Mayor signs bill barring certain convicted felons from running for city office

Mayor Bill de Blasio signs a package of legislation on Thursday, Feb. 25.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday signed into a law a package of bills, one of which was introduced by Bay Ridge Councilman Justin Brannan to prevent felons convicted of betraying the public trust from running for city office again.

Such a bill would disqualify people like former state Senator and City Councilmember Hiram Monserrate — a twice-disgraced ex-lawmaker from Queens still seeking public office — from running for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, or city council. 

While Monserrate comes to mind for many, the bill’s prime sponsor said his legislation is about more than just one problematic pol.

“We no longer have the time for our elected officials who use a position of power to bankroll themselves to enrich their friends or to engage in wrongful dealings on the taxpayer dime, get caught, and then come back looking for more,” said Brannan.

The bill, Brannan told Brooklyn Paper, comes at a particularly good time.

“Trust in government is at an all-time low, and the city is tasked with recovering from multiple crises. Now more than ever, we need elected officials who are committed to serving the people of New York City,” he said. “I’m thrilled that my legislation will keep corrupt former officials out of office, protecting taxpayer dollars and upholding high standards for elected officials. Our message is clear: those who wish to abuse the public trust do not belong in office in NYC, and you don’t get a second chance to betray New Yorkers.”

In 2009, Monserrate was expelled from the state Senate for assaulting his girlfriend using a broken bottle as a weapon. He then served two years after a felony conviction on conspiracy and mail fraud charges for misusing $100,000 in Council grants to fund a political campaign for the Senate. In 2017, Monserrate attempted to retake his old Council seat in northeast Queens, and just last month, filed to try again.

The new law would also prevent ex-Assemblymember Pamela Harris — who represented a part of Brannan’s district in Albany from 2015 to 2018 — from seeking a city office. Harris was sentenced to six months in federal prison in 2018 for misusing public funds.

Brannan’s bill, however, does not end potential careers of anyone who was convicted of a crime and served their sentence — rather, it sets the bar higher for former lawmakers who knowingly deceived their constituents and betrayed their oaths to serve.

“To be clear, this is not about disqualifying those who have committed just any crime. Those who have committed crimes in their personal past and have paid their debt back to society in whatever form should have the opportunity to serve our city, no question,” he said. “We’re not trying to broadly deny anyone a second chance. Of course I believe in redemption and second chances, but no one should be given a second chance at betraying the public trust as an elected official.”

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.