Putnam County Sheriff Donald Smith released a statement about now-former Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Patterson, and his legal problems, emphasizing that he had no independent confirmation of Leibell’s pending plea agreement and had not been in contact with federal authorities on the matter. Smith, former deputy county executive for now-outgoing Putnam County Executive Robert Bondi, was elected sheriff in 2001.
Leibell, a state senator for nearly 16 years, was elected Putnam County executive last month but will not be taking office. He resigned his Senate seat this week, weeks before the two-year term ends.
Here is what Smith, a Republican, had to say:
I am making this statement regarding published media reports appearing today concerning State Senator Vincent Leibell’s plea bargain agreement with federal authorities on alleged public corruption charges. I must emphasize that the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office has received no official notification from federal authorities either confirming or denying the accuracy of those published reports, and that I make this statement based solely on the media reports.
Assuming that the reports published today by area media outlets are accurate, then today is indeed a very sad day for the people of Putnam County, the residents of Senator Leibell’s senate district and all New Yorkers. On a personal level, I am deeply disappointed. I am sure that my late father, Donald B. Smith, would have been profoundly saddened by these events too, because he knew Mr. Leibell in the Senator’s youth and always expressed high hopes that he would use his talents to accomplish much for our citizens.
Our people have a fundamental right to integrity in government. They should expect and receive nothing less. When a public official abuses his office, he drains the reservoir of public trust upon which our government institutions depend. This represents yet another sad case of how the corrupting influence of the political culture in Albany can ruin some people.
But even as the reports concerning the federal case against the Senator disturb and sadden us, this event signals the end of a dark era in Putnam politics and the beginning of an era of opportunity for better government—honest, fair, open and good government. From that perspective, this terrible day had to come.
We citizens and public servants should take no delight in the ordeal that Senator Leibell and his family are reportedly facing now. Rather, if the reports are accurate, we must hope that he will accept full responsibility for his actions with repentance and make amends for any misdeeds. Everyone has a life to live and a purpose in life to be realized. Looking ahead into Senator Leibell’s future, we should hope and pray that he will experience rehabilitation, forgiveness and redemption and then use his considerable talents to help others. We are concerned about and pray for his family, and wish the best for them.