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Bharara Lambasts 'Three Men In A Room' Culture In Albany, Says Voters Must Demand Change

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- One day after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said now is the time for New Yorkers to demand more from politicians.

Speaking Friday to an audience at New York Law School, Bharara talked about his office's views on public corruption.

He lambasted the notion of the "three men in a room" culture in Albany -- that the speaker, the Senate majority leader and the governor control bills and budgets that affect every New Yorker.

"Three men in a room. Is that really the way government should be run?" he said. "The decision to federally charge the speaker of the Assembly yesterday was made by more than three people in a room."

Silver, one of those "three men in a room," was arrested Thursday on federal charges that he took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks. He was released on $200,000 bail.

Bharara Lambasts 'Three Men In A Room' Culture In Albany

He vowed not to step aside as speaker, saying he would be "vindicated on the charges." If convicted, Silver faces up to 100 years in prison.

The U.S. Attorney said it is up to New York voters to be angry and demand more of their elected officials. He's hopeful that by investigating public corruption and bringing charges, there will be reform, CBS2's Andrea Grymes reported.

"When it is more likely for a New York State senator to be arrested by the authorities than to be defeated at the polls, maybe they should think about getting angry," Bharara said.

Bharara said what's needed is a sustained group effort, WCBS 880's Paul Murnane reported.

Bharara Lambasts 'Three Men In A Room' Culture In Albany

"You don't tolerate dissent because you don't have to. You don't allow debate because you don't have to. You don't favor change or foster reform because you don't have to and because the status quo always benefits you," he said.

It's impossible to overstate how much the criminal complaint against Silver has rocked the state's political establishment, but Bharara seems to be indicating there may be even more shocks down the road.

Friday's headlines speculated about headaches for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who disbanded the Moreland Commission investigating corruption before it could complete a look at Silver's finances.

"This returns the focus to the mishandling of the Moreland Commission and the reasons behind why he shut the commission down so early when it was poised to uncover these kinds of wrongdoings by Silver and others," Dick Dadey, of the good government group Citizens Union, told CBS2's Tony Aiello on Friday.

In announcing the charges against Silver on Thursday, Bharara said his office's "unfinished fight against public corruption continues," adding New Yorkers should "stay tuned." When asked by 1010 WINS' Juliet Papa if that comment meant Cuomo is under investigation, Bharara said "stay tuned was very deliberately vague. I'm not going to be more specific."

Silver is just the latest New York State lawmaker to face arrest, indictment or resignation. More than 20 have run into legal or ethical trouble in the past decade, and there's every indication the list of shamed lawmakers they keep at Citizens Union will only grow, Aiello reported.

Also on Friday, Assemblyman Michael Kearns wrote Gov. Cuomo, asking him to restart the Moreland Commission and finish the job of cleaning up Albany.

Cuomo's office had no comment, Aiello reported.


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