Monday, May 01, 2006

Case of Ryan Scott Karben - New York Assemblyman

Case of Ryan Scott Karben 
(AKA: Ryan Karben)

New York Assemblyman - Rockland County, NY
Student, Yeshiva University - Washington Heights, NY
Columbia University School of Law (Graduated in 1999) - New York, NY
Executive Editor of The Commentator - Yeshiva University
Chairman of the Student Affairs Committee - Yeshiva University
Law Offices of Ryan Scott Karben - Pomona, New York 

Charged with abuse of a minor or helpless person, violence against a minor or helpless person causing palpable injury, and violence against a minor or helpless person causing severe injury. Two of the three charges carry a maximum sentence of nine years in jail. 

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Table of Contents:

  1. Karben Enjoying His Victory 
  2. Rabbi Mordecai Tendler Files Libel Suit in Rabbinical Court (03/01/2006)
  3. Ryan's Biography  (05/01/2006)
  4. Ryan Karben - Timeline
  5. Rockland lawmakers try to tighten legislation against sexual predators  (08/03/2005)
  6. Albany: State Assemblyman Resigns (05/19/2006)
  7. Pol in sex probe quits (05/19/2006)
  8. 'Gay Sex Harass' Shocker for Poll  (05/19/2006)
  9. Karben's resignation shocks, raises questions (05/19/2006) 
  10. Sexual harass reports surface (05/20/2006)
  11. Dems: Karben forced out amid sex probe (05/20/2006) 
  12. 'Grope' Pol's Public Panting (05/20/2006)
  13. Flirt Pol's Choice: Quit or Face Heat  (05/20/2006)
  14. Political star fades as scandal ignites (05/21/2006)
  15. Karben's name removed from law firm's signs (05/21/2006)
  16. 'Gay' Pol is Barred - Gets Law-Firm Boot (05/23/2006)
  17. Karben exits Spring Valley law firm, stays out of view (05/23/2006)
  18. Karben says little about allegations (05/24/2006)
  19. Karben out of character  (05/25/2006)
  20. The Karben case (05/28/2006)
  21. Albany just can't keep its pants on  (05/29/2006)

  1. Legislators Gone Wild (05/07/2007)

  1. Karben Hot Dogs At Union Road Opening (07/30/2010)

  1. Lawmaker Is Censured Over Sexual Harassment (08/25/2012)
  2. Law Offices of Ryan Scott Karben

Also see:
  1. Case of Charles Kushner
  2. Case of Michael Koval
  3. Case of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler
  4. Case of Kenneth Gribetz   

Karben Enjoying His Victory
The YU Commentator (Vol. 62, Issue 6)

Ryan Karben (2005)
On November 4, 1997, former YU student and Executive Editor of the Commentator, Ryan Karben was elected to the Rockland County Legislature. Currently a second year law student and a Harwin Fisk Stone Scholar at Columbia University, Karben ran against seven other candidates vying for the four open positions on the Legislature. After running a successful campaign, Karben received 61% of the total votes, giving him the most votes ever received for this office.

Karben began his political career while he was still a student at Yeshiva University. At the young age of 18, he was appointed to a seven year position on the Planning Board of Ramapo. Because of youth, Karben was under constant scrutiny by his peers and electorate and therefore felt added incentive to prove himself and his ideas.

During Karben's five years of service, he focused on restoring those rights of his community which he felt had been slighted. Karben instituted laws that governed the cleanliness of day care centers, renewing the citizen's Bill of Rights, and providing congregate care to senior citizens. In addition, Karben pushed for bills aimed at creating zoning laws for adult book stores and governing the developing of land.

Karben ascribes this outlook to his experience at YU. While in Yeshiva College, Karben felt most influenced by the charismatic personality of his Rebbe, MYP Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Meir Goldwicht and through the helpful insights of Yeshiva University President Rabbi Norman Lamm. Karben stated that, "Rabbi Lamm taught me that a leader does not close himself off from the public. A good leader will always have an open door, or a listed phone number. Also, because I had to raise nearly sixty thousand dollars for this election, Rabbi Lamm gave me many hints as to the technicalities of fund raising."

During his enrollment in Yeshiva College, Karben served as the Executive Editor of The Commentator and chairman of the Student Affairs Committee. However, throughout his four years at YU, he was best known for his near-legendary antics. An unnamed student commenting on Karben's wild parties, reminisced about how "one year he crammed nearly one hundred people in his Morg room for a Hanukah party." According to Karben, during his four years on campus, he received education which was on par with those received by his colleagues who graduated from top universities. Karben also stated that his involvement in politics enhanced his academic career.

During his last year in YU, Karben ran unsuccessfully for Rockland County Legislature. Despite this setback, Karben remarked that "many of my most memorable moments came from my senior year when I was running for Legislature. Many nights I stayed up late in my room dialing for dollars [fund raising]."

Karben stated that the primary lesson, which he learned from Yeshiva College and Rabbi Lamm, is that the infrastructure of the Jewish community is very complex. He explained that YU ingrained into him the belief that we should all have great respect for those who devote their lives to help maintain the Jewish community.

As a young Jewish leader, Karben encourages students at Yeshiva College to get involved with political parties. Karben warned, "We can't maintain ourselves as an insulated community. We must vote. We have a religious mandate to help correct the world's ills."

Karben stressed that he believes that people should not become single issue voters as he pointed out, "Israel, however important, is only one issue." He emphasized that the Jewish community has a variety of needs and problems that must be dealt with, for instance, religious observance becoming more difficult within the work place.

However, Karben also noted that life as a politician could be difficult. "Being in the public eye is demanding. Those who want a power surge should stick their finger in a socket. The time and devotion for this job is underestimated and undervalued." Currently, Karben is not sure how high up the political ladder he wishes to climb, but, he added, "That is my wife's determination."


Rabbi Mordecai Tendler Files Libel Suit in Rabbinical Court
PR Newswire - March 1, 2006

NEW HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., –– Rabbi Mordecai Tendler filed a Rabbinical Court complaint on February 27, 2006, seeking unspecified damages against several individuals associated with Kehillat New Hempstead. The suit alleges malicious interference with his contractual relations, violation of rabbinical rulings and libel. 

The suit names Shlomo Pomerantz, attorney David Graubard, attorney Bruce Minsky, attorney Nathan Losman and Shelly Karben, mother of local assemblyman Ryan Karben, and others. It alleges in part that the defendants conspired to interfere with existing rabbinical rulings and illegally interfered with Rabbi Tendler's contractual relations. The suit further charges that the defendants, with the intent of libeling Rabbi Tendler, conspired in, and contacted the New York Post and, upon information and belief, provided reporters with information as part of a conspiracy to destroy Rabbi Tendler's career, embarrass his family and injure the continued viability of Kehillat New Hempstead. The suit will seek to prove that the group has acted in concert so as to force the congregation into bankruptcy with the intent of voiding Rabbi Tendler's contract. 

Rabbi Tendler was advised by members of his congregation that the New York Post was going to publish a three-part article, based upon the information provided in part by the defendants, later this week. The congregation has been strongly supportive of Rabbi Tendler and the defendant group could find no traction in their previous attempt at ousting Rabbi Tendler thus resorting to the use of the press. 

He was further advised that a blog, New Hempstead News, carried a story on February 26, 2006, four days before the New York Post story appeared in print, that two reporters from the New York Post visited Rabbi Tendler on Friday, February 24, 2006. 

Rabbi Tendler stated that in the event the group failed to appear before the Rabbinical Court within the time provided by the Court, he intended to seek immediate and emergency authorization to file suit in New York State Supreme Court seeking damages and other relief. 

