Here's an interesting ethics challenge. Pretend you're a state senator. You've got a long agenda you want to accomplish. At minimum, you have to keep the state running in a semi-orderly manner. But everything's in chaos and to impose even the slightest control you have to win the loyalty of a guy who's been indicted on a charge of slashing his girlfriend.
That's the situation in Albany. And the answer, as every political junkie knows, is that both the Republicans and the Democrats at different points this year have gone with the accused slasher.
Today the Daily News reports that Hiram Monserrate - whose girlfriend was treated for injuries around her left eye that required 20-40 stitches - has been put back in charge of the Consumer Protection Committee, a job that carries a $12,500 stipend. The chairmanship was suspended in March after Monserrate was indicted.
Back then, Monserrate was shunned by most of his fellow senators, particularly the women. What's different now is that the Democrats need him more.
Even without the shocking addition of domestic violence charges, the Queens Democrat is not someone you'd want representing your caucus. He bolted from the party in June, along with the infamous Pedro Espada of the Bronx, giving the Republicans momentary control. His explanation at the time was that he wanted to push forward his reform agenda. Central in this supposed agenda was improving the rent stabilization rules to protect tenants. Interesting that his political partner, Espada, was the very Democrat who had been working with the landlords to keep any tenant protection bills from getting to the floor for a vote.
If convicted of a felony, Monserrate would be expelled from the Senate. He's been telling his fellow senators that he'll be cleared - his girlfriend is supporting his claim that it was all an accident that occurred when he tripped while carrying a glass of water. And broke the glass. And fell against her eye. After an argument.
Monserrate was only elected to the Senate last November. So, since he's been there, his record consists of pursuing his agenda of tenants rights by defecting to the Republican with the champion of the landlords. Plus a domestic violence indictment. And when the Democrats came back into power this month, there was Hiram Monserrate at the press conference, one of the people chosen to speak on behalf of the new coalition. And now, the chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee.