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Is it something in the air? Or is it just our bad luck that New York State and the City of Buffalo seem to attract more than their share of scoundrels into public service?
Not only do we get crooks and reprobates, we get charlatans like former Buffalo Common Council Member Brian C. Davis, who thought he should be spared from punishment for his thievery because of his "immense public humiliation" at the hands of the media.
Right. The media made him do it. Davis stole from the public that elected him and still fails to truly grasp that he is the cause of his humiliation.
U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny wasn't buying Davis' act and sentenced him to a year in prison. Davis did apologize for stealing $48,000 in public funds meant for local community groups, but the apology came far too late to be credible.
Timothy Wanamaker at least isn't whining about his comeuppance - or not yet, anyway. The city's former economic development chief pleaded guilty last year to billing $30,000 in personal hotel and related travel expenses on his city-issued credit card while serving as Buffalo's economic development czar from 2003 to 2008.
Wanamaker was a rising star in the administration of former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello and in that of his successor, Mayor Byron W. Brown. His sentencing has been put off four times and is now scheduled for Sept. 24.
Federal prosecutors had offered to recommend a lighter sentence if Wanamaker cooperated with their continuing probe into City Hall's use of anti-poverty funds. Last month, however, they rescinded the offer. So instead of facing a sentence of probation to six months behind bars, he now risks six to 12 months in prison.
New York State, itself, is becoming famous for the number of high government officials facing criminal charges for abusing their public positions. State Sen. Shirley Huntley, D-Queens, was arrested on criminal charges of tampering with evidence and falsifying business records last month. Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno faces a retrial on federal corruption charges.
Many others have faced their day in court, but it's not just criminal activity that is the problem. Earlier this summer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver approved a secret $103,000 payment - in public dollars - to settle a sexual harassment case against Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, D-Brooklyn.
What is perhaps most worrisome about the cases involving Davis and Wanamaker is that prosecutors aren't sure the criminality would have been uncovered but for an investigation into the unrelated case of the failed One Sunset restaurant. That suggests a gaping hole in city oversight, one that City Comptroller Mark Schroeder might usefully fill.
No one need shed any tears for Davis or Wanamaker. They held their positions because they had won the trust of the people they represented, or of an official whom those people had elected. They violated that trust. They did it with intent.
These men should have set high standards for themselves but instead, they couldn't even reach the standard of basic honesty.