For further information please see http:// 

SOURCE The Commission for Rabbinic Integrity


Ryan's Biography
Re-Elect Assemblyman Ryan S. Karben - May 1, 2006

Cannonist Blog –– Called "a rising star" by The New York Times, Assemblyman Ryan S. Karben, 30, was elected to represent New York's 95th Assembly District in November 2002. In the Assembly, he represents the Assembly's Majority on the Committees on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, Energy, Local Governments and Insurance. Mr. Karben, who is the youngest state lawmaker in New York State, represents a large portion of Rockland County (the Town of Orangetown and parts of the Town of Ramapo).

Assemblyman Karben has achieved remarkable success as a lawmaker. During his first year in office, he authored landmark legislation, signed into law, requiring more comprehensive public disclosure of spills of MTBE, a known carcinogen found in gasoline. Assemblyman Karben also sponsored the creation of the New York Power Authority's program to provide low cost energy to schools around the state.

As a member of the Energy Committee, Assemblyman Karben has taken a leadership role in investigating utility companies and in advancing the use of alternative energy sources as a route to national energy independence. His investigation of Consolidated Edison in 2004 uncovered millions of dollars worth of settlements by the company with electric shock victims—settlements that were previously undisclosed to the public or the Public Service Commission.

Assemblyman Karben has also continued his work, which he began as a Ramapo Town Planning Board Member in 1992, to open up government. He is the author of the "Environmental Community Right to Know Act," a measure requiring state agencies to provide citizens with easy access, via the internet, to information about environmental hazards in their community. Assemblyman Karben has also been a vocal critic of decisions at the state and federal level to prevent public disclosure of vital information, such as phone outage records, proposed pipeline routes and toxic spills.

Prior to his election to the Assembly, Mr. Karben was a member of the Rockland County Legislature. He was elected to represent the Town of Ramapo (pop. 109,000) in the Rockland County Legislature in November 1997. Mr. Karben was the youngest person to ever serve in the Rockland County Legislature and was the youngest county lawmaker in New York State during his tenure. He was re-elected to the Legislature in 1999 and represented the 7th Legislative District.

Mr. Karben was first selected as Majority Leader of the Rockland County Legislature in 2001 and was selected again by his colleagues to serve as Majority Leader for the 2002 Legislative Session. Mr. Karben was elected Deputy Majority Leader in 1998 and was re-elected to that post in 1999 and 2000. As a County Legislator, he successfully championed initiatives to help children, protect the environment and open government. He established a child advocate at the Rockland County Department of Social Services, authored legislation creating a Rockland County Green space Preservation Fund and used technology to communicate with constituents by becoming the first county lawmaker to go on-line and sponsoring successful legislation to televise sessions of the Legislature.

Mr. Karben's Election Modernization Program helped bring the latest technology to Rockland elections. Mr. Karben also sponsored successful legislation providing victims of domestic violence with the right to sue their attackers for monetary damages.

Mr. Karben also supported a $6 million cut in county property taxes over the course of three years, cut the sales tax on clothing items $110 and under, and sponsored legislation to televise meetings of the County Legislature. Mr. Karben also sponsored a local law requiring that county contractors abide by the MacBride Principles - a non-discrimination code for doing business in Northern Ireland.

Prior to being elected to the Rockland County Legislature, Mr. Karben served on the Planning Board of the Town of Ramapo. Appointed at the age of 18 in 1992, Mr. Karben sponsored Ramapo's Day Care Law, which enacted local health and safety standards for day care centers and nurseries and supported the creation of Ramapo's first "congregate care" senior housing development.

Ryan Scott Karben was born in the Bronx on September 29, 1974 to (Name Removed) and (Name Removed Karbe)n. The Karbens lived in Mt. Vernon, NY until they moved to Spring Valley, NY in 1979. His father, (Name Removed), is a Data Processing Manager for the Navy Resale Organization (NAVRESCO) in Virginia Beach, VA. His mother, (Name Removed), has been a special education teacher in the East Ramapo School District for over thirty-five years.

Mr. Karben was graduated from The Frisch School in 1992 and attended Yeshiva University as a Max Stern Distinguished Scholar, the university's highest academic award. As an undergraduate, Mr. Karben served as Executive Editor of The Commentator, the undergraduate newspaper. Mr. Karben received his B.A. in English, magna cum laude, in May 1996.

Mr. Karben was married to his high school sweetheart, the former (Name Removed) in June 1996. Mrs. Karben is an honors graduate of Queens College and received an M.A. in Educational Psychology from Montclair State University. Mrs. Karben has taught at the Solomon Shechter Day School of Bergen County, Yavneh Academy and Bais Yaakov Chofetz Chaim of Pomona. Mrs. Karben is a volunteer for many community organizations. They live in Monsey with their children (Names removed).

Mr. Karben was graduated from the Columbia University School of Law in May 1999, where he was designated a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar. He is currently a member of the Rockland County law firm of Kurtzman Matera Gurock Scuderi & Karben, LLP. Mr. Karben previously practiced with the New York law firms of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, LLP, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Mr. Karben is a member of the American Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. He is admitted to practice before the courts of the State of New York and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In addition to his political and academic pursuits, Mr. Karben plays a leadership role in numerous charitable organizations, including, Board of Directors, UJA-Federation of Rockland County; Advisory Board, Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center; Advisory Board, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Rockland County; Advisory Board, Ramapo Little League. Other organizational affiliations include Arts Council of Rockland, NAACP-Spring Valley Branch and the Rockland County Conservation Association.

Mr. Karben's community service has been recognized by numerous community organizations which have awarded him various citations.


Ryan Karben
Age: 31

Home: Monsey

Occupation: attorney

Education: Yeshiva University, Columbia University Law School

Family: married, three kids

Political experience: Ramapo Planning Board, Rockland Legislature, state Assembly

Karben's political timeline

1992: Appointed at age 18 to the Ramapo Planning Board.

1993: Serves as president of the Rockland Young Democrats.

1995: Loses bid for the Rockland Legislature.

1997: Wins seat in the Legislature representing Ramapo.

2001: Becomes the Legislature's majority leader.

2002: Wins election to the state Assembly.

2004: Re-elected. 
Karben's recent work

As his re-election bid began to heat up in recent months, Ryan Karben became even more active in the public arena. Shortly after a series of newspaper stories exposed the problem late last year, Karben demanded that the state force Ford Motor Co. to clean up toxic paint sludge in western Ramapo, something the state was already working on. He then demanded a more stringent cleanup be required.

Karben continued to insist that the state install a permanent air monitor in Rockland, the only county in the Lower Hudson Valley without one. He said in April that results from a temporary monitor installed last year showed a pollution problem, but the state disputed his interpretation of the data.

In recent weeks, Karben has gone on to criticize the substantial rate hikes that have been proposed by United Water New York and Orange and Rockland Utilities. He called the increases threats to struggling families and especially harmful to large families.

— Laura Incalcaterra

Rockland lawmakers try to tighten legislation against sexual predators
News 12 - August 3, 2005

MONSEY - Lawmakers in Rockland County are working to tighten legislation against sexual predators.

State Assemblyman Ryan Karben (D-Rockland) introduced proposed legislation that will bar convicted sex offenders from public swimming pools across New York. Karben says a public pool can be a pedophile's playground. Ramapo Supervisor Chris St. Lawrence commends the legislation and hopes it will work to protect children.

Karben hopes the bill will pass in January, be signed by Governor George Pataki (R-NY) and be in place for next season.

Albany: State Assemblyman Resigns 
By Danny Hakim
New York Times - May 19, 2006

Assemblyman Ryan Scott Karben of Rockland County, one of the younger and more visible state legislators, resigned abruptly yesterday. The move stunned fellow lawmakers and friends, not only because Mr. Karben, 31, a Democrat, was seen as one of the more ambitious lawmakers, but also because he took the unusual step of resigning immediately instead of finishing his term. ''After spending more than 13 of my 31 years in public service, it is time for a change for me and my family,'' Mr. Karben said in a statement. ''I am stepping down today from the State Assembly to turn greater attention to them and my law practice.''

