ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A state senator and his predecessor are facing felony charges they violated election law, the latest allegations in a state that has seen a rash of corruption arrests.
Republican Sen. Robert Ortt, of Niagara County, pleaded not guilty Thursday in Albany to charges that, as mayor of North Tonawanda, he arranged for a no-show job for his wife to pad his salary. Prosecutors say Ortt's wife received $21,000 over four years, but she has not been charged with a crime.
Meanwhile, Ortt's predecessor, Republican former Sen. George Maziarz, pleaded not guilty to charges that he used campaign money to secretly pay an ex-staffer accused of sexual harassment. Prosecutors say the money passed through a public relations firm so the payments would not become publicly known.
Prosecutors with Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office say that in both cases money was funneled through the same public relations firm.
The bipartisan Board of Elections referred the case to Schneiderman, who said Thursday that no-show jobs and secret payments are "the lifeblood of public corruption."
"New Yorkers deserve full and honest disclosures by their elected officials, not the graft and shadowy payments uncovered by our investigation," Schneiderman said. "These allegations represent a shameful breach of the public trust — and we will hold those responsible to account."
Ortt dismissed the charges as politically motivated and said he has no plans to resign.
"We look forward to telling voters the truth about Eric Schneiderman and exposing him for the power hungry political opportunist he is, and I will fight this ridiculous charge," he said.
Attorney Joseph M. LaTona, representing Maziarz, said his client is innocent.
"We look forward to full vindication," he said.
Ortt won the seat in 2014 following Maziarz's announcement that he would retire after holding the post for nearly two decades.