Lester Chang takes office as Assembly mulls expulsion vote after residency investigation • Brooklyn Paper

Assemblymember-elect Lester Chang was sworn into the New York State Assembly and solid his first vote this week, even as his colleagues proceed to debate his future in state authorities after an investigation solid doubts on whether or not he meets constitutional residency necessities.

“Huge congratulations to Assemblyman Lester Chang (R-C, Brooklyn) on being sworn in and seated in the New York State Assembly today,” stated Brooklyn Conservative Celebration chair Gerard Kassar in a Jan. 3 assertion. “Assemblyman Chang is the first Asian-American from Brooklyn to be elected to state office. The Conservative Party salutes Assemblyman Chang, a retired Navy Reservist, on his historic accomplishment. We look forward to working with him as he fights to make New York safer, more affordable, and more accountable in the years ahead.”

lester chang being sworn in
Assembly Democrats reportedly met for hours on Jan. 3, however didn’t come to an settlement on what to do as Chang was ceremonially sworn into office. Picture courtesy Assemblymember Lester Chang/Twitter

Chang, a Republican and the primary Asian-American to be elected to the Assembly from Assembly District 49, beat out 30-year Democratic incumbent Peter J. Abbate Jr. by a slim margin in November. Inside days, questions have been raised as as to if he had lived in Brooklyn for a full yr earlier than the election, as is required by the state structure.

Final month, Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie ordered the physique’s Judiciary Committee full an intensive investigation of Chang’s residency by the top of the yr. That report was handed on to the incoming Assembly, which met in Albany for the primary time in an official capability on Jan. 4. In response to New York 1 reporter Zack Fink, the Assembly Majority met for a number of hours on Jan. 3 to debate whether or not or to not seat Chang based mostly on the findings of the report, however didn’t attain a consensus.

“Lester Chang was elected and by operation of law the term began on January 1,” stated Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland. “However the Legislature will be formally organized tomorrow and that body will consider his qualifications to serve.” 

A report grows in Brooklyn

The Judiciary Committee report dropped simply hours earlier than the ball on New Yr’s Eve — and its findings weren’t fairly favorable for Chang. Preliminary studies doubting Chang’s residency stemmed from his voting report, which confirmed that he had voted in decrease Manhattan in fall 2021. The Assemblymember-elect has additionally mounted two unsuccessful campaigns for elected office in Manhattan — as soon as in 2016, and once more in 2020. Because the investigation started, Chang and his lawyer, John Ciampoli, claimed Chang had lived in Manhattan together with his spouse  till her loss of life in 2019; when he moved again to his childhood house in Brooklyn to look after his growing older mom whereas persevering with to pay lease on the Manhattan condo. 

“By November 7 of 2022, it was without question that Brooklyn was my primary residence,” Chang stated at a Dec. 10 press convention.

However the Assembly is working to find out whether or not Chang had been residing in Brooklyn for a full yr earlier than the Nov. 7 election. Voting information included within the report present that Chang registered to vote utilizing his Manhattan deal with in 1994, and voted in Manhattan up by means of fall 2021. In February 2022, he up to date his registration with a Brooklyn deal with — and voted in Brooklyn in each the June main and November normal election final yr. 

Paperwork additionally present that Chang, who labored for the town’s Board of Elections, acquired paychecks by mail at his Manhattan deal with at the least by means of September 2022. The report notes that Chang offered bank card statements from 2022 together with his Brooklyn deal with — however admitted that statements for a similar card have been mailed to his Manhattan house between fall 2021 and summer time 2022. The committee subpoenaed these statements — together with a spring 2022 request for an extension on his 2021 tax filings — however Chang didn’t flip them over, in line with the report.

ny state capital building in Albany
The report by the Assembly Judiciary Committee confirmed that Chang used his Manhattan deal with on official paperwork by means of fall 2022 — however he and his authorized staff stated he was residing primarily in Brooklyn and stored the previous deal with for continuity and ease. AP Picture/Hans Pennink, File

The Assemblymember-elect and his staff did present checking account statements addressed collectively to he and his mom on the Brooklyn deal with — although the report famous that these statements fell exterior the 12-month time frame they have been investigating — and as plenty of signed affidavits from pals, household, and neighbors of Chang’s Brooklyn deal with on East twenty ninth Road. 