Pol in sex probe quits
Father of 3 suddenly steps down after reports he wooed male aides

DAILY NEWS ALBANY - May 19, 2006

ALBANY - Assemblyman Ryan Karben (D-Rockland) stunningly announced his resignation yesterday, following a hush-hush internal legislative probe into alleged sexual advances he made toward male staffers, sources told the Daily News.

"The Assembly took the allegations very seriously," said an elected official with direct knowledge of the probe.

Sources said Karben, 31, was accused of violating the Assembly's rule banning members from fraternizing with or dating staffers.

Among the allegations probed by the lower chamber was that Karben had recently viewed a pornographic video with three male interns at an Albany apartment, sources said.

Karben, a married father of three children, did not return calls seeking comment. He represents portions of Rockland County that have heavy concentrations of Orthodox Jews.

Assembly sources said Karben had been personally warned by Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) to refrain from having any contact with staffers.

"He's become an embarrassment to everyone," said one of Karben's colleagues in the Assembly, who asked not to be named.

A male Assembly staffer in his 20s, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Karben made what he took as a pass at him recently inside the Legislative Office Building. "It really made me uncomfortable," he said.

In a prepared statement, Karben made no reference to any potential scandal. "I am stepping down today from the state Assembly to turn greater attention to [his three daughters] and my law practice and to fulfilling other personal and professional aspirations," he said.

He noted that he was "grateful for the friendship and support of so many, especially my wife, Lauren, my family, my campaign volunteers and my clients."

Charlers Carrier, a spokesman for Silver, declined to comment other than to say, "What Ryan said were his reasons [for leaving] is all there is."

Karben had been raising funds at an aggressive clip, hauling in some $500,000 to his reelection war chest.

With Ben Smith

Gay Sex Harass' Shocker for Pol
Rockland Dem Bails From Assembly Amid Whispers of Intern Scandals

New York Post - May 19, 2006

May 19, 2006 -- ALBANY - Two-term Rockland County Assemblyman Ryan Karben, a rising star in state Democratic politics, abruptly resigned yesterday amid what sources said were allegations of improper sexual approaches to young male Assembly interns.

Karben's sudden and unexpected midyear departure shocked many of his fellow lawmakers, but several others - claiming that Karben was under investigation for some time for the alleged improper contacts - said they were not surprised.

A high-ranking Assembly official said he was told Monday by a senior aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that Karben, who is widely known for frequenting Albany's active night life, "had problems" because of recent allegations that the lawmaker made "unwanted advances" to male interns.

A second source, a high-ranking Democratic assemblyman, said he had received the same information.

"I know for a fact that the allegations have been made," said the Assembly member.

Karben, 31, an Orthodox Jew who is married to his high-school sweetheart and has three young daughters, was widely touted as a strong future candidate for higher office.

He could not be reached for comment yesterday. He was not at his Assembly offices in Albany or Pearl River, his private law office, or his home in Monsey.

Karben said in a statement released by his office that he decided to resign because, "It is time for a new beginning."

"After spending more than 13 of my 31 years in public service, it is time for a change for me and my family," said Karben.

"I was appointed to my first public position as a college freshman and leave my second elected office as a proud father of three little girls.

"I am stepping down today from the Assembly to turn greater attention to them and my law practice and to fulfilling other personal and professional aspirations."

Karben's chief of staff, Aaron Troodler, was told of the allegations by The Post and was asked to respond. He never did.

Silver (D-Manhattan) was asked yesterday about the sex-harassment allegations and said he had been in a hearing all day so he had not had a chance to inquire about that issue.

"I received a letter from Mr. Karben that indicates he is resigning for personal and professional reasons," Silver said.

"I accept that is the reason he's resigning at face value."

But several lawmakers said it didn't make sense for Karben to resign for the reasons he gave.

Karben had announced on a Web site that he was seeking re-election.

"Something caused him to resign abruptly," said one Assembly Democrat.

"If it truly was for personal reasons, he only had a month left in the legislative session. He could have announced he wouldn't seek re-election, finish what he wanted to get done over the next month and that would be it."

State Senate Minority Leader David Paterson (D-Manhattan) said he had talked to Karben about running for the Senate earlier this year and "was surprised by his announcement."

Karben became the youngest member ever elected to the Rockland County Legislature in 1997 and was majority leader.

In 1992, at the age of 18, he served on the town of Ramapo planning board.

Karben's resignation shocks, raises questions
THE JOURNAL NEWS - May 19, 2006

Assemblyman Ryan Karben's abrupt resignation yesterday left constituents and officials wondering what was behind the departure of a man whose political ambitions started young and seemed certain to include a run for higher office.

Rockland Republican Committee Chairman Vincent Reda said he was especially surprised at the announcement because Karben had money in his campaign coffers and no serious opposition.

"I think there's more to the story that will eventually be told," Reda said.

Assemblyman Adam Bradley, D-White Plains, said he had dined with Karben, a Monsey Democrat, in Albany on Monday and that Karben had said nothing about resigning.

"I had no inkling whatsoever," Bradley said. "I consider Ryan a friend ... and with all candor, I don't know what, if anything, played a role in any of this."

Karben, 31, is known for his aggressive pursuit of publicity. But he announced his resignation in a three-paragraph statement yesterday morning and did not return several messages left on his cell phone. No one answered the door at his Melaney Drive home last night.

The Assembly removed his biographical information from its Web site yesterday.

The short statement sent via fax and e-mail said Karben, who was finishing his second term, was resigning to devote more time to his wife and three daughters, as well as to his Spring Valley law practice and "other personal and professional aspirations."

"It is time for a new beginning," he said in the statement. "I will remain an active and vocal voice for better schools, a cleaner environment and lower taxes."

Karben, once Rockland's youngest county legislator, was first elected to the Assembly in 2002. He developed a reputation as a ferocious fundraiser, tapping contractors, lawyers, unions and civic leaders for money. He became entangled in a fundraising controversy when he accepted more than $40,000 over the years from New Jersey developer Charles Kushner, who served prison time for hiring prostitutes to try to influence potential witnesses in a New Jersey investigation. Karben ended up giving $2,500 in contributions to charity after the revelations surfaced.

The politician, whose 95th District covered all of Orangetown and part of Ramapo, pushed for tougher sex-offender tracking laws and environmental cleanups at several sites in Rockland.

Karben, an Orthodox Jew, grew up in Ramapo on the border with New Square. Through politics and religion, he developed a close relationship with the town's influential Hasidic and Orthodox communities.

Sholomo Koenig, deputy mayor of Kaser, said the community was shocked by Karben's decision and was also wondering why he quit.

"Many people have called me and asked me why and what happened," Koenig said. "I don't have any answers for them. It's hard to comment when you don't have a clue.

"He grew up politically and climbed the ladder in the community," Koenig said. "We're all shocked."

Residents were wary of Karben's stated reasons for leaving.

"Something's there," said Andrew Dauro of Pomona. "Maybe he's got family problems ... or maybe someone's got something on him.

"It could be a number of things. Only God knows and he knows," Dauro said.

Isabel Guzman of Pomona said the departure "sounds fishy."

"No one quits their position five months from ending it," she said, "especially politicians, because they think of their future.

"He should give something better," Guzman said of Karben's explanation. "I think the voters deserve that."

Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, R-Blooming Grove, said she had noticed a change in Karben.

"Ryan has appeared to be quiet and more introspective than the usual Ryan," she said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, will not comment on Karben's resignation, said Charles Carrier, his spokesman. Carrier said he could not provide more information about it. Asked if he knew what prompted it, Carrier said: "I don't know."

Within hours of Karben's announcement, county Legislators Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, David Fried, D-Spring Valley, and Nancy Low-Hogan, associate provost at Long Island University's Rockland Graduate Campus, expressed interest in his seat.

"When I was elected to the Legislature, I was so excited to serve and to fight for what I thought was right for people and their families," Fried said. "The thought of being able to do that same advocacy work in a higher level of government is exciting."

Jaffee, who lost a primary to Karben for the Assembly seat in 2002, said running for the seat "is something I'm very interested in."

Low-Hogan said a Rockland Democratic leader had called and asked if she would be interested.

"I certainly would consider it," she said, declining to name the Democrat who called her.

Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said the governor could choose to fill the vacancy by a special election in 30 to 40 days, or leave the seat empty until November.

Sexual harass reports surface  
By Elizabeth Benjamin
Times Union - May 20, 2006 

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, a member of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Guidance, said he was surprised by the accusations that [Ryan Karben] had made sexual advances to a male legislative staffer or intern. 

Lentol said the ethics committee never convened to discuss Karben. He said he didn't know whether a formal complaint had been made to the committee chairman, Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston. Cahill declined comment. 

Karben, 31, an Orthodox Jew elected to the Assembly in 2002, was a gregarious and ambitious lawmaker. His abrupt resignation took many colleagues by surprise. However, several lawmakers, who requested anonymity, said they believed a male staffer or intern had complained about Karben, and said the complaint was being investigated by the Assembly majority counsel's office.


Dems: Karben forced out amid sex probe
THE JOURNAL NEWS (Rockland County) - May 20, 2006

Assemblyman Ryan Karben was told several days ago that he would be subjected to an ethics probe and was given the chance to resign, according to multiple Democratic officials.

"In the last seven to 10 days, (Karben) was hauled in and told: Either resign or we start the process," one official said yesterday.

A top upstate elected Democrat yesterday confirmed that version of events.

Karben, D-Monsey, resigned abruptly Thursday morning, saying he wanted to devote more time to his family and law practice. But several Democratic sources said officials had been looking into allegations that Karben, 31, may have made unwanted sexual advances toward a male intern. The Assembly has a ban on members fraternizing with interns.

Two house Ethics Committee members said yesterday that no allegations concerning Karben ever reached the committee.

"I knew nothing about this incident at all. I was shocked as everybody," said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, D-Brooklyn, a member of the panel.

The Legislature has a policy of not disclosing ethics probes until after they are closed and complaints substantiated.

Lentol said any complaint would first go to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, or Assembly Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston. Cahill could not be reached yesterday.

Silver has not commented on the abrupt resignation, but a statement issued by his spokeswoman stressed that the Assembly was committed to protecting all employees.

"I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a complaint or an investigation," spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee said. "The Assembly has strong policies in place to protect employees. Alleged violations by members of the Assembly of these policies are investigated by the (Ethics Committee), and violators face a range of sanctions, including public censure.''

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, D-Greenburgh, said he didn't know anything about an ethics complaint. When asked if he had heard rumors of Karben's alleged sexual advances before they were made public by the media, Brodsky said, "Everybody's heard rumors about everybody."

Karben did not return numerous cell phone messages and was not responding to e-mail requests for comment yesterday. There appeared to be no one home yesterday at Karben's Melaney Drive home, with an empty trash can tipped over and a newspaper lying in the driveway. Last night, the paper had been picked up, and a light was on inside the house, but no one appeared to be home.

Karben did issue an e-mail statement yesterday afternoon saying that he was grateful for the support he and his family had received.

"My family and I have been overwhelmed by the number of calls we have received from friends and from my former Assembly colleagues expressing their good wishes. My focus has, understandably, shifted from concern for a constituency of 130,000 to a constituency of four. I am forever thankful for the opportunities I have had to serve the people of my community and the great State of New York, and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead."

Karben's Rockland district office in Pearl River was locked yesterday, and his spokesman, Aaron Troodler, did not return phone messages left Thursday and yesterday.

The rumors about Karben, a practicing Orthodox Jew, shocked many in that community, where a gay lifestyle is frowned upon based on religious belief.

"Who would expect this?" Kaser Deputy Mayor Sholomo Koenig said. "It's a sad day for the religious community to see something like this involving someone from the community."

While Karben's pro-choice stance on abortion and support of gay-rights legislation made many of his religious supporters uncomfortable, several Jewish leaders had praise for him yesterday.

"I think he's a wonderful man," Rabbi Leib Tropper said. "He did a lot of good things for the community and county."

Pnina Schenk lives near Karben and said she "cannot believe such a story."

"I have a feeling it has to do with politics," she said. "Mudslinging for no reason."

Schenk said her seven children often play with Karben's daughters. The family, she said, has always been open to visitors, even if it's just to borrow cooking ingredients.

Vince Monte, Rockland Democratic Committee chairman, said the allegations against Karben are "obviously" a deterrent to his political future. If the accusations are true, Monte said he would be "quite saddened."

At Karben's Spring Valley law practice, Kurtzman Matera Gurock Scuderi & Karben, partner Howard Gurock said any decision involving Karben would be handled internally. Gurock said yesterday that he had not talked to Karben about the allegations and that he hadn't seen Karben in the office all day.

But one thing that is certain is that Karben's Assembly seat will remain deserted at least until Election Day. Lee Daghlian, spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said yesterday that there would not be a special election to fill Karben's vacancy. The state Public Officer's Law, he said, prohibits special elections after April 1 in the second year of an Assembly or Senate member's term. Karben was to have been up for re-election this year.

"Unfortunately there's going to be an empty seat there until after November," Daghlian said.

'Grope' Pol's Public Panting
By Kenneth Lovett and Fredric U. Dicker
New York Post - May 20, 2006  

ALBANY - A Rockland County assemblyman stunned onlookers at a bar by putting his hands down a man's pants - one of several allegations of sexual impropriety that have emerged after the lawmaker resigned this week. 

The Democratic lawmaker, Ryan Karben, 31, left onlookers flabbergasted, according to three sources with knowledge of the incident. 

"He just went into somebody's pants and just did something very inappropriate," one said. 

Karben, an Orthodox Jew and married father of three, abruptly resigned his seat on Thursday amid what sources said were allegations of improper sexual approaches to young male interns. 

A source said several Assembly members had recently gone to Speaker Sheldon Silver to tell him that "Karben's aggressive behavior had been getting progressively worse." 

Sources have said that Karben was the subject of an internal Assembly probe that ended when he resigned. One source said Karben got one intern to watch gay porn with him. The situation was so bad that "the speaker's office was looking into it and they told him, 'You've got to drop out now so we can say we don't have jurisdiction,' " said a high-level Democrat. 

A prominent Assembly official told The Post Karben had engaged in "aggressive behavior" almost from the time he had arrived at the Capitol. "Something should have been done about him three years ago," the official said. 

Karben released a short statement that did not address the accusations. 


Flirt Pol's Choice: Quit or Face Heat 
By Joe Mahoney 
New York Daily News - May 20, 2006

ALBANY - Assemblyman Ryan Karben's stunning resignation came after he was told that he faced possible public censure for allegedly flirting with male interns, sources said yesterday. 

"He violated our rules so blatantly and so frequently that he was told: 'You quit today or you are going to go through a very public process that will be humiliating," said an elected official with knowledge of the probe into Karben's conduct. 

Karben, a 31-year-old married father of three daughters, is the first casualty in the Assembly's two-year-old rule prohibiting members from fraternizing with interns or staffers.
The Daily News reported exclusively yesterday that the Assembly leadership had become aware of allegations that Karben had recently joined three male staffers in viewing a pornographic video at an Albany apartment. 

Karben's cell phone was disconnected yesterday and his official Assembly Web page was taken down. The Rockland County Democrat could not be reached for comment. 

Sources said Karben agreed to step down after he was confronted by a representative of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D- Manhattan) late Tuesday. 

Silver spokesman Charles Carrier said members who deviate from the fraternization rule "face a range of possible sanctions, including public censure." 

"The Assembly has strong policies in place to protect its employees," he added. 

