Gov. Kathy Hochul accepts lieutenant governor’s resignation

Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office

On April 12, 2022, New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin surrendered himself to federal authorities in relation to bribery charges related to his run for New York City comptroller in 2021. 

Later that same day, Gov. Kathy Hochul accepted his resignation and made an announcement to reassure her constituents. 

“I have accepted Brian Benjamin’s resignation effective immediately. While the legal process plays out it is clear to both of us that he cannot continue to serve as lieutenant governor. New Yorkers deserve absolute confidence in their government and I will continue working every day to deliver for them,” Hochul said. 

Benjamin’s arrest and subsequent resignation came almost one week after the deadline for candidates to file for primary elections in New York, leaving Hochul without a running mate for the 2022 gubernatorial election. 

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Benjamin’s alleged crimes have to do with an alleged scheme in which he directed $50,000 of public funding to a real estate developer and philanthropist, Gerald Migdol. This was during his time running for New York City comptroller and was allegedly given campaign donations in return, a violation of federal law.

Benjamin is also alleged to have falsified campaign donor forms and to have provided false information on vetting forms while seeking to become lieutenant governor, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

According to the Department of Justice, Benjamin is officially charged with one count of federal program bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of conspiracy to commit those offenses, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; and two counts of falsification of records, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Some Democrats were relieved to hear of Benjamin’s quick resignation.

“I want to commend Brian Benjamin for his decision to resign from the office of lieutenant governor. In the short time that he had the privilege of serving, he did a lot of good for the people of our state,” said State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs. “My thoughts are with him and his family as he addresses the serious charges that he must now confront.”

Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will serve as an interim lieutenant governor until a new appointment is made. Stewart-Cousins has held this position before in the wake of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation and Hochul’s ascension. 

“When elected officials betray the public’s trust, our government fails to work for the very people who elected us. I am disappointed to learn of the charges brought against Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin. It was the right decision for him to resign,” Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, chair of the Committee on Ethics and Internal Governance, said on Twitter.