Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 8, 2013

Cuomo says overhaul of NY ethics needed -- again

Niagara Gazette — ALBANY — Days after federal authorities rocked New York politics with an announcement of more "rampant" corruption cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that solutions abound to fix Albany's intractable ethical lapses.

But he isn't releasing any remedies yet in his call for another overhaul of ethics laws and enforcement in two years, and so far he won't order a powerful corruption commission to investigate state politics as his father, Gov. Mario Cuomo, did in 1987.

Cuomo in a radio interview didn't say how his new overhaul would be different from his ethics reform two years ago, or other ethics reforms four years before that.

Those who have regulated state government say the latest rhetoric follows a pattern over decades following scandals where, despite numerous press announcements, reforms came up short.

The former state ethics and lobbying watchdogs say Albany continues to avoid focusing on the root causes of corruption. The regulators said in interviews that Albany must break down political hurdles so people can run for office without making concessions to party bosses, and state officials must begin to report suspicious behavior of colleagues.

Former state ethics board Executive Director Karl Sleight said that in his experience it was "very unlikely" that a state official would report concerns about another state official's ethical behavior.

"It's a collegial environment," said Sleight, who led the 2006 investigation into former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi that resulted in one of Albany biggest corruption convictions. "They all go through the same political battles of getting themselves on the ballot. There's a certain collegiality that develops, and I think it transcends party labels.

"The larger issue is how to attract quality candidates with the right moral compass and improving ballot access for those people," Sleight said.

He said public-spirited citizens can be dissuaded from politics if they are first required to make donations to party bosses, diminishing the pool of top candidates.

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