Monday, May 22, 2006

Case of Assemblyman Ryan Karben - Rockland County, NY

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Dems: Karben forced out amid sex probe
THE JOURNAL NEWS (Rockland County)
May 20, 2006

This case will soon be up at:

Assemblyman Ryan Karben was told several days ago that he would be subjected to an ethics probe and was given the chance to resign, according to multiple Democratic officials.

"In the last seven to 10 days, (Karben) was hauled in and told: Either resign or we start the process," one official said yesterday.

A top upstate elected Democrat yesterday confirmed that version of events.

Karben, D-Monsey, resigned abruptly Thursday morning, saying he wanted to devote more time to his family and law practice. But several Democratic sources said officials had been looking into allegations that Karben, 31, may have made unwanted sexual advances toward a male intern. The Assembly has a ban on members fraternizing with interns.

Two house Ethics Committee members said yesterday that no allegations concerning Karben ever reached the committee.

"I knew nothing about this incident at all. I was shocked as everybody," said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, a member of the panel.

The Legislature has a policy of not disclosing ethics probes until after they are closed and complaints substantiated.

Lentol said any complaint would first go to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, or Assembly Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston. Cahill could not be reached yesterday.

Silver has not commented on the abrupt resignation, but a statement issued by his spokeswoman stressed that the Assembly was committed to protecting all employees.

"I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint or an investigation," spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee said. "The Assembly has strong policies in place to protect employees. Alleged violations by members of the Assembly of these policies are investigated by the (Ethics Committee), and violators face a range of sanctions, including public censure.''

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, said he didn't know anything about an ethics complaint. When asked if he had heard rumors of Karben's alleged sexual advances before they were made public by the media, Brodsky said, "Everybody's heard rumors about everybody."

Karben did not return numerous cell phone messages and was not responding to e-mail requests for comment yesterday. There appeared to be no one home yesterday at Karben's Melaney Drive home, with an empty trash can tipped over and a newspaper lying in the driveway. Last night, the paper had been picked up, and a light was on inside the house, but no one appeared to be home.

Karben did issue an e-mail statement yesterday afternoon saying that he was grateful for the support he and his family had received.

"My family and I have been overwhelmed by the number of calls we have received from friends and from my former Assembly colleagues expressing their good wishes. My focus has, understandably, shifted from concern for a constituency of 130,000 to a constituency of four. I am forever thankful for the opportunities I have had to serve the people of my community and the great State of New York, and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead."

Karben's Rockland district office in Pearl River was locked yesterday, and his spokesman, Aaron Troodler, did not return phone messages left Thursday and yesterday.

The rumors about Karben, a practicing Orthodox Jew, shocked many in that community, where a gay lifestyle is frowned upon based on religious belief.

"Who would expect this?" Kaser Deputy Mayor Sholomo Koenig said. "It's a sad day for the religious community to see something like this involving someone from the community."

While Karben's pro-choice stance on abortion and support of gay-rights legislation made many of his religious supporters uncomfortable, several Jewish leaders had praise for him yesterday.

"I think he's a wonderful man," Rabbi Leib Tropper said. "He did a lot of good things for the community and county."

Pnina Schenk lives near Karben and said she "cannot believe such a story."

"I have a feeling it has to do with politics," she said. "Mudslinging for no reason."

Schenk said her seven children often play with Karben's daughters. The family, she said, has always been open to visitors, even if it's just to borrow cooking ingredients.

Vince Monte, Rockland Democratic Committee chairman, said the allegations against Karben are "obviously" a deterrent to his political future. If the accusations are true, Monte said he would be "quite saddened."

At Karben's Spring Valley law practice, Kurtzman Matera Gurock Scuderi & Karben, partner Howard Gurock said any decision involving Karben would be handled internally. Gurock said yesterday that he had not talked to Karben about the allegations and that he hadn't seen Karben in the office all day.
But one thing that is certain is that Karben's Assembly seat will remain deserted at least until Election Day. Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said yesterday that there would not be a special election to fill Karben's vacancy. The state Public Officer's Law, he said, prohibits special elections after April 1 in the second year of an Assembly or Senate member's term. Karben was to have been up for re-election this year.

"Unfortunately there's going to be an empty seat there until after November," Daghlian said.


Anonymous Shalom Atlas said...

If you've been following the other similar cases, the allegations often bring a wave of support from people who don't want to believe. Unfortunately, in most of the cases (and from what I've read the same will happen with Karben) when enough material finally gets out their will be an admission. I know we want to show support for our friends but in the case of a public figure our standards have to be very high.

May 25, 2006 1:06 AM  

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