Niagara Gazette

October 6, 2013

GLYNN: Critics say Cuomo tries to sway panel

By DON GLYNN don.glynn@niagara-gazette.com
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Corruption in government appears to be prevalent from the tip of Long Island to small towns in Western New York. 

It’s everywhere. Faced with the reality that lawmakers failed to pass anti-corruption measures in response to scandals involving the state Legislature, Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed the Moreland Commission in July.

Before it began its hearings, Cuomo promised the commission could function as an independent panel, acting without any direction or control from the governor’s office. In fact, it was said then the commission would be allowed to delve into the state’s broken campaign financing system. Even the governor appeared to raise no objections if they looked at his list of campaign donors. (At last count, his war chest was approaching the $25 million mark.)  It’s not likely the probe will reach that stage.

If the commissioners were to be sufficiently empowered to fulfill their task, they needed the right to issue subpoenas for people to testify. Now it seems that Gov. Cuomo is attempting to seize control of the process, according to Ken Lovett, Albany Bureau chief for the New York Daily News. 

The tipoff about interfering in the process was evident, Lovett says, when the commission subpoenaed five developers who received lucrative tax breaks through a housing bill. Two of those developers were hefty donors to Cuomo. Their contributions, by the way, came about the same time as the governor signed the housing bill. At any rate, the subpoena seeking lobbying and campaign donation information from the Real Estate Board of New York (it has close ties to the governor) was drafted by the commission and approved by the co-chairmen. But it never was  sent.

On another matter, the commission struck out after the attorneys for the legislative majorities refused the panel’s request for more information on state lawmakers’ outside income. Among other objections, the attorneys argued that the commission can only investigate departments, agencies and commissions of the executive branch, not the Legislature itself. 

“If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide,” said Michelle Duffy, a spokesperson for the Moreland Commission.

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WARM WELCOME: Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Buffalo Catholic Diocese visited Our Lady of Peace Nursing Home, Lewiston, Thursday where he celebrated a morning Mass. The staff and residents were thrilled to host the leader of the eight-county diocese.

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TRIVIA: Abner Doubleday, the legendary founder of baseball, was born in what town in New York state? (Answer Thursday).

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SPLENDID SCENE: Check out that beautiful outdoor display, a bright array of figures all dressed up for fall, on Lockport Street, Youngstown. It’s the handiwork of Mark and Debbie Fox who over the years have carefully designed the eye-catching scenery for the changing seasons. It’s just west of the Robert Moses Parkway overpass as you’re driving into the village.

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A LONG HAUL: Roadside ‘superintendents’ were watching in three states recently as a 94-ton transformer made in China was transported from the Port of Camden, N.J., to the Robert Moses Power Plant in Lewiston. The whole load estimated at 437,000 pounds moved mostly at 30 miles per hour as it inches through northern Pennsylvania toward its final destination — the Robert Moses Power Plant in Lewiston.

The 19-axle rig — with its large “Oversize Load” banner —was owned by a Kearney, N.J. firm, the same company that moved the U.S. Airways plane that Captain Chesley Sullenberger miraculously landed in the Hudson River. (That aircraft was shipped from New York City to the Carolinas Aviation Museum in Charlotte.)

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ON THE BORDER: Sherman Zavitz, historian for Niagara Falls, Ont., and the Niagara Parks Commission there, will speak on the “Canadian Niagara Portage” at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Niagara Falls Public Library, Lockport and Main streets. The talk in the second-floor auditorium is part of a series focusing on the roles of brothers Augustus and Peter Buell Porter during the War of 1812.

Zavitz, a retired teacher and local history expert, is the author of several books about the Niagara area.

Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.