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Lawmaker Who Questioned Bills' Funding Caught with Pot

4:54 PM, Mar 15, 2013   |    comments
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ALBANY,NY - Assemblyman Steve Katz, R-Yorktown, Westchester County, was ticketed Thursday morning on the state Thruway for alleged marijuana possession and speeding, State Police said Friday.

Katz, 59, who was first elected to the state Assembly in 2010, was pulled over for allegedly driving 80 mph in a 65 mph zone at about 10 a.m. Thursday, State Police told Gannett's Albany Bureau. He was stopped headed northbound on the Thruway in Coeymans, just south of Albany. The Legislature was in session on Thursday.

Earlier this week, the Westchester-area lawmaker questioned whether the state's spending of $60 million towards the new lease agreement for the Buffalo Bills was prudent.

When an officer approached the vehicle, the state trooper smelled marijuana, police said. Katz turned over a small bag of what appeared to be marijuana, said State Police spokeswoman Darcy Wells. "He was alone and cooperative," Wells said. Katz was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and speeding, police said. He was issued an appearance ticket for Town of Coeymans Court on March 28 at 9 a.m., police said.

He attended the Putnam county state of the county address on Thursday night at 7 p.m., arriving a bit late, waving to the audience and taking his seat in the front row.

The lawmaker released the following statement Friday afternoon:

"In light of the unfortunate incident that occurred, I am compelled to address it briefly.

First, I will not let this incident impede my public service and my calls for real mandate relief, a better economic climate and better services for those in need in New York.

This should not overshadow the work I have done over the years for the public and my constituency.

I am confident that once the facts are presented that this will quickly be put to rest."

Katz, a veterinarian, has been an outspoken lawmaker since taking office. He was re-elected last November. He voted against the legalization of medical marijuana last year.

In October, Katz compared Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to Joe Paterno's cover-up of Jerry Sandusky's child abuse after Silver quietly reached a settlement with two female aides that accused a fellow lawmaker of sexual harassment.

Earlier this week, Katz drew criticism from Buffalo officials after he spoke on the Assembly floor and criticized $60 million in aid for the Buffalo Bill stadium, saying that only a "handful of people" go to the games. Last year, Katz admitted to a pair of past arrests related to his veterinary business decades ago.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said he was not informed by Assemblyman Steve Katz that Katz had been ticketed for marijuana possession and speeding Thursday morning presumably on his way to the Capitol.

"It was brand new news to me to read about it," Kolb, R-Canandaigua, said. "So it's the first I've heard of it, and I still don't know what the details are because Mr. Katz has not called me and I have not spoken with him."

Kolb heads the 43-member GOP conference, and typically he would be the first to know if one of his members was in any hot water. But Katz apparently came to work Thursday and didn't tell the leader of his conference.

"You would think that that would be at least one of those calls you'd make to just let me know that it's occurred," Kolb said. "I have no idea why he didn't call me. I would like any of our members to keep me informed if they run into some difficulty, just so we are aware of it."

But Kolb said he wouldn't offer an opinion on Katz's situation or indicate whether any action would be taken against him, saying "I just have to wait for the legal process to take its course."

His challenger in the Republican primary last year, Dario Gristina, called on Katz to resign.

"He should just step down," Gristina told The Journal News. "This is not the behavior you would expect from an elected official, especially from a conservative county like ours."

Katz's Democratic opponent, Andrew Falk, said voters expect more from their elected officials, but he didn't call on Katz to resign.

"It's shocking behavior and inappropriate behavior, and as an attorney, I see the devastating effects of people who drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol," Falk said. "I think no matter what your feelings are about what people do in the privacy of their own homes, this is just unacceptable conduct."

Joseph Spector/Gannett Albany bureau

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