ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo established a powerful investigative body today to examine public corruption, including potential wrongdoing by legislators in campaign fundraising, in an attempt to address what's seen as a widespread problem in New York government.
Included on that panel are four officials from the North Country: Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne, Essex County DA Kristy Sprague, Warren County DA Kathleen Hogan and Lake Placid businessman J. Patrick Barrett, who is chairman of the state Olympic Regional Development Authority and chaired the Republican State Committee from 1989 to 1991.
Cuomo, announcing the panel at the Capitol, was joined by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who said he'll deputize the commission members. That gives them broad authority to investigate any branch of state government and refer misconduct cases for prosecution. They will also recommend changes in the law and ethics rules, he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo answers questions Saturday at a newly dedicated firehouse in Keene.
(Photo — Naj Wikoff)
Cuomo announced his intention two weeks ago after abandoning efforts to get reforms through the legislature. That followed federal bribery and embezzlement charges filed against several state lawmakers this year. Similar commissions ordered by governors over decades have resulted in lengthy corruption probes and arrests.
"They'll follow the money and go where the commission determines to go," Cuomo said. It's no legislative witch hunt, he said, noting the federal cases show there are real problems, but adding that he expects the investigation to vindicate 99 percent of elected officials who are good people.
The committee was established by executive order under both New York's anti-corruption Moreland Act and the state's Executive Law. It has subpoena power and will investigate the influence of campaign contributions on state government and compliance with election and lobbying laws. Its preliminary report is due by Dec. 1, with a final report expected by the end of next year.
"The corruption that now is perceived by the public to be rampant in state government undermines the ability of every part of the state government to function. It has to be addressed comprehensively," Schneiderman said. "In New York state, we have a voting system that sometimes seems to be set up to make it as hard for people to vote as possible. We have an election law and regulations and enforcement of election law and regulations that sometimes seems like a welcome wagon for pay-to-play schemes."
The commission is chaired by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Syracuse District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and attorney Milton Williams. Most of its other 22 members are attorneys and prosecutors, including several republicans. State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters are special advisers.
Fitzpatrick questioned news reports that some legislators expressed surprise Cuomo was establishing a commission. "What is the magic number that it takes for people to say, 'Wow, there's a problem here'? The number's about 35 right now - people indicted, under investigation, sentenced to prison."
Meetings would start immediately Tuesday to put together a strategy and staff would soon start examining documents, said commission executive director Regina Calcaterra, who also directed Cuomo's special commission that investigated the Long Island Power Authority's response to Hurricane Sandy.
They include campaign finance reports at the Board of Elections and financial disclosures filed by legislators and other elected officials.
Michael Whyland, spokesman for the Assembly's majority Democratic Conference, said Tuesday that campaign finance reform has been among that chamber's top priorities and passed there many times, including this year.
"We look forward to working with the commission to develop and advance comprehensive policy recommendations so we can finally have a system in place that reduces the influence of money in our elections," he said.
Members of NY Gov. Cuomo's Moreland Commission
ALBANY (AP) - The members of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Commission to investigate public corruption, including in campaign financing:
- Kathleen Rice, Nassau County district attorney
- William Fitzpatrick, Onondaga County district attorney
- Milton Williams Jr., lawyer in the firm of Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard
- J. Patrick Barrett, CEO of CARPAT Investments
- Richard Briffault, professor of legislation at Columbia Law School
- Daniel Castleman, a senior managing director in the Forensic and Litigation Consulting practice at FTI Consulting
- Derek Champagne, Franklin County district attorney
- Eric Corngold, leads the white-collar criminal defense and investigations practice of the law firm Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman, LLP
- Kathleen Hogan, Warren County district attorney
- Nancy Hoppock, executive director of the New York University Center on the Administration of Criminal Law
- Seymour James Jr., attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice of The Legal Aid Society in New York City
- David Javdan, managing director with Alvarez & Marsal
- Robert Johnson, Bronx County district attorney
- David Jones, president and CEO of the Community Service Society of New York
- Lance Liebman, professor of law at Columbia Law School
- Joanne Mahoney, Onondaga County executive
- Gerald Mollen, Broome County district attorney
- Makau Mutua, dean of SUNY Buffalo Law School
- Benito Romano, partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
- Frank Sedita III, Erie County district attorney
- P. David Soares, Albany County district attorney
- Kristy Sprague, Essex County district attorney
- Betty Weinberg Ellerin, senior counsel at the law firm Alston & Bird
- Peter Zimroth, partner at Arnold & Porter
- Thomas Zugibe, Rockland County district attorney
- Joseph D'Amico, New York State Police superintendent
- Raymond Kelly, New York City police commissioner
- Robert Morgenthau, former New York County district attorney
- Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director for the League of Women Voters
- Regina Calcaterra, executive director
- Danya Perry, chief of investigations
- Kelly Donovan, chief counsel
- John Amodeo, legislative director