Monserrate Returns Behind ‘Conference Leader’ Sampson

ALBANY—State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who defected from the Democratic conference last week, is back with his colleagues following a "restructuring" of conference leadership.

The members of the conference—still without defector Pedro Espada Jr.—announced State Senator John Sampson will have the new title of "conference leader," Majority Leader Malcolm Smith explained, and will handle the "day-to-day business" of the conference. Smith said the structure was similar to a board chairman and CEO, with Sampson serving as CEO. Smith, I'm hearing, is holding on by a legal technicality.

Monserrate was called a "friend" by both Sampson and Smith.

"I'm clear about the following: This conference is united," Monserrate said. He tacitly confirmed reports that his flip back into the Democratic conference had to do with differences with Espada Jr. over tenant-protection issues.

The leadership of the State Senate is still uncertain. Lawyers for both sides were due in court around the time this press conference started; the judge hearing the case has said he does not want to get involved. Spokesman Austin Shafran said Democratic lawyers plan to tell the judge that progress is being made out of court.

Smith said Democrats were reaching out to Republican Leader Dean Skelos to work on some sort of power-sharing agreement, with a meeting expected this afternoon.

It's unclear whether session will be held today. Monserrate Returns Behind ‘Conference Leader’ Sampson