There will be no special election to replace Karben, which sets the stage for a mad scramble for the vacant seat in this fall's elections.


Political star fades as scandal ignites
THE JOURNAL NEWS - May 21, 2006

At the age of 17, Ryan Karben stood before some of New York's most influential Democrats and urged them to make room for his generation.

"We must make involving younger voters in our party our top priority over the next few years," Karben said at a meeting of the state's delegation to the 1992 Democratic National Convention in Manhattan. In the audience that day were about 200 Democrats, including then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

"We must get the message out to younger voters that this party shares their values and concerns, that this party cares about their future," Karben said.

The appearance would prove a harbinger of things to come for Karben, who, despite his age, would rise quickly through the political ranks of Rockland County and ultimately arrive at the state Capitol as one of the youngest members of the state Assembly.

That political career now stands in ruins after Karben's sudden resignation from the Assembly on Thursday and subsequent allegations of sexual misconduct with a male staff member. Karben, a 31-year-old, married father of three, has not spoken publicly about the allegations. In written statements, he has said he resigned to spend more time with his family.

The resignation stunned most who know Karben, for it defied the traits that have come to characterize the Monsey Democrat: ambition, a zeal for publicity and a political acumen that exceeded his years.

Yet those traits, while propelling Karben upward and making him a player in New York politics, generated almost as much controversy as they did political success. His brashness, aggressive courting of the media and unabashed fundraising sometimes aggravated his colleagues in government and raised questions about his ethics.

"Brilliant and politically talented and capable of achieving great things for the people in government if he chose to do so," Bruce Levine, a Ramapo Democrat and former chairman of the Rockland Legislature, said about Karben. "But (he) consistently did not make that choice unless it coincided with his personal and political ambitions and needs."

Raised in Ramapo, Karben seemed to be genetically engineered for politics. His parents, Shelley and Barry Karben, were active in the local Democratic Party and wasted little time in getting their son involved. In 1985, at the age of 11, he was volunteering for Democrat John Grant's campaign for county executive.

"He was a boy wonder as a young man," said attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who served in the Rockland Legislature during the 1980s and 1990s. "He helped me on my campaigns before he even ran. ... He was a highly motivated young man. He took campaigning seriously, not only when he campaigned for himself but when he was helping others running for office."

In 1992, 18-year-old Karben, while still a student at Yeshiva University, was appointed to the Ramapo Planning Board by then-Supervisor Herb Reisman.

It would mark the first of many times that the phrase "youngest ever" would be used to describe Karben's exploits. Though it was seldom considered a glamorous posting, Karben nonetheless used his Planning Board spot and his concurrent position as president of the Rockland County Young Democrats to build his name recognition. He became well-known for telephoning reporters to suggest stories or offer comments on prevalent issues of the day.

It was the adult entertainment industry that provided Karben with one of his first major successes. When an adult bookshop opened in Spring Valley, Karben began to push for tighter restrictions on where such businesses could operate. The town eventually adopted new zoning restrictions on adult businesses.

Karben lost his first bid for elective office in 1995, when he ran for a seat in the Rockland Legislature, but two years later he ran again and won. Once sworn in, he established himself as one of the Legislature's most active members, frequently proposing legislation and, just as frequently, sending out press releases and legislative mailings to promote his activities. He was among the Legislature's most prolific mailers, sending out thousands of pieces a year.

"He liked to have a lot of press conferences and media events and, in that sense, he may have been perceived by some county legislators as not pulling with the whole team," said Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, a Democrat who served in the Legislature with Karben.

Fundraising also became a Karben strength. His campaign treasury was among the largest of any member of the Legislature. Many of his donations came from contractors doing business with the county.

The almost-continual fundraising and frequent mailings sparked suspicion that Karben was already plotting his next career move and criticism that he was using taxpayer resources — the mailings — to advance politically.

"I knew that if I left that he would try to get the seat," said former Assemblyman Sam Colman, D-Monsey, who now serves as a Ramapo town justice. "I thought that if I ever stumbled, he would go after me. But he was always respectful and he never made any overt moves against me."

In 2002 Colman opted not to seek re-election to the Assembly and Karben ran in a heated Democratic primary against fellow Ramapo Legislators Ellen Jaffee and Alan Simon. Although his opponents criticized his fundraising practices and accused him of negative campaigning — mostly for a mailing Karben sent questioning Jaffee's ethics — Karben won the primary and the seat.

The race was one of the most expensive Assembly contests in state history. Karben spent $532,000 on the race, according to his campaign records.

Though he had a new job, Karben didn't seem to change much, remaining aggressive in his pursuit of both media attention and campaign donations. He had become a rising star in a party that has come to dominate New York politics.

"He was ambitious, full of energy, and very proud of himself," said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale. "He was very good at press and very good at raising money. ...That was the reputation he had."

Now that reputation is marked by a scandal that has proved his undoing.

Karben's name removed from law firm's signs
THE JOURNAL NEWS - May 21, 2006)

RAMAPO — Former Assemblyman Ryan Karben was nowhere to be found yesterday, but there was new evidence of his tarnished reputation.

The lobby directory of Karben's Spring Valley law firm on Perlman Drive no longer read "Kurtzman Matera Gurock Scuderi & Karben." The last name had been removed.

Karben's name also was pried from the third-floor directory pointing the way to the firm's office.

His district office in Pearl River also showed signs of a politician's image being slowly dismantled.

A knock on the door of the office at Blue Hill Plaza brought no response. Karben's name remained on the lobby directory and the door of his 11th floor office. But a call to the office no longer tells people they have reached Karben.

"You have reached the district office of the 95th Assembly District. Please leave a message," the recording now states.

No one answered the door at Karben's Monsey home yesterday, and his cell phone remained off.

The 31-year-old Karben, an Orthodox Jew and the married father of three, abruptly resigned Thursday. The Democrat said in a statement only that he wanted to devote more time to his family and law practice.

But several Democratic sources have said officials had been looking into allegations that Karben may have made unwanted sexual advances toward a male intern. Under Assembly rules, members are banned from fraternizing with interns.

The changes evident yesterday were just the latest to signal Karben's fall from grace. On the day he resigned, the Assembly quickly removed Karben's biography and photo from its Web site.


'Gay' Pol is Barred - Gets Law-Firm Boot
By Kenneth Lovett and Fredric U. Dicker
New York Post - May 23, 2006

ALBANY - The Rockland County assemblyman who last week resigned his seat in the wake of a gay sex scandal has also lost his partnership at an upstate law firm. 

Ryan Karben is no longer associated with Kurtzman Matera Gurock Scuderi & Karben, and his name is no longer part of the firm's, said partner Howard Gurock. 

The decision was made Friday, just hours after the news broke that Karben - an Orthodox Jew who is a married father of three - resigned his Assembly seat amid what sources said were allegations of improper sexual approaches to young male interns. 

Gurock wouldn't say whether the partners voted Karben out or if he resigned under pressure. 

"Everything involved in that decision was done privately and internally," he said. 

Gurock said the last time Karben was in the office was Thursday, the same day he announced his resignation. 

Karben joined the firm about three years ago, with partners hoping his connections as a sitting assemblyman and former county legislator would help bring clients. 

"He had a nice rolodex of clients," Gurock said. 

Even when Karben told the partners Thursday he was resigning his seat, it wasn't until Gurock was in his car the next day listening to the news on the radio that he heard the sordid details. 

"I was very shocked," he said. "I didn't know it, if it's true." Both the law firm and the Legislature have moved quickly to disassociate from Karben, removing his name from prominent locations. Karben, according to sources, made improper approaches to interns, including getting at least one to watch gay porn with him. 

The Post reported Saturday that he also stunned onlookers - including some of his colleagues - when he put his hands down the pants of a man at an Albany-area bar. 

Karben leaves the Assembly with more than $500,000 in his campaign account, according to state filings in January. 

