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Skelos Survives Attempted Ousting By Democrats After Arrest

ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Democrats in the New York state Senate failed Wednesday in a largely symbolic attempt to oust the chamber's Republican leader, following his arrest on federal corruption charges.

The lawmakers tried to use a procedural move Wednesday to force a vote on removing Senate Leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre.

Skelos, 67, and his son, Adam, 32, surrendered Monday to face charges that include extortion and soliciting bribes amid a federal investigation into the awarding of a $12 million contract to a company that hired his son.

``I don't think there was any point in participating in this charade,'' Sen. Michael Gianaris, D-Queens, told reporters after he left the Senate chambers. ``Let's have a vote. Let the people of New York know where you stand.''

Skelos has vowed to stay on as leader while he fights the charges, and senate Republicans have said they want to keep Skelos on as their leader. But support among his fellow Republicans appears to be wavering.

The Republican conference announced Monday that it would keep Skelos as leader; since then, however at least four of 32 GOP senators have publicly called for him to step down.

Other Republicans calling on Skelos to resign include the party's 2014 nominee for governor, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. On Wednesday, Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas Langworthy joined the list.

``Dean Skelos should resign immediately as Senate majority leader,'' Langworthy said in a statement. ``Until he does so, the dark cloud over him will be a barrier to any important work that the Senate majority needs to accomplish.''

Wednesday's attempt to oust Skelos was intended to force Republicans to go on the record as supporting Skelos. It was unlikely to succeed in ousting the veteran lawmaker because Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the Senate. But the move, and the bickering it prompted, underscore the difficulties Skelos will have leading the Senate while he fights the charges.

After Gianaris made his motion, Sen. Jack Martins, who was presiding over Wednesday's Senate session in Skelos' absence, rejected the motion because it hadn't been submitted in writing in a timely fashion. Democrats insisted that their motion was appropriate. At several points, senators began yelling over one another.

``You are out of order,'' Martins, R-Mineola, told Gianaris. ``You are obstructing our performance here.''

Skelos wasn't in the chamber during the debate. His spokeswoman said the attempt to oust him came down to politics.

``The liberal, progressive Democrats no longer believe in the presumption of innocence, and that is dangerous to all of our freedoms,'' she said.

Democrats are expected to try again to force a vote on Skelos next week.

Skelos and his son have said they are innocent.

Authorities say Skelos monetized his position by extorting money from others, including hundreds of thousands of dollars from a senior executive of a major real estate development firm who was cooperating with the government.

Dean Skelos promoted and voted for real estate legislation sought by the developer, including some pertaining to rent regulation and property tax abatements, the complaint said.

Feds have been investigating whether Skelos influenced Nassau County's decision to award the 2013 contract to Arizona-based AbTech, even though it did not submit the lowest bid for the project.

Adam Skelos worked for the company as a consultant. The complaint said AbTech, which was only identified as an "Environmental Technology Company," more than doubled its monthly payment to Adam Skelos after the $12 million contract was approved.

"Dean Skelos' support for certain infrastructure projects and legislation was often based not on what was good for his constituents or good for New York, but rather on what was good for his son's bank accounts," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

Dean Skelos allegedly pressured Nassau County to approve the contract and to expedite payments to the environmental company, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported.

In a statement, AbTech said it is cooperating with authorities and is not considered a target in the probe.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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