Albany County District Attorney David Soares to return bonus after outcry
ALBANY – Albany County District Attorney David Soares said late Monday night that he would return a $22,000 bonus he gave to himself using grant money, after an outcry from fellow Democrats.
Even though David Soares may consider it a political hit job in the midst of a political re-election campaign, some of the harshest criticism over the raise came from within his own party.
“There isn’t an elected official in the state that wouldn’t know this is wrong,” said Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie. “It is a betrayal of the public trust, and I think at this point it would be appropriate for this district attorney to step aside.”
Soares insists he did nothing wrong by padding his $202,000 salary with a $22,000 “bonus” using grant money from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, money intended to retain and motivate staff who have been inundated by heavier workloads.
“Aid to prosecution is a funding source from the state that allows for the district attorney to use those resources to supplement the salaries of non-union, union members as well as the head of the organization,” Soares said in a video statement released by his office.
Republican Mark Grimm, R – Guilderland, is the ranking member of the County Legislature’s Finance Committee.
“We approved the grant,” Grimm acknowledged. “What we did not approve is the DA could take that money and use some of it to put in his own pocket. That I can assure you we did not approve.”
However, Soares claims there is case law to back up his bonus. Fellow lawyer Phil Steck disagrees.
“The political side of things will take care of itself,” Steck said. “We have to see what the party is going to do, and after that we can have conversations of who might be the best person to be district attorney of Albany County.”
Soares is currently running for re-election unopposed, but sources have told NewsChannel 13 Soares will not receive the Democratic Party endorsement when the committee meets on Tuesday night.
Sources have also told NewsChannel 13 other candidates are currently mulling whether to toss their hats in the ring.
Soares released the following statement in a video on Monday evening:
“Last year was one of the worst years we’ve had here in the history of our wonderful community. We’ve had over 20 homicides, surpassing records of violence. In addition to homicides, we also had massive amounts of retail theft, bringing in the shuttering of a number of small businesses. That simply is unacceptable, and those are the issues that we really need to talk about. But instead, we have political distractions, political distractions that came about as a result of a bonus that I received.
The bonus that I received continues to dominate the conversation every single day, taking away from the incredible hard work of the men and women in the Albany County District Attorney’s office, taking away from the hard work of the men and women in the various police departments that we work together with.
I’d like to change the conversation, and in order to do that, I need to return that money, I need to work with our Albany County legislature to return those funds and seek to redistribute those funds to the men and women in the Albany County District Attorney’s office that are doing it every single day, seven days a week.
I cannot be the distraction for the wonderful organization that I lead and I cannot be the distraction from the conversations that are essential that need to take place right now. Because right now, what I describe is happening in our wonderful state is the gentle parenting of criminals and frankly, that’s just unacceptable.
So I want to take this time to thank you for giving me your attention. We have a wonderful community here in Albany County, a wonderful community and a future for kids like these little guys that are worth protecting. Thank you.”