Several lobbyists said Karben had become notorious for his aggressive pursuit of campaign cash from those looking to influence state lawmakers. 

"He was outrageous in his aggressiveness," said a well-known lobbyist.


Karben exits Spring Valley law firm, stays out of view
THE JOURNAL NEWS - May 23, 2006

Five days since his sudden resignation from the state Assembly, Ryan Karben's whereabouts remained unknown.

His Monsey home appeared empty yesterday, mail piled at the front door. His district office in Pearl River was locked.

And he no longer works for the Spring Valley law firm he joined about three years ago. His name had been pried off the sign over the weekend.

"He's no longer a partner," said Howard Gurock of Kurtzman Matera Gurock and Scuderi. "We handled it privately. I'm not going to say if it was his choice or our choice."

Karben, 31, stepped down Thursday just before allegations surfaced that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward a male intern. He had announced in a written statement that he was quitting to spend more time with his family and to pursue other challenges.

Gurock said he didn't know where Karben was spending his time. He acknowledged that he had communicated with Karben, but he wouldn't say when or how.

"I won't say if we talked, e-mailed, or saw him in person," Gurock said.

Like others, Gurock said he was shocked by Karben's abrupt resignation. Karben had been Rockland's youngest county legislator, and was first elected to the Assembly in 2002.

"I had no idea before he resigned that he was even thinking of it," Gurock said.

Gurock described Karben's work for the law firm as "excellent." Karben handled real estate and municipal work.

Meanwhile, the state Assembly and Rockland's remaining state lawmakers were scrambling yesterday to fill the void created by Karben's departure.

State law doesn't allow for a special election in most circumstances when a vacancy occurs after April 1 of an election year. That means Karben's seat is likely to remain vacant until a new lawmaker is elected Nov. 7 and takes office in January.

Karben has represented Orangetown and parts of Ramapo since 2003.

His top aide, Aaron Troodler, also resigned last week, and Karben's office in the Legislative Office Building across the street from the Capitol has been closed, said Charles Carrier, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.

His district office in Pearl River will stay open for at least six weeks, Carrier said, and will be staffed by two part-time aides.

But that office was locked yesterday, and no one answered knocks on the door.

"The Assembly will make sure constituents are heard and that their needs are met," Carrier said.

Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who represents Clarkstown, Haverstraw and part of Ramapo, said he had agreed to take over sponsorship of many of Karben's bills affecting areas in Rockland.

Zebrowski and state Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City, met yesterday to go over bills Karben had sponsored that were likely to pass both houses.

"We've always tried to represent Rockland County without regard to the borders of our districts," Zebrowski said.


Karben says little about allegations
THE JOURNAL NEWS - May 24, 2006

MONSEY — Ryan Karben came out of seclusion yesterday but declined to discuss sexual misconduct allegations involving a male intern, his future plans or any other issue behind his abrupt resignation last week from the Assembly.

Karben, smiling and laughing at times, declined to expound on his reasons for resigning as he spoke to a Journal News reporter and photographer outside his Melaney Drive house yesterday. He stuck by last week's statement that he resigned to spend more time with his wife, Lauren, and their three young daughters, as well as to concentrate on his law practice.

"I am looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead," Karben said in response to several questions concerning details surrounding his resignation.

"I have no further comment," Karben said, dressed in a blue shirt and tan pants. "You can tell people I'm very relaxed."

Karben, 31, had not spoken publicly since resigning by e-mail Thursday and issuing a second e-mail the next day thanking his supporters.

After his resignation announcement Thursday, state Democratic sources said Karben had been accused of sexual misconduct, including unwanted advances toward a male intern.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, they said, forced Karben to resign or face an Assembly ethics investigation for fraternizing with Assembly staff members.

The controversy led to the end of Karben's partnership with the law firm of Kurtzman Matera Gurock and Scuderi in Spring Valley. Neither Karben nor lawyer Howard Gurock would discuss if Karben left the law firm or was asked to leave.

Karben represented the 95th District, which includes Orangetown and parts of Ramapo, for two two-year terms. The district included Karben's power base in Monsey's Orthodox Jewish community and the Hasidic Jewish village of New Square. A former Rockland County legislator, Karben was up for re-election in November.

Lila Chasen, a 40-year resident of Monsey, yesterday said she knew Karben well enough to exchange greetings and talk to him if she saw him on the street. She said she wanted to know Karben's side of all the stories swirling around him.

"As far as I know, he seems to be a very good person and has a good family," Chasen said. "I would like to hear from him and have more information on all this from him."

Karben's abrupt change from public official to private citizen made him the latest Rockland politician to leave public office under a cloud during the past decade and included several Democrats Karben had worked with over the years.

Corruption charges, abetted by a sex scandal, in 1995 brought down then-District Attorney Kenneth Gribetz, who, like Karben is an Orthodox Jew.

Former state Sen. Linda Winikow also served jail time for corruption as an Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc. executive.

And former Rockland Democratic Party Chairman Paul Adler, a Winikow protege and political ally of Gribetz and Karben, went to prison on income-tax evasion and political-corruption charges several years ago.

More recently, Stony Point Supervisor Steven Hurley, a Republican, went to federal prison on charges of taking bribes.

Rockland Republican Party Chairman Vincent Reda yesterday said Karben's political career was over. Reda said Karben probably would bounce back in the private sector, just like Gribetz did in the title insurance business.

"Both (Gribetz and Karben) were bright, well-educated and they both came out of the religious community, where they had a lot of support from the community," Reda said. "But once you fall from grace like they did, there is no getting back into politics."

Phyllis Frank, an official with Gay Pride Rockland and a civil rights advocate, said she doesn't know if the allegations concerning Karben are true or not.

But she said inappropriate behavior, such as infidelity and sexual abuse, occurs similarly among heterosexuals and gays.

Frank, assistant executive director of the Volunteer Counseling Service, said an elected official being forced out of office always was disappointing for the community.

Nyack Mayor John Shields, who is gay, said society's values force people to hide their sexual preferences.

"If he is indeed gay — and I don't know if he is or isn't — and he was forced to live a certain lifestyle to cover it up, it's unfortunate," Shields said. "We don't live in an open society that allows people to feel comfortable with who they are."

Shields said the public scrutiny of Karben will fade, just as it did with Gribetz, Winikow and Adler.

"All those people were front-page news for a variety of reasons," Shields said. "Then it all died down, and they went on with their lives."

The Nyack mayor said he found it strange that no one publicly made accusations against Karben.

"If these allegations were so serious," Shields said, "I don't see any verification, and I wonder why no one has come forward."


Karben out of character
THE JOURNAL NEW - May 25, 2006

It didn't take long for new county Legislator Ryan Karben to discover the power of the press conference.

He had been in office less than three weeks when he first called reporters together in 1998.

He wanted to eliminate the sales tax on textbooks and was armed with charts and graphics to bolster his case.

That, it turned out, would be typical Ryan Karben.

He always had something to say, always had a reason to speak to the press, always had a reason to send a press release.

Karben, were it not for the modern medium of e-mail, would have been killing trees at an alarming rate just to provide paper for his press releases, which often arrived in clusters.

So it wasn't shocking at all last week when an e-mailed press release from Karben hit our newsroom. It was the content that shocked everyone.

Karben had resigned from the Assembly, it said, because he wanted to concentrate on his family, his law career and other personal aspirations.

It said nothing about sexual allegations, nothing about the underlying reasons for his sudden and stunning departure from Albany, where he has probably been as successful as any other relatively new member at getting what he wanted for himself and for his constituents.

In about a decade he had risen from a seat on the Ramapo Planning Board as a teenager to being Rockland's youngest county legislator and then on to become one of the youngest members of the Assembly.

It was hard sometimes to tell definitively whether it was the arrogance of power or the power of arrogance that propelled Karben. In truth, it was a mix of the two.

