A sampling of editorials from around New York

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo News on a state lawmaker facing accusations of sexual harassment from former staffers.

Dec. 23

Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak may believe he has more than a couple of options in dealing with the sexual harassment scandal that has suddenly enveloped him, but, in fact, there are just two: Issue a forceful and plausible denial or resign.

Following his lawyer’s advice, Gabryszak is saying nothing. If he is innocent, silence isn’t helping him. The allegations leveled by three former female staff members and a current staffer are detailed, shocking and repeated. If they are true — and his accusers are taking a massive personal risk if they aren’t — then they are not likely to be the end of the story.

Gabryszak has served in the Assembly for seven years. Before that, he was Cheektowaga town supervisor for 13 years. If more revelations are waiting to explode at his feet, Gabryszak can do himself and his family a tremendous service by resigning immediately and sparing everyone more excruciating details of sexual harassment and bullying.

The current staff member has just come forward. The three former staffers filed a legal complaint against Gabryszak last week. Two of them were successive communications directors for him. The first quit after being subjected to crude advances, she alleges, and the second one lasted only from spring until October when she, too, quit. She says he bombarded her with frequent and unwelcome sexual references.

The scope and persistence of the allegations would have been shocking at any time, but are especially so at a moment when state officials know they are under exceptional scrutiny. For years, newspapers have reported on sexual improprieties and other offenses by elected officials. Several officials have been forced to resign, including former Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, who had been cavorting with high-priced hookers.

And yet some officials may be impervious to facts. If the allegations are true, they suggest one of two things, and possibly both: One, the culture of entitlement in Albany is thriving. Despite all the warnings about the price of misconduct, sexual or otherwise, there are still public officials who take their election to office as license to misbehave. The rules of decent conduct, they seem to believe, do not apply once they leave home to breathe the Albany air.

The second possibility is — again, assuming the allegations to be correct — that Gabryszak’s behavior is compulsive. That wouldn’t in any way excuse the chronic abuse reported by his staff members, but it would help to explain wretched behavior that is otherwise all but inexplicable.

Lawmakers, like the rest of us, are only human, and people make mistakes. We understand that, and voters have shown a capacity to forgive occasional indiscretions. But these reports don’t qualify as mere mistakes.

With mistakes come regret and atonement — before they are exposed. They don’t happen over and over and over again. Mistakes don’t drive multiple employees out of good jobs and potentially out of lucrative careers. Mistakes don’t prompt the governor of the state to suggest, bluntly and in the offender’s backyard, that he resign.

That’s what Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recommended Saturday during a visit to Buffalo and Lackawanna. Cuomo — who, like Gabryszak, is a Democrat — was clear. Cuomo has made a mission of cleaning up Albany and said that if the allegations are true, Gabryszak should quit.

It’s the best advice the assemblyman is likely to receive these days.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/18JHgMH

The New York Post on a state comptroller’s report on employees with more than one public job cheating on timesheets.

Dec. 22

John Beale is the now infamous Environmental Protection Agency employee who pretended to be a CIA agent. As part of this ruse, he took off for long stretches at a time and traveled — often first class — at taxpayer expense. All in all, he bilked Uncle Sam out of nearly $900,000.

But it turns out you don’t need a fake CIA cover to pull a John Beale. According to a just-released audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New Yorkers, too, are getting hosed by some public employees.

The audit reviewed 345 workers at six state agencies and public authorities. It discovered that 75 held two public-sector jobs, lied about it on their timesheets and reaped double the pay.

“Dozens of public employees working for more than one public employer have managed to take advantage of lax oversight and take credit for hours they didn’t work,” DiNapoli said. “Our audits found supervisors were lax and often complicit in allowing employees to game the system.”

Like the nurse who claimed to work for both the state mental-health agency and a Bronx public school. Or the MTA track-equipment worker whose work schedule overlapped with his other job at the city Department of Environmental Protection.

What’s legal may be even worse. As The Post reported last week, a lawyer leaving the office of departing Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes will collect more than $280,000 in unused vacation pay.

Abuses happen in the private sector, too. The difference is that private companies have more incentive to stop it.

The moral of the story? The bigger the government, the bigger the opportunities for cheats.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/JaZ87D

The Daily Gazette of Schenectady on conflicts of interest involving doctors who receive payments from drug companies.

Dec. 22

One of the ways Obamacare should help bring down the high cost of prescription drugs is a requirement beginning next year, for doctors to disclose payments they have received from drug companies to promote their products.

It’s one of the many conflicts of interest that has existed in the business for decades and has almost certainly helped create demand for costly new drugs. But doctors who hear a colleague sing the praises of a new drug will be more inclined to discount the recommendation (as they should) if they know the doc has received a payoff to do so. (This isn’t to say all such recommendations are never justified, only that it’s hard to tell if money has been involved.)

