N.Y.C. searches for remedies as corruption scandal unfolds

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Nearly every day brings a new development in New York City's corruption scandal, including this week's indictment of the former president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation for accepting a bribe. While investigations into municipal government continue, there is also an attempt to discuss ways to stem corruption. The first public hearing of the state-city Commission on Integrity in Government took place Tuesday. The slated topic was campaign financing. A number of public officials came to speak, in spite of a suggestion that the commission was a waste of time.

State Sen. Franz S. Leichter (D) of Manhattan, a longtime advocate of campaign contribution reform, sent a statement that asked why the commission was created in the first place.

``What is needed is immediate action to curb campaign contributions, and not more studies and reports,'' his statement said, referring to a report that showed the large contributions just to politicians running for the city's Board of Estimate.

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Terence Benbow, director of the Citizens Union of the City of New York, says his group does not believe the commission, which was set up by Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Mayor Edward I. Koch, is a sufficient response to the issue of the abuse of public power. ``[This abuse] in New York City is a deep-rooted and longstanding problem,'' says Mr. Benbow. ``And recent events, however dramatic, are only the latest evidence.''

Since the beginning of the year, investigations have uncovered corruption that has included bribery, forgery, conspiracy, mail fraud, racketeering, and tampering with public records.

The scandal came to public attention after the suicide attempt of Queens Borough president Donald Manes in January. It was revealed that he might have been involved in a corruption scandal at the Parking Violations Bureau (PVB). Mr. Manes killed himself in March.

But the investigation did not really break loose until March 10, when the former deputy director of the PVB, Geoffrey G. Lindenauer, pleaded guilty to federal charges in an agreement with the US Attorney in Manhattan. He then began providing information and agreed to testify against others in the PVB bribery-extortion scandal. His testimony has lead to indictments.

Tuesday's indictment of John J. McLaughlin, who headed the city's municipal hospital system, charged that he accepted a $150,000 bribe from a medical consulting firm that later received a $1 million city contract.

Up until this indictment, most of the spotlight had been on city Parking Violations Bureau. Investigators are also looking closely at the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Harrison J. Goldin, New York City comptroller, told the Commission on Integrity that public campaign financing would help eliminate the need for large donations from private contributors.

Conceding that public financing would not eliminate corruption in politics, he said it would go a long way toward restoring confidence in the political system.

After Mr. Goldin spoke, he was brought up in other testimony as one who had received large contributions from people or corporations doing business with the city.

The expanding scandal continues to beset Mayor Koch. Mr. McLaughlin is the first Koch administration appointee to be indicted on corruption charges. And a report in the New York Daily News quotes a Republican senator in Washington as saying that the corruption scandal does not help the case of Koch as he leads the battle to save such federal programs as revenue sharing.

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