Lawmakers in Albany tried to continue business as usual in the wake of one of the worst scandals in recent decades, that has overshadowed most other news coming out of the Capitol. Much of this week’s legislative session has been canceled, but politicians who were in town insisted that their agendas are not being derailed.
The scandal around state Sen. Malcolm Smith is continuing to have repercussions in both political parties and in every level of the state’s government. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on an upstate tour to promote the recently passed state budget, has been dogged by questions about the scandal instead.
A government reform group is calling for a state ethics panel report to be made public, one day after the panel investigating charges against Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) sent a report to the legislative ethics committee.
New York state’s ethics board is coming under criticism as it launches an investigation that is believed to focus on a sexual harassment scandal in the Assembly. The secrecy rules imposed in the laws governing the commission are causing some unanticipated problems.
The state ethics board held a closed door meeting Tuesday. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, is believed to be discussing whether to investigate Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and possibly the Assembly Speaker, over a sexual harassment scandal.
A lobbying group closely allied with the policies of Governor Andrew Cuomo has been in the news a lot in the past couple of days, in articles raising questions about multi-million dollar donations to the group known as the Committee to Save New York, and policies later advocated by the governor.
Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced their appointments to the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE early last week. It was the last possible day before the commission was, under law, required to begin its work.
The first meeting was held late Thursday. It was a private teleconference, and no public notice was given. The Associated Press first reported the existence of the meeting.
Governor Cuomo named Janet DiFiore, the District Attorney of Westchester County, to chair the commission. He also appointed Seymour Knox the IV, who is VP of Corporate Relations for the Buffalo Sabres, as well as the chair of a private equity firm, and Mitra Hormozi, who worked for Cuomo when he was Attorney General.
Senate Leader Dean Skelos picks include former Western New York State Senator Mary Lou Rath. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver chose former state budget director Patrick Bulgaro.