After years of fending off allegations that he didn't live in the county Legislature district he represented, he turned the issue around when he ran for re-election to the Assembly in 2004.

He called a press conference that could have been held in a broom closet. Journal News reporter Steve Lieberman and I were the only ones there when Karben announced that he had filed a lawsuit charging that his opponent didn't live in the district. Karben took it well when I laughed at him.

He knew we'd write about it anyway, and that it would get headlines even if the charge was just so much political payback to the Republican Party.

Karben's political rise — which most thought someday would result in a run for governor or other high office — didn't happen by accident. It took smarts, lots of hard work, some brazen moves and both political and media savvy.

When a Spring Valley woman was about to lose her home in a tax sale because she owed the county $58 in property taxes, Karben dived in to try to help. He truly wanted to make things right, but he also knew that popping up on every television newscast in the region could only raise his recognition level.

In Albany, he took the same road. He bucked Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver by proposing legislation requiring removal of the ashen remains of World Trade Center victims from the Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island.

Three years ago, it died in committee. Last June, faced with the same prospect, Karben gathered almost two dozen Assembly colleagues for a press conference with Sept. 11 family members on the steps of the Capitol. The bill stalled again, likely because of pressure from Silver.

Karben filed it again in January and worked quietly behind the scenes and behind Silver's back to get the bill out of the Assembly Committee on Authorities. Until Karben's resignation, it looked as if the bill might have a chance this session.

In the tax sale case, doing the right thing helped Karben get publicity. But the Fresh Kills legislation was just one example of how Karben wasn't always a team player in leadership's eyes.

That might have worked against Karben last week when the Assembly leadership learned about what has been described as unwanted sexual advances toward a male intern.

The response in Albany was swift. By the time Karben's press release hit, he had been all but purged from the Assembly Web site. His photo and bio were gone, replaced by a sentence announcing a vacancy in the district as a result of his resignation.

Except for another brief statement issued the other day and for a few stock answers he's given to Lieberman and others this week, Karben hasn't addressed the true reasons for his resignation, the allegations the media has pieced together from Democratic Party officials or his thinking as to why it would be better to run and hide.

Karben has forgotten how to call a press conference, even if it's just for two of us, who I doubt would laugh this time around.

He must have removed our phone numbers from his speed dial just about the time the Assembly erased him from the Internet. That's as foreign to his political personality as the allegations are to his public persona.

More than that, he's forgotten the people who believed in him and voted for him, whether he lived in their district or not.

Whether Ryan Karben could have survived this politically had he taken a different approach is debatable.

Had he stood before the cameras and microphones, explaining himself and his actions in a Gov. James McGreevey moment, his friends and supporters might have found some reason to forgive and, over time, even forget.

What's as sad in this case as a political career shattered, a legal career sidetracked and a family in crisis is that we'll never know.

And Ryan Karben will never know.

The Karben case
The Journal News - May 28, 2006

New York politicians manage to find all sorts of inappropriate, though legal, uses for money that their supporters have given them to campaign for office. Inappropriate, though legal — could be the motto for the Loophole Capital known as Albany. The abrupt resignation of former Rockland Assemblyman Ryan Karben, who still has more than a half-million dollars in campaign contributions at his disposal, has focused new attention on the issue. With the attention, we hope, will come reform.

As Yancey Roy of our Albany bureau reported last week, state election law has little to say about what candidates, former candidates, office-holders and former office-holders can and can't do with unspent campaign contributions. "Personal use" is outlawed, but, because it is virtually undefined, "there have been multiple public accounts of candidates and elected officials using these funds for everything from junkets to country club membership to leases on luxury cars."

That observation came in a report released in March by Common Cause/NY. It and other good-government groups are pushing for campaign-finance reform, including a tightening of the law on the use of contributions.

Karben's resignation provides a potent illustration of the issue because of the unusually large campaign bankroll he maintains. It stood at $534,000 at the first of the year, fourth-largest of any state politician. Karben, a Monsey Democrat, had been expected to use the funds toward a bid for a third term before his stunning resignation, which has been linked to reports that he was facing a possible ethics investigation over sexual advances to a male intern.

About the only thing that Karben, or anyone with a campaign fund, cannot do with the money is "write a check to himself," a state Board of Elections spokesman told reporter Roy.

What have or can candidates and former candidates do with contributions? A partial list, based on actual instances and on uses that would be prohibited by reform legislation: buy cars, extravagant dinners, expensive entertainment tickets; pay for tuition, child care, international travel, funerals, country club dues; family expenses and noncampaign salaries.

Just use your imagination.

Two bills have been introduced in the Legislature that would put controls over the campaign money. One, sponsored by Assembly Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, would restrict spending to direct campaign costs, specifically banning some of the illicit uses listed above. Area legislators whose names also appear on that bill are Assembly members Sandra Galef of Ossining and George Latimer of Rye, both Democrats.

A bill sponsored by Assemblyman Pete Grannis, D-Manhattan, beyond defining the permissible personal use of contributions, would require a former candidate or office-holder to dispose of campaign funds within two years. The money would have to be returned to contributors or donated to a charity, the state university system or general fund, a political party committee or another candidate's committee. Local names on that bill are Adam Bradley, D-White Plains; Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale; and Galef.

As Common Cause makes clear, this issue strikes at the heart of public trust: "When individuals make contributions to political campaigns, they expect those contributions to be used for legitimate campaigning purposes. Candidates who use these funds to pad their lifestyles betray the trust of those who contributed, further eroding public confidence in the electoral process."

Ryan Karben disappointed a great many supporters by bringing his promising political career to a stunning end and by maintaining virtual silence about it since. He could, perhaps, boost public confidence by announcing that he intends to devote his campaign treasury to a purpose supporting the public good.

Albany just can't keep its pants on
By John Milgrim
Times-Herald Record - May 29, 2006

Albany - A local assemblyman who had gubernatorial dreams dropped out of the race after admitting he was sleeping around on his wife.

A Rockland County assemblyman abruptly resigned this month amid allegations of inappropriate sexual advances toward male interns.

Two years ago, the top counsel of the state Assembly was charged with sexual battery - on two separate occasions - by two different people.

He's now a registered sex offender.

Albany's former district attorney warned parents their daughters weren't safe when the Legislature was in town. That was in 2004, right after Manhattan Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, 42, was accused of plying a 19-year-old legislative intern with booze and raping her in his hotel room. A 38-year-old woman accused him similarly shortly thereafter.

Police dropped the case against Powell, and he was re-elected. He said the sexual encounters were consensual.

There's no shortage of sexual indiscretions in Albany. Most state power brokers spend days at a time away from home each week for half the year.

Fostering those indiscretions is a semi-secret pact that says lawmakers' private lives in Albany remain secret from their lives in their home districts.

"It's real hard for them to resist all the temptations that are here," said the Rev. Duane Motley, an Albany lobbyist representing evangelical Christian churches and groups. "These guys don't have a lot to do around here at night."

In comes lust, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

"Any father who would let his daughter be an intern in the state Legislature should have his head examined," then-Albany District Attorney Paul Clyne told The New York Post in 2004. "I'm not going to call the place a cesspool, but I can say there is a group of legislators who, quite honestly, are here to get paid $80,000 a year and party three nights a week and who don't contribute anything to the process."

Now, male interns also might be taking pause.

Assemblyman Ryan Karben, D-New City, abruptly bolted from the capital amid allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with three male interns, including watching porn with them in a hotel room.

Karben, who is married with three young girls, announced his sudden resignation on May 18.

Top legislative sources said Karben was repeatedly warned about violating a rule prohibiting lawmakers from fraternizing with interns and staff.

In other cases, politicians' personal lives spilled out into the public.

Sen. Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, who is married with kids, was recently served with a paternity suit filed by a former staffer. Former Republican Bronx Sen. Guy Vallela also fathered a child with someone other than his wife.