Maybe because it saw the handwriting on the wall, the British drug maker Glaxo-SmithKline decided not to even wait for the new rule to take effect: It announced last week that it will simply stop paying doctors to shill for them. That way, when one doctor hears from another about a promising new drug, he won’t have to wonder whether the recommendation was legitimate or induced by a fat payment.

In other moves designed to discourage less-than-forthright marketing practices, British-based Glaxo also announced it would no longer base sales reps’ commissions on the number of prescriptions their customers — doctors — write, and that it would no longer pay for doctors to attend medical conferences. That practice was effectively banned in the United States a few years ago, but continues elsewhere. (In China, Glaxo has been accused of paying doctors to attend conferences that never even took place.)

Glaxo’s moves are considered significant because it is one of the largest of the large drug companies, and it is expected that at least some, if not all, of its competitors will follow suit. A healthy development if that happens.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/19bOjIW

The Times-Herald Record of Middletown on the U.S. government restrictions on exporting domestically produced crude oil.

Dec. 21

The United States again is one of the world’s great energy powers. On Monday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that American crude oil output will peak at nearly 10 million barrels per day by mid-decade, up from 6.5 million last year.

Last month, the International Energy Agency figured that the United States would overtake Saudi Arabia as the top oil producer, at least for a time. Yet some politicians remain unwilling to let the country reap the full benefits of this boon.

For decades, the government has imposed restrictions on exporting domestically produced crude oil but not on refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel. This arrangement seemed sensible; the country’s crude business wasn’t booming, but its refining industry was an economic powerhouse deeply embedded in world energy markets.

Now, however, new drilling techniques have resulted in a revitalization of U.S. crude production. But oil firms export only a tiny fraction of the roughly 8 million barrels they extract daily, even though the oil often isn’t the sort U.S. refineries are set up to process. Understandably, they’d like a wider market in which to sell. Last week, Exxon Mobil became the latest to call for lifting federal export restrictions. Critics responded that doing so would harm national security and consumers. They’re wrong.

It’s true that forcing U.S. crude oil producers to sell exclusively to domestic refiners translates into lower crude prices in some parts of the country. Those lower prices, though, mean fewer rewards flow to the energy-production sector, which has supported jobs and communities where few might otherwise be.

And lower crude prices in a few places don’t mean significantly lower gasoline prices for Americans. Refineries, not drivers, buy crude oil and then make it into gasoline and other products. These products trade on world markets and generally reflect the world crude price.

The big winners of the current restrictive export policy, then, are refiners who buy their crude at locked-in U.S. prices and sell their gasoline at something closer to a global price. Consumers would benefit through expanding U.S. oil production, allowing U.S. crude to go the refineries that most want it, promoting stability in the global crude oil supply and, perhaps, putting some downward pressure on global prices.

Even if prices didn’t change much, it wouldn’t matter: The government doesn’t have a compelling interest in nudging down the price of high-polluting gasoline, and certainly not through trade policies that put absurd restrictions on energy flows and hurt American producers.

If national security were in danger, the government could shut off exports. If anything, the United States’ continuing export restrictions diminish the country’s credibility when it asks other nations to adopt rational policies that rankle economic nationalists. Congress should let the country participate fully in the international oil market.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/1dAQIiQ

The New York Daily News on Congress voting to cut veterans’ benefits.

Dec. 23

In its rush to pass a budget deal, Congress voted to slice the benefits of veterans, even those who retire after suffering injuries while serving their country.

This unconscionable sneak attack on former members of the armed services was evidently inserted into the legislation by GOP House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan during talks with lead Democratic negotiator, Sen. Patty Murray. He ought to be ashamed.

The provision would cut veterans’ cost of living adjustments beginning in 2015 by $600 million a year — less than one-tenth of 1% of the $630 billion Pentagon budget. But the pain would be real. A senior enlisted service member who retired at 40 would typically lose more than $70,000 in benefit payments over the years.

Ryan’s breach of faith must be repealed in its entirety.

Confronted by widespread outrage, he insisted the cuts were a mistake — never mind that he has been a longtime proponent of making them. He said the issue “will be solved with the technical correction” when Congress returns next year.

Murray, for her part, promises a “fix” only to exempt disabled veterans. And, shamefully, there was no groundswell among either Democrats or Republicans for repeal. The best that Democrat Carl Levin, chair of the Armed Services Committee, came up with was a vow to review the matter.

To her credit, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Jeanne Shaheen offered a bill to revoke the cuts and to pay the costs by “eliminating a tax loophole for offshore corporations.”

The cuts must be revoked, not “fixed.”

Congress must act right away, so that veterans depending on their pensions to get by, and soldiers close to making a return to civilian life, do not have this uncertainty, and lack of generosity, hanging over their heads.

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Online:

http://nydn.us/1e8OBU5

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