By Peter Szekely
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York state senator was charged on Thursday with secretly padding his salary when he served as an upstate mayor, while his predecessor in the senate seat was accused of devising a scheme to secretly maintain payments to a disgraced former staffer.
State Sen. Robert Ortt and his predecessor George Maziarz pleaded not guilty in Albany County Court to a combined total of eight charges in an indictment brought by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, that was unsealed on Thursday.
"No-show jobs and secret payments are the lifeblood of public corruption," Schneiderman said in a statement. "These allegations represent a shameful breach of the public trust — and we will hold those responsible to account."
As mayor of North Tonawanda in western New York from 2010 to 2014, Ortt, a Republican, installed his wife in a no-show job at $5,000 a year to make up for a pay cut he took when he left his job as town clerk/treasurer to run for mayor, prosecutors said.
Payments from the local Republican committee totalling $21,500 over the period were funneled to her through a public relations firm and a former state Senate aide, and were falsely reported to the state Board of Elections, they said.
While Maziarz, also a Republican, held the same state Senate seat, he used the same public relations firm to funnel payments from his election committee and the Niagara County Republican Committee to a former Senate staffer who had left his job in the wake of sexual harassment charges, prosecutors said.
After the former aide was secretly paid $49,000 in 2012 and $46,000 in 2013-14, prosecutors said Maziarz falsely reported the true nature of the payments to the state Board of Elections.
Maziarz represented his district, which spans the southern shore of Lake Ontario west of Rochester, for 10 years before Ortt took office in 2015. A spokesman for Scheiderman, a Democrat, noted that the cases were referred to him by the bipartisan Board of Elections.
A lawyer for Maziarz could not immediately be reached and a person answering the phone at Ortt's lawyer's office said he would have no comment.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Andrew Hay)