Over the past few days we have been witnessing a community tragedy. As painful as it is to watch unfold, we have an obligation to follow it and report on the daily developments.
We are talking about New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Greek-American. His grandfather emigrated from Greece.
He has not been particularly involved in the community, but he does have some Greek-American friends. (For the sake of transparency, I note that Skelos visited me at our offices about three years ago and afterwards we dined at a restaurant in Astoria.)
I understand that in recent years he has paid some inconspicuous visits to Greece.
Based on Long Island, Skelos built a significant political career: as Majority Leader, he is arguably the most powerful man in the state after the Governor.
However, after all his years of hard work, effort, good luck, and success, he is at risk not only of the collapse of his career, but of being sent to prison – along with his son – if convicted on the serious federal charges of corruption and extortion for which they have both been arrested.
He denies the charges and insists that he is innocent. What is the truth? It is hard to know.
The charges against him are serious. Some of the witnesses for the authorities are executives of major contractor companies.
But that may not mean anything. Perhaps they have their own reasons for testifying against Skelos.
In any case, no one should rush to judgement before the judicial process runs its course.
Meanwhile, there are calls for Skelos to resign, for example, by the New York Times, so that the work of the Legislature is not hindered. Something similar happened with the leader of the Democrats, Sheldon Silver, a few months ago.
One of the political leaders calling for Skelos’ resignation is State Senator Michael Gianaris, who considers it shameful for someone facing such serious charges to remain in office.
Whether Gianaris is right or wrong – and he is probably right – it is interesting that two Greek-Americans are in confrontation over such a serious and personal matter.
But in politics, feelings of sympathy do not count, even among family members, let alone among those belonging to the same ethnic group.
So let’s hope that when all is said and done, Dean Skelos will be found to be innocent.
Even still this is a Greek-American tragedy