To combat corruption in New York, Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr, announced last week, the formation of a unit that will focus on corruption by public officials including a hot line that will handle complaints of corruption.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, congressman Charles B. Rangel, despite having faced multiple ethical charges, was re-elected into office after what seemed a seamless race. Also known as Mr. Harlem, and having been in office since 1971, his re-election raises questions about the ethics of the city’s public officials.
After a push by Republicans, House ethics chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) last month announced that trials against Rangel will commence Nov. 15.
The battle against corruption is also being fought by the Manhattan DA, who’s motivation to open a corruption hot-line was the fact that corruption is costing tax payers money.
When people decide to file direct complaints, says Erin Duggin, public official at the Manhattan DA’s office, “those complaints will be forwarded to the assistant DA, who then revises them. They don’t become public unless charges have been pressed.”
Melanie Sloan, executive director of ‘Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’ (CREW) says the hotline implemented by the DA ‘can’t hurt’ but will only help if people are willing to go on the record.
The National Legal and Policy Center says corruption in New York has been a problem for centuries. Their website says it’s been a concern since “we gypped the Indians out of Manhattan.”
Charles Rangel has been on the ‘Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’‘s (CREW) most corrupt list since 2008 and is facing 13 ethics violations including tax fraud, inappropriate use of rent-stabilized apartments and accepting corporate-sponsored outings to the Dominican Republic.
But the list brings up questions among some of Rangel’s supporters. Democratic district leader Marion L. Bell said “I wonder how they [CREW] make that list with no official trial.”
Bell questions the validity of the accusations saying “before the primaries there was all this news about how bad it was. But afterward, there was none at all. Now that he’s been re-elected, it is interesting that the media have nothing to say.”
The district leader says the media is using their power against individuals “without having any evidence,” and added; “as far as I know it’s just Fox news making those allegations, and I don’t trust them.”
CREW’s Melanie Sloan said “the evidence against Rangel is overwhelming”, and that he should admit to his violations and work out an agreement with congress. CREW has advocated for Rangel to face consequences for his actions.
In the race against Michel Faulkner, Rangel had little to no competition, getting 79.9 percent of the vote on Tuesday. Donel Davis, who campaigned alongside Rangel said the race “was easy, it went well, there were no problems whatsoever.”
Marion Bell said “77000 votes says it all. The community has spoken, and as I recall it was a 2 to 1 win in the primaries.”
But distrust about public officials involved in corruption is still on the surface. Charles Rodney, a Rangel supporter and an engaged Harlem resident, is ambivalent about corruption charges in general. “Politicians could enter the race for all the right reasons but once they get to Washington they get told what to do. The system corrupts them. They’re not allowed to address their concerns unless their bosses approve.”
Rodney says the people will soon rise up against corruption and says “we put them in for this so [they should] stop bickering.”