If you’re an elected official, you ask for the people’s trust.
When you betray that trust, you don’t deserve leniency.
Two cases involving public officials who betrayed the public’s trust are currently making headlines.
One involves the upcoming sentence of a western New York congressman who pleaded guilty to insider trading after being charged with fraud and lying to the FBI while serving in Congress.
The other involves a Rochester state Assemblyman and Republican Party leader who was arrested and charged with DWI after crashing his state-owned SUV on New Year’s Eve.
Both asked us for our votes to elect them to office. They asked us to trust them. They promised to honor the law and conduct themselves faithfully and honestly.
We have a right to hold them to a higher standard, because they asked us to.
And when they deliberately violate their obligations as public officials and fail to uphold that higher standard, they are owed no mercy from our legal system.
Congressman Chris Collins had the nerve to run for re-election while under indictment for insider trading, which included, get this, making deals while on the floor of the House of Representatives.
All the while, he arrogantly proclaimed his innocence — right up to the time he pleaded guilty in October. He’s now scheduled to face the consequences of his actions when he’s sentenced on Jan. 17.
Despite agreeing not to appeal a sentence of between 46 to 57 months, he’s whining for leniency, seeking to be sentenced instead to house arrest in Florida.
He’s lined up 170 pages of letters from people saying what a wonderful family man and community leader he is.
But he deserves no compassion. No leniency. He asked for our trust. Now he’s asking for our forgiveness?
Same thing with Assemblyman Brian Kolb, the former Assembly minority leader charged with DWI. Police said his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit and that he tried to claim his wife was driving.
Luckily, no one was killed.
His arrest came a week after he wrote an op-ed in his local paper lecturing others about the dangers of drinking and driving.
What message would it send — to voters, to other public officials and to other criminal suspects who might not have the luxury of wealthy, influential friends lobbying on their behalf — if Collins was to get off easy?
What message would it send to drunken driving suspects and their victims if Kolb got special treatment for his conduct?
A lot of criminals are sorry. A lot of them have loving families. But most don’t catch a break because of who they are.
Neither should our public officials.