Kolb resigns as Minority Leader after drunk driving charge

Jan 3, 2020

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who was arrested New Year’s Eve for drunken driving, has resigned his leadership post, saying he does not want his personal challenges to "distract from the goals" of the Republicans in the Assembly. Kolb has served as minority leader for 10 years and will remain a member of the Assembly.

Kolb was driving his state-issued SUV Tuesday evening when he crashed into a ditch near his house outside Rochester.  He was charged with a misdemeanor DWI and having a blood alcohol level of more than the legal limit of .08, according to the Ontario County Sheriff's Office.

Ironically, Kolb had written an opinion piece in his local newspaper the week before, warning of the dangers of drinking and driving, especially during the holiday season.

In a statement Wednesday, Kolb said there’s "no excuse and no justification" for what happened New Year’s Eve and that he “deeply regrets” making the wrong decision.

Credit Ontario County Sheriff's Office

That same day, one of his Republican colleagues, Assemblymember Kieran Michael Lalor, publicly called for Kolb to resign his leadership post. Lalor, from the Hudson Valley, tweeted Jan. 1 that Kolb should have resigned immediately after his arrest, and to not have done so was a "disgrace."

Lalor, speaking on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom Friday, said he saw Kolb’s actions and continuation in the leadership post as a sign of how far the GOP has lost its way in New York.

"He’s driving a very expensive, $43,000 (state) car at 10 o’clock on New Year’s Eve, wearing a hoodie, unshaven, which tells me that he wasn’t at an official event. He’s drunk and he crashes into his own property," Lalor said to host David Lombardo.

"If we aren’t the party of law and order and we aren’t the party of the taxpayer, what do we have left?"

Lalor said Republicans have been critical of criminal justice reforms enacted by Democrats that will eliminate most forms of cash bail, so the fact that one of the GOP legislative leaders was charged with a crime weakens the Republicans’ argument.

Lalor said during next week’s State of the State speech, when the spotlight will be on the governor and legislative leaders, Assembly Republicans will be embarrassed.

"There will be one Assembly Republican on that stage," said Lalor. "And we have a leader who is facing criminal charges that he admits to. And I don’t think it’s tenable to have a leader in that situation." 

A special prosecutor has been appointed to handle the case going forward.

Here is Kolb's statement of resignation in full:

"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. 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.

The events of December 31 are ones I will always deeply regret. On a personal level, I have 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."