In 2001, Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, R-Blooming Grove, pleaded guilty to harassment after stalking an ex-beau. "That wasn't lust, that was wrath," she said.

Assemblyman Tom Kirwan, R-Newburgh, said he avoids any semblance of a social scene in Albany, preferring a good movie most Tuesday evenings or early dinners with a small group of lawmakers he calls friends.

Assemblyman Pat Manning, R-Dutchess County, is a different story.

He dropped a long-shot gubernatorial campaign shortly after it was revealed he was having an extramarital affair. Now, party leaders in his home district are supporting someone else for his Assembly seat.


Legislators Gone Wild
New York Daily News - May 7, 2007

Well, now, here's a first. The Assembly - actually, Speaker Sheldon Silver - has censured a member for misbehaving. The case involves upstater Michael Cole, who drank a snootful and ended up sleeping (alone on the floor, he said) at a female intern's apartment as he was too drunk to drive home. 

According to a letter released by Silver, the Assembly Ethics Committee determined that Cole - the ranking GOP member of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse - had violated policies regarding fraternization with interns. Silver said that, based on the committee's unanimous recommendation, he was formally admonishing Cole, booting him from the substance abuse panel, banning him from participation in the intern program and stripping his seniority privileges. All well and good. 

But we must note that, in keeping with Albany tradition, the committee made no public report and the full Assembly took no action. We must also note that Cole is a Republican in a Democratic- dominated house. Given the complete lack of transparency, who knows what Silver would have done had Cole been a Democrat. 

Ryan Karben (2008)
It's a fair question, considering what happened a year ago when Rockland Assemblyman Ryan Karben abruptly resigned. Word was Karben was under investigation for watching porn videos with male interns. 

"Word was" is used, since the Assembly kept everything hush-hush regarding Karben, a Democrat. There was no letter from Silver or the Ethics Committee reporting that their colleague had quit rather than face an investigation, as there should have been - if that is, in fact, what happened.


Karben Hot Dogs At Union Road Opening
By Steve Lieberman
Rockland LoHud - July 30, 2010  

Aron Wieder, assistant to Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin, and Ryan Karben push hotdogs
Ryan Karben served the public during the opening of Union Road today in Spring Valley.
At the same time, the Spring Valley village attorney and former Rockland legislator and Assembly member earned the moniker “hot dog” given by Legislator Ilan Schoenberger.

While the neighborhood crowd heard from Mayor Noramie Jasmin and other elected officials — from County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef to Legislator Bill Darden — Karben came to the road opening dressed like a hot dog and handed out hot dogs in buns to residents — kosher and tasty ones at that. 

And proving he can be a fun guy, Karben added some mustard to his hot-dogging by suggesting the following, “After all his years in public service, Ryan Karben is finally serving the public.”


Lawmaker Is Censured Over Sexual Harassment
By Danny Hakim (William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting)
New York Times - August 25, 2012 

ALBANY -- Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, one of the last powerful Democratic Party bosses in New York City, was abruptly stripped of his committee chairmanship and censured Friday after he was accused of sexually harassing two women who worked in his district office this summer. 

Mr. Lopez, 71, is a longtime fixture of Brooklyn politics, and an irascible kingmaker: he has served in the Assembly since 1984, and has headed the Brooklyn Democratic Party since 2005. 

But on Friday, he faced what had once been unimaginable: widespread calls for his resignation, after charges that he verbally harassed, groped and kissed the women without their consent. 

Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker, who has in the past been criticized for mishandling sexual misconduct claims against lawmakers, surprised the local political world Friday with a sharply worded rebuke of Mr. Lopez, who had been an ally. Mr. Silver not only removed Mr. Lopez as chairman of the Assembly's Housing Committee, but reduced the size of his staff, barred him from employing interns or anyone under the age of 21 and denied him any perquisites he had accrued based on his seniority. 

Despite the reference to interns and people under 21, the speaker did not indicate the age or position of either woman in Mr. Lopez's office. 

"I hereby censure and admonish you on behalf of the New York State Assembly and its Members, and declare that your conduct with respect to this matter violates the Assembly's Sexual Harassment/Retaliation Policy and is inconsistent with the standards of conduct to which Members of the Assembly should be held," Mr. Silver wrote. 

But many said the censure was not enough. Among those calling for his resignation were several Democratic officeholders, including Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker; Bill de Blasio, the public advocate; Representative Jerrold Nadler, and Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan Borough president. 

Mr. Lopez did not return a call seeking comment, but his lawyer, Gerald B. Lefcourt, said Mr. Lopez denied the claims, and criticized the Assembly's investigation of the complaints as "a lawless enterprise." 

"This was entirely without due process -- there were no witnesses, no cross-examination, no hearing," he said. He added, "It's beyond any notion of American legal proceeding." 

Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, said that he had decided to censure Mr. Lopez after the Assembly's ethics committee -- made up of four Democrats and four Republicans -- ruled unanimously that claims that Mr. Lopez had verbally and physically harassed the employees were credible. "There were multiple incidents of unwelcome physical conduct toward one complainant, wherein you put your hand on her leg, she removed your hand, and you then put your hand between her upper thighs, putting your hand as far up between her legs as you could go," Mr. Silver wrote, describing the committee's findings. 

He also said, "There was pervasive unwelcome verbal conduct by you toward both complainants from early June 2012 until the time they made complaints of sexual harassment in mid-July 2012, including repeated comments about their physical appearance, their bodies, their attire, and their private relationships." 

He said that Mr. Lopez "required" one of the women to travel with him to Atlantic City last month, where he attempted to kiss her, and that "she struggled to fend you off before you stopped, and that on the drive back from Atlantic City you again put your hand between her legs." 

Kevin Mintzer, a lawyer for the two women, said in a statement that "the complainants' experience working for Mr. Lopez was a terrible ordeal." The statement continued, "His behavior toward them was both unlawful and morally reprehensible." Neither Mr. Silver nor Mr. Mintzer named the women."The sanctions imposed in this matter are substantial and fully warranted," Mr. Mintzer added. Mr. Mintzer said his clients had not decided whether to sue, saying only, "We'll evaluate and determine next steps." But, he said, "Mr. Lopez should resign his office immediately." 

The Assembly has faced a string of sexual harassment allegations in recent years, and for Mr. Silver it is a particularly sensitive topic. In 2003, he faced accusations that he did not respond aggressively to rape allegations against a former top Assembly aide, J. Michael Boxley, who pleaded guilty that year to sexual misconduct. Two years earlier, an Assembly employee had brought a complaint of sexual assault against Mr. Boxley to the Assembly leadership, but the investigation was closed without action. 

Since that time, the Assembly has confronted other sexual misconduct concerns. In 2006, Assemblyman Ryan Karben, a Democrat from Rockland County, resigned amid claims that he watched pornography with three interns. In 2007, Assemblyman Mike Cole, a Republican from western New York, was removed from his post as ranking member of the Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse after revelations that he had slept at the home of a 21-year-old female intern after a night of heavy drinking. And in 2008, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Buffalo Democrat who now works for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, had an affair with a former intern. 

Long considered Brooklyn's patronage king, Mr. Lopez is the founder of the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a nonprofit organization that has received millions in government contracts and also employs his longtime girlfriend, Angela M. Battaglia, who serves on the New York City Planning Commission. City and federal authorities have in the past scrutinized Mr. Lopez's relationship to nonprofit groups, in particular the Ridgewood Bushwick organization, but he has not been charged. 

Few party leaders preside with such singular and unyielding authority as Mr. Lopez, or are regarded as so influential. In 2008, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's aides sought his help in convincing the City Council to allow the mayor to run for a third term, and Caroline Kennedy had lunch with Mr. Lopez as she tried to win support for an appointment to the United States Senate. 

Law Offices of Ryan Scott Karben
December 28, 2012

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