NY lawmakers push for corruption oversight

Local News

A slew of politicians were convicted of corruption just this past year, and the need for transparency is needed now more than ever in Albany.

A group of lawmakers and watchdog groups says they have the answer to establishing more oversight on the three bodies of government.

“Unfortunately in Albany, the joke is, ‘they don’t tolerate corruption they demand it,'” Assemblyman Mark Johns (R-Rochester) said.

Johns points out, corruption has been rampant in Albany for decades. 

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, is the current ethics enforcer commission for the state, but many feel that JCOPE is not working.

“It was structured to fail. It was set up with political appointees being representative of the interests that appoint them,” Blair Horner, Director of NYPIRG, said.

JCOPE is currently made up of legislative appointees, but the governor and legislative leader’s appointees can veto any ethics violation investigation.

“The entire concept of an independent ethics body is that they are independent,” Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) said.

A bipartisan group of 22 Senators, government watchdog groups and Assembly members are calling for an anti-corruption constitutional amendment. It would replace JCOPE and the Legislative Ethics Commission to form one commission on state Government Integrity. Five of the nine members would be appointed by top judges in New York, two by the executive branch, and two by the legislature.

“This is the only way we can reform our house. Is to make sure that we create an independent ethics commission, one that acts by majority vote and requires members to monitor themselves and their colleagues,” Assemblyman Robert Carroll (R-Brooklyn) said.

Senator Jim Tedisco (R-Schenectady) is one lawmaker that will not be supporting this constitutional amendment, saying that this commission would still not be independent enough if legislators are appointing members and this proposal lacks the needed transparency.

“Basically what I call a fox in the henhouse appointing more of their friends outside of the hen house,” Sen. Tedisco said.

Since this is a constitutional amendment, it would have to pass both houses this year and again in 2021, before it can appear on the ballot for voters to decide in the fall of  2021 at the earliest.

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