CALL FOR DISCLOSURE IN SENATE CONTEST

Democrat Luke Martland urges Breslin to say how much his legal work pays

JORDAN CARLEO-EVANGELIST STAFF WRITER
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B1

Date: Tuesday, May 4, 2010

ALBANY -- Democratic state Senate candidate Luke Martland called on seven-term incumbent Neil Breslin to disclose the identities of his private law clients and reveal how much he's making from the private sector.


Martland, 47, made the call Monday while releasing his own 2009 tax returns and vowing to do so every year if he is elected.


Breslin responded by saying that he scrupulously avoids conflicts of interest but firmly believes the type of legal work he does -- mostly wills, estate matters and closings -- is private.


"I absolutely do not do any legal business with people who have business with the legislature," Breslin said. "I think people's perception, for the kind of law I practice, is that it's a private matter."


In addition to holding his Senate job, Breslin works as an attorney for the Albany law firm Hiscock & Barclay.


Breslin, 67, also noted that, earlier this year, he released a complete copy of his state-mandated financial disclosure form to the Times Union. It was part of a survey of the entire Legislature by the newspaper.


While that form does not disclose exactly how much the senator makes in return for his private legal work, it pegged the figure at between $20,000 and $60,000 on top of his $104,000-a-year legislative salary.


The documents released Monday by Martland, an attorney from Albany, reveal that he earned just shy of $123,000 last year in his job as a counsel to Democratic Gov. David Paterson. He quit the post earlier this year to run full-time for Senate.


Martland, who says the incumbent is vulnerable because of his ties to a Legislature widely viewed as dysfunctional, is one of two Democrats who have said they will primary Breslin this fall. The other is Albany resident Tim Carney.


"I think that the voters have a right to know what a candidate makes and what that candidate's job is, and they have a right to know what a senator makes in an outside job and whether there's any conflict of interest," Martland said.


While Martland stopped short of saying the Legislature should be made a full-time job, he has promised not to do outside work if elected.


Lawmakers' outside sources of income have come under sharper scrutiny in the wake of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno's conviction on federal charges that he used his elected position to enrich himself through private consulting work.


Throughout, Bruno maintained that because the Legislature is a part-time job, he had a right to earn a living.


"His defense was basically, that's the way Albany runs," Martland said, "and that's the problem."


Martland also called on Breslin to release his time records to show how much of his attention has been devoted to private law practice while the Legislature is still wrangling with the governor's office to produce a budget, now more than a month overdue.


Breslin countered that he spends 70 hours a week in his Senate office -- including both days this weekend -- and hasn't visited his private office on Beaver Street, other than to pick up his mail, in over a month.


"I strongly believe in public service," he said, "and I made a lot more as a lawyer before I came here."


The executive committee of the Albany County Democratic Committee has unanimously endorsed Breslin for re-election, but a full vote of the committee's 600-plus members won't come until May 20.


Jordan Carleo-Evangelist can be reached at 454-5445 or by e-mail at jcarleo-evangelist@timesunion.com.


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