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Corruption prosecutor Bharara to deliver ethics speech to state mayors group in Albany

ALBANY – Preet Bharara is coming into the belly of the beast.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has spent several years prosecuting corrupt state officials, is coming to Albany next month for a speech on ethics.

Bharara will give a noontime address Feb. 8 at a meeting of the New York Conference of Mayors in a hotel ballroom a block away from the State Capitol. The Manhattan-based federal prosecutor has targeted wrongdoing at the Capitol, and the notches on his belt include the convictions last month of former Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

The Conference of Mayors, which represents city and village governments, asked Bharara to attend its winter meeting. It comes after a recent appearance by Bharara to discuss ethics issues with Republicans and Democrats in the Kentucky State Legislature.

Peter A. Baynes, executive director of the conference, said that nearly all of the group’s meetings include sessions on ethics training. “It’s certainly something that is deserving of more attention than ever,” said Baynes, a veteran of lobbying for local government issues.

Asked what he hopes will come of the session with Bharara, Baynes said, “I hope that he can provide some lessons learned to our members about ethics, the appearances of impropriety, conflicts of interests and how to treat ethics as the No. 1 priority of government officials.”

The visit by the federal prosecutor, first reported Tuesday morning by Gannett’s Albany bureau, comes after Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, R-Canandaigua, had his invitation for Bharara to come to Albany turned down; Bharara did not want to appear before a strictly partisan group.

Later in the afternoon, Bharara will speak again about government ethics at an event hosted by WAMC, an Albany-based public radio station.