For some Democrats, the new federal bribery charges against Democratic Assemblyman William Boyland Jr. are a sign of widespread corruption in the Brooklyn Democratic Party establishment and signal the need for reform.
Yesterday, Boyland found himself in court again, charged with soliciting more than $250,000 in bribes and accepting thousands of dollars in exchange for official favors.
Chris McCreight, vice president of the Bay Ridge Democrats, said corruption seems to be an endemic problem in Brooklyn’s Democratic Party. “Three of the last four party chairmen have been indicted. The current chairman looks like he could be indicted. Within Brooklyn, corruption seems to be the norm rather than the exception when it comes to politicians being under investigation, especially recently.”
Other Democratic leaders said Boyland is an isolated problem.
“I think there are always bad apples, on both Democrats and Republicans. … If Boyland is found to be guilty of the charges, then he should be removed from office,” says Seamus Campbell, secretary of the Brooklyn Young Democrats.
While Campbell says it is too early to speculate on the case and its proceedings, he says the law should take its course and remove corrupt elements present in the Democratic Party.
The new charges against Boyland were brought in federal court barely two weeks after he was acquitted for separate bribery charges in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
McCreight said the new bribery charges against Boyland surprised him, but not because of the corruption.
“I am surprised in the sense that I’ve never considered the fact that somebody could be soliciting bribes to pay for the attorney for his current bribery scandal,” he said. “That seems to take it a whole new low.”
Republicans were quick to add to the criticism.
Russell Gallo, president of the Brooklyn Young Republicans, used the old adage of ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ to explain the recent spate of corruption scandals that have rocked the Democratic Party in New York.
“The Democrats in New York have pretty much enjoyed absolute power,” Gallo said. He then reeled off a list of Democratic political figures who, he charged, “have conducted business as if they were untouchable. The list of New York City Democrats that have been or will be indicted for various crimes is staggering.”
Gallo says that amongst the Democratic officials indicted, Boyland seems to be the most impudent of the lot. “William Boyland is the most audacious. Boyland is actually being accused of soliciting a bribe to pay the legal fees incurred while fighting charges of accepting bribes,” Gallo exclaims. “You can’t make this stuff up.”
Gallo says that Brooklyn’s Republicans are now “energized like never before” and expects the GOP to see good results, “not seen in years,” in the upcoming elections.
Ede Fox, founder of the Prospect Heights Democrats for Reform, said that corruption cases like these divert focus away from the constituents of the district.
“As a reform-minded Democrat, my concern is to make sure that the people’s business is being taken care of, and these events end up being a distraction,” Fox said.
Fox said such scandals impact people’s faith in the government, but also serve as a reminder for people to become more actively engaged with local politics. She said reform-minded Democratic clubs in Brooklyn have been calling for significant change in the party structure for the last couple of years.
McCreight, however, is less optimistic.
“Oh, I don’t think this will change anything. When someone gets indicted in Brooklyn or someone steps down due to a scandal, the person who comes in place is not a reformer, it’s always somebody picked from the upper echelon ranks. So, you cut off one head, and another sprouts back up.”
Who Is William Boyland Jr.?
The 41-year-old politician, who was arrested on Tuesday for federal bribery charges, is currently serving his fourth term as assemblyman in a district that includes Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and Bushwick. Boyland Jr. belongs to one of Brooklyn’s most successful political families. According to the New York Times, his father, William Boyland Sr. served as the 55th district assemblyman for two decades before Boyland Jr. won the seat in 2003. Boyland Jr.’s uncle was also a State Assembly member and his sister, Tracey, served on city council.
Boyland’s Year of Controversy:
March 10: Boyland is one of eight charged by federal persecutors for his involvement in an alleged influence-peddling scheme.
Nov. 1: Boyland’s corruption trial begins. Prosecutors allege that he struck a deal with the chief executive of a hospital, selling his political influence in exchange for about $175,000.
Nov. 10: A Manhattan jury acquits Boyland of both bribery and theft of honest service charges.
Nov. 29: New federal charges are brought against Boyland, this time for allegedly seeking bribes from undercover agents.
Boyland also claimed travel and food expenses as if he were present in Albany even though he was meeting with the undercover agents in New York City, the New York Press reports. Assembly members are allowed a $165 daily allowance, but they must be conducting official business at least 50 miles from their home district.