State Sen. Robert Ortt believes that he has been the victim of an overly politically ambitious state attorney general determined to further his career by subjecting the senator to what he calls “baseless charges.”
But Ortt still owes his constituents an explanation of the events that began in 2010 and came to light a few months ago when he was charged with three felony corruption counts.
Albany County Judge Peter Lynch dropped the case Tuesday on the premise that there was “no valid line of reasoning and permissible inferences which could lead a rational grand jury” to issue the indictment.
Ortt declared victory, saying State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman had been exposed as the “power hungry, political opportunist that he is.”
A Schneiderman spokeswoman said, “Only in Albany would a senator argue that receiving money for a politically connected, no-show job isn’t a crime.”
Schneiderman alleged that then-Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek arranged for a private company to hire Ortt’s wife for a $500-a-month no-show job in 2010. The money, according to Schneiderman, was to compensate Ortt for taking a pay cut to run for mayor of North Tonawanda.
Meghan Ortt, a graphics designer, received $21,500 from 2010 to 2014. According to court papers, the Niagara County GOP provided the money to pay Meghan Ortt.
The judge noted that there was evidence supporting claims of the arrangement but dropped the charges, which involved offering a false instrument for filing, because, “There is nothing in the record to evidence that defendant Ortt personally prepared, signed or filed the disclosure reports.”
Ortt had been indicted along with former State Sen. George D. Maziarz as part of the state attorney general’s campaign finance investigation in Niagara County. The judge did not dismiss charges against Maziarz, and his trial is due to commence on Aug. 21.
Albany has an appalling, well-deserved reputation for corruption. Evidence of a no-show job paid for with political funds is not surprising, but it is disheartening.
While Ortt should be relieved that the charges were dropped, he is hardly vindicated. He owes voters in his district an honest account of what went on.