In a single affidavit, Robert L. Morgan III, vice chair of the Manhattan Republican Celebration, stated he tried to recruit Chang to run for office in Manhattan in fall 2021 – however Chang declined as a result of he deliberate to run in Brooklyn.

“During the conversations I had with Lester in November and December of 2021, regarding his interest in running for office, Lester indicated that he had moved his electoral residence to Brooklyn because he was spending more time there to care for his mother,” Morgan wrote. 

In paperwork submitted to the Judiciary Committee and through a Dec. 15 listening to, Chang and his legal professionals maintained that he lived primarily in Brooklyn for the yr main as much as the November 2022 election — however stored the Manhattan deal with on file for his paychecks and different affairs for the sake of comfort and consistency. 

Lawyer and political energy dealer Stanley Schlein served as particular counsel for the Assembly — and identified in the course of the listening to that Chang’s Manhattan condo is rent-stabilized, and that by regulation, a rent-stabilized condo should serve as the tenant’s main residence. 

The report doesn’t make a advice on how the incoming Assemblymembers ought to vote. 

“I’m here to tell you today that by November 2nd, 2021, I had determined that my permanent residence was in Brooklyn for all purposes,” Chang stated on the listening to, per a transcript. “It is my primary residence today. Any allegation reported in the media that I fail to meet the residence requirement is based on rumor, insinuation, and not fact.” 

The Assemblymember-elect and his authorized staff decried the investigation and the report — claiming the Judiciary Committee failed “to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Chang’s electoral residency was not in Brooklyn during the ‘relevant period.’” 

“Chang testified as to his intent to make this home his electoral residence,” his legal professionals wrote within the report. “Records, testimony and affidavits clearly established his actual presence at the residence. Any report presented to or on behalf of the Committee against seating Chang must be found to be a nullity. No proceedings based upon the fatally flawed record developed herein may be allowed to serve as a basis for denying Lester Chang the seat that he was duly elected to.” 

The six Republican members of the Judiciary Committee more-or-less agreed, writing in a letter to Committee Chairman Charles D. Lavine that Chang met residency necessities – and that they felt the previous Assembly lacked jurisdiction to rule on the {qualifications} of an incoming member.

“[Chang] won fair and square,” the members wrote. “He has provided substantial evidence of his intent and presence to justify the use of his Brooklyn address as his ‘electoral residence.’ He should be welcomed into the New York State Assembly.”

What comes subsequent

What’s subsequent for Lester Chang? It’s exhausting to say. Assembly Democrats — who make up nearly all of the physique — have but to achieve a choice on what to do, and reportedly didn’t plan to take up the difficulty on Jan. 4, the primary official day of the 2023 legislative session. 

As lengthy as the talk continues, so will Chang’s time period. The Assembly will reportedly take a vote this month on whether or not or to not expel Chang, however, as of the top of the day on Jan. 4, no resolution had been made. If the physique ultimately does vote to take away Chang — which might require a majority vote — a particular election could be referred to as in AD49. Republicans have pledged their full sport to Chang if he have been to be eliminated.

“Should Assembly Democrats take the unprecedented step of denying Mr. Chang a seat, absent clear and convincing evidence that he resided outside of his district in the past year, our conference will commit our full support to re-electing him in a special election, with the hopes of not only restoring a duly elected member to the chamber, but also to ensure their vote becomes a true Pyrrhic victory for their party,” stated New York Metropolis Council Minority Chief Joe Borelli in an announcement. 

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