GOWANDA — Assemblyman Joseph Giglio got a phone call on New Year’s Day from Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who admitted he had been arrested for driving while intoxicated the night before.
On Friday, Kolb announced he was stepping down from his Assembly leadership post.
“He was conciliatory,” Giglio said of his conversation on Wednesday with Kolb, a Canandaigua Republican. “He blamed himself.”
Kolb released a statement Friday afternoon announcing he would step down as minority leader.
“As Leader of the Assembly Minority Conference, I have always tried to put the needs and best interests of our Conference ahead of my own. That is why I have decided to step down as Minority Leader.
“I have a profound respect for each and every one of my colleagues, and sincerely admire their daily efforts on behalf of constituents and communities in every corner of the state,” Kolb said. “But I will not allow my own personal challenges to distract from the goals, message, and mission of the Assembly Minority Conference. With a new year and new legislative session ahead, the work of our Conference cannot be undermined or deterred in any way.“I will be forever grateful for the confidence my colleagues have placed in me for the past 10 years. But in my heart, I know that this is the right time for a new leader to step in and advance an agenda that benefits all New Yorkers.
Kolb said the events of Dec. 31 are ones he will “always deeply regret.” He said he has begun the process of seeking professional help “in order to heal, learn and fully address the challenges that I, along with my family, currently face.”
In a statement issued New Year’s Day, Kolb said his decision to drive his state-owned SUV after drinking “was a gross error in judgement.”
Giglio said “that is the only good part,” that Kolb has admitted it.
What’s worse is that Kolb published an op-ed piece last week reminding New Yorkers not to drink and drive, Giglio, adding, “It’s troubling.”
Giglio said Kolb indicated the Republican conference would meet next week before the 2020 session convenes on Wednesday to talk about the issue.
The conference will now be looking for a new minority leader.
“When we get back next week, (Kolb) plans to address the conference,” Giglio said Thursday before Kolb announced his intent to step down.
“He will be harder on himself than anyone. I’m sure there will be a lot of questions. He’s been arrested, arraigned and charged.”
Giglio added, “We are going to have to discuss it as a conference if we stand for certain things. I’m kind of at a loss for words. This is very troubling. We are held to a higher standard.”
Giglio said no one can get behind the wheel after drinking. What Kolb did “was inexcusable; a big lapse in judgement,” But he also added, “Everybody makes mistakes.”
Giglio noted one of his Republican colleagues, Assemblyman Kieran Lalor of Dutchess County, had called for Kolb to resign.
Lalor was the first Assembly Republican to publicly call for Kolb to step down as GOP leader.
Kolb, 67, tweeted on Dec. 26, “There is no excuse for driving while impaired this holiday season,” according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. That tweet had been deleted from his Twitter account.
The New York Times reported that Kolb had published a piece in the local newspaper warning “against the dangers of drunken driving.”
Ontario County Sheriff’s deputies charged Kolb with driving while intoxicated and making an unsafe turn. There were no injuries and no other vehicle was involved. He was in his state-provided GMC Acadia in a ditch in front of his house when deputies arrived. He is said to have cooperated with deputies.
Kolb, who was elected to the Assembly in 2000, was named minority leader in 2009. He briefly sought the Republican nomination to run for governor in 2018, ending his short campaign in February of that year.
Yates County District Attorney Todd Cassella was named Thursday as special prosecutor in the case, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)