When Governor Cuomo came into office in 2011, he inherited a legacy of state scandals and a history of attempts at legislating public ethics. Shortly thereafter, with legislative support, a new “Joint Commission on Public Ethics” (JCOPE) was established to wrestle these concerns to the ground.
JCOPE was granted jurisdiction over the executive branch and the legislature, and all officers and employees at State agencies and departments, including commissions, boards, State public benefit corporations, public authorities, State & City Universities, and closely affiliated corporations.
Reading the fine print, JCOPE is chaired by four elected officials; members of the legislature; employees of the Legislature; certain political party chairpersons; and registered lobbyists and their clients.
JCOPE”s failure to at least stem the tide of some corruption since its inception has not worked in the governor’s favor. He knows repeated incidences of corruption and convictions will not create a good resume he will be proud of. He also knows opening pandora’s box has other implications.
In July of 2013, with the public bellowing for reform, he establishes a “Moreland Commission” (The Moreland Act of 1907) to investigate possible violations of state law elections, campaign and political fund raising. The commission was also authorized to issue subpoenas to various law firms to determine what full-time work legislators performed to earn outside income.
The commission issued a preliminary report in December and was disbanded the following March. When asked why, as quoted in Crain’s New York, he remarked “It’s my commission. my subpoena power, I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow.”
Since the dismantling of Moreland eight (8) New York State legislators and two (2) New York City Council members have been convicted on federal charges. During the same period the “Buffalo Billions” scandals broke lose, with close associates of the governor now awaiting sentencing. So much for JCOPE “wrestling concerns to the ground.”
Where does that leave us today? Governor Cuomo enters his third term shortly without any mention of political corruption concerns. Storms continue to brew, I recommend you put on your rain gear.