Federal prosecutors charged New York State Assemblyman Joseph Errigo, a Republican representing Conesus, with federal bribery and fraud charges on Oct. 10. This scandal has affected the campus community in terms of voting come Nov. 6.
The charges against Errigo could lead to a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the 80-year-old Assemblyman, according to the United States District Attorney’s Office.
This announcement came after Errigo allegedly accepted $5,500 from a lobbyist to introduce legislation that would bypass some of the municipal power over a development project and grant the state Department of Transportation more power, according to a press conference from the United States Attorney’s office.
The charges are a result of an FBI investigation into a separate Assembly member who had an ‘“unusually close relationship”’ with a lobbyist, according to the press conference.
Allegedly, the incident goes back to September of 2017 when a lobbyist and another individual met to arrange a payment to another assemblyman, but paid Errigo so as to not have it traced back to the other official, the Attorney’s office said.
They wanted to pay the officials to introduce a bill to reduce the interference of the Rochester City Government in a transportation project.
Later that month, the other individual gave the lobbyist two envelopes totaling $3,000 which were later given to Errigo at his Pittsford office, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“[Following the bribe, Errigo introduced bill A10227 in March which would have allowed the Department of Transportation] to approve or disapprove of any zoning incentives or bonuses, as approved by a town board pursuant to the town law, for any property which abuts a highway under the jurisdiction of the department,”’ according to The Livingston County News.
The bill never made it out of committee, however. Two days later in April, the bribe payer met with Errigo again to give him two more envelopes, each containing $1,500 and $2,000 respectively, during which the FBI photographed the person dropping off the cash, according to The Livingston County News.
After an FBI interview in May of 2018, Errigo confessed to accepting the bribes and will now face charges in court.
He represents all of Livingston County and parts of Monroe and Steuben Counties. This comes just a few months after representative Chris Collins, a Republican who represents Geneseo in the House, was indicted on insider trading charges.
This trend has Geneseo students, including history major junior Joseph Heimann, and faculty questioning the trustworthiness of government officials as well as the voting procedure.
“Even though a majority of politicians are corrupt there are still some that are not,” Heimann said.
“I’d rather [do some research to] put someone in office that isn’t that corrupt.”
This sentiment was also echoed by political science professor Joshua Reichardt who suggests that elections are the key to regulating this kind of behavior of those in office.
“I’m hoping it’s not the new norm,” Reichardt said. “If they lose their elections ... and these corrupt politicians are thrown out of office, that sends a good message that the system is working.”
Reichardt reiterated that the only way to completely prevent this from happening is to vote out corrupt politicians and that the system only works if people come out to vote.
Reichardt also suggests that this scandal would not do much to upset the balance of power in New York State politics because Democrats already have a solid majority in the Assembly; therefore, the power balance will remain the same.
As for the Republican base, Reichardt also says that they will likely stay the same, with few Republicans possibly choosing to not vote rather than vote for Errigo while the opposition is likely to be more energized to vote.