New York’s lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, resigned on Tuesday in the wake of his arrest in a federal corruption investigation, the state’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, said.
The development created a political crisis for Hochul seven months after she selected Benjamin as a partner to make a fresh start in an office rocked by scandal after Governor Andrew Cuomo resigned amid allegations of bullying and sexual harassment.
Benjamin, a Democrat and the No 2 politician in the state government, was accused in an indictment of participating in a scheme to obtain campaign contributions from a real estate developer in exchange for Benjamin’s agreement to use his influence as a state senator to get a $50,000 grant of state funds for a non-profit organization the developer controlled.
Facing charges including bribery, fraud, conspiracy and falsification of records, Benjamin pleaded not guilty on Tuesday at an initial appearance in Manhattan federal court in New York City.
He was released and bail was set at $250,000. The terms of his release call for his travel to be restricted and bar him from returning to the state capitol in Albany. He submitted his resignation to Hochul hours later.
“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 in a statement.
Two lawyers representing Benjamin did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Hochul in September plucked Benjamin, then a state lawmaker, to serve as second-in-command when she became governor, taking over from Cuomo. Hochul was Cuomo’s lieutenant governor. She is now running for governor in this year’s election, and had named Benjamin as her running mate.
Hochul did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday when asked who she will pick as her new lieutenant governor.