in campaign funds for personal purposes, the attorney, E. Stewart Jones, well, he rips that apart. Scarborough’s use of the money is paralleled by a hundred other lawmakers’ similar expenditures that, of course, are linked in some way to the campaign. This is a case of selective prosecution.

In this way, the Scarborough cases gets muddled quickly. But – to channel PB – this conduct is disgusting and should be changed.

In this regard, how (euphemism) non-responsive could Mr. Scarborough be to do what he did knowing that everything was under review?

The Assembly was warning its members for years to be careful on per diem matters. Its goes back to ‘06 when AG Andrew Cuomo investigated the lawmakers for member items. He extracted a promise from Shelly Silver that the Assembly would tighten up financial controls across the board.

How (euphemism) non-responsive could Mr. Silver be not to have done more to police the situation? Is it really that hard for his staff to require proper documentation for reimbursement of expenses?

And why did it require the Moreland Commission to come up with this information? That’s right. This case came from Moreland. There’ll be other similar cases coming soon. This is the denouement of the broader controversy. Moreland findings have been referred to authorities who will make several cases – each of which should be made, but none of which will be profound.

Technically, this is “corruption” that is being uncovered. But it also borders on the trivial. How many truck drivers and traveling salesmen have sloppy record keeping for their expense accounts? How many have padded a report?

The bigger question that we’ll all being asking for the foreseeable future is: When will lawmakers stop being so non-responsive?

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