2013-05-16 / Telling It Like It Is

Telling It Like It Is

"Can Our Scandalous Politicians Save Their Reputations?
By Dara Mormile

Those who have known and respected State Senator John Sampson since 1997 might feel bad that the legislator recently got himself in deep water. Every time I've had the honor of meeting Sampson, he was low-key and humble – strategically mapping out plans to help constituents in his 19th Senatorial District.

He and his staff sponsored a plethora of job fairs, drawing thousands of residents to our local Holy Family Church. His office also hosted a wide range of events for seniors, including health fairs and “Grandparents Day.” The Canarsie Courier covered almost all of his functions.

Who – in the back of their minds – thought Sampson would be “one of those politicians” involved in an embezzlement scandal? Even though his turkey giveaway a couple of years ago wasn't organized quite the way his staff planned, many constituents were impressed, since no other politician was doing so much for the community.

Sampson pleading for the public’s help to save Jewel Sulker’s life in 2008. Sampson pleading for the public’s help to save Jewel Sulker’s life in 2008. Like many good-natured elected officials, he did his financial part, allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars to community projects. In the past couple of years, he contributed to the establishment of the Greenstreet at Paerdegat Avenue North, newlyinstalled security cameras at BayView Houses and various projects in Canarsie schools. Sampson's community efforts weren't just about placing a bunch of organizations behind tables with reading materials.

Last year, the senator stuck his two cents in when a failing Brookdale Hospital was on the brink of “closing” and being taken over by another entity. The year before that, when Hurricane Irene left hundreds of homes in Canarsie flooded, Sampson hosted a standing-room-only forum where the Department of Environmental Protection representatives admitted that their local facility malfunctioned in the midst of the storm.

When I read that Sampson allegedly took approximately $440,000 in surplus funds from foreclosure sales of four Brooklyn properties, I found it ironic, as his office has always tried to HELP homeowners who were trying to avoid foreclosure. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that the senator stuck his hand in the proverbial honey pot, since he had so many positive things under his belt.

One of the things that stood out for me during Sampson's term was when he set the wheels in motion for a 13- year-old East New York girl, Jewel Sulker, to get a kidney transplant in 2011 (Canarsie Courier, June 2, 2011, “Senator Sampson Helps Give Girl The Gift Of Life”). What did Sampson have to gain from helping little Jewel and her mother Dianne, who held a press conference with the senator and pleaded for the public's attention? Sampson contacted a friend and doctor at a local hospital who helped refer the family to Children's Hospital in Boston. Sampson also helped the family raise $3,000 to help with their medical expenses.

Did the Senator have an ulterior motive while doing all these dedicated things for those who depended on him? Many Canarsiens believed that he was one of the good guys who “always came through for the community.” Sometimes you have to wonder if the politicians who NEVER get involved – and the ones who you NEVER see – are the crooked ones. Or, maybe the crooked ones are those who try so hard to keep a well-polished reputation. There are many politicians representing portions of Canarsie who never show up to meetings and never get accolades for doing anything for the community (most of them represent the northern section of our community, but I won't name names). How do you know an honest politician when you see one? It's like asking how do you know if you're 100 percent safe simply standing near a venomous snake. Let's get real. Corporate and political scandals have rocked the world since the beginning of time. Consider the popular Ponzi scheme and ask yourself: are you REALLY shocked at what people in power can do with other people's money?

As long as most politicians are doing what they are obligated to do for their constituents, such as Sampson did, how can we be sure they're ALL not dirty? Elected officials who show a strong presence in their community build a trust with residents, who we might assume voted for them. It was only a year ago that disgraced former Senator Carl Kruger met the same scandalous fate – which was deceiving, as he soaked up the spotlight trying to improve quality of life issues in the 27th Senatorial District. Personally, I think it's a shame that politicians work so hard for years to get to where they are and screw it up by believing their underhanded schemes will never be uncovered.

The next time you see a politician, instead of inquiring about an issue you need to resolve in Canarsie, you might wind up asking them, “Who's next?”

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