July 2, 2013

Bipartisan Moreland Act Commission formed by Governor Cuomo to investigate public corruption

Bipartisan Moreland Act Commission formed by Governor Cuomo to investigate public corruption
Source: Office of the Governor

On July 2, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the formation of the “Commission to Investigate Public Corruption” pursuant to the Moreland Act [Executive Law §6*] and Executive Law §63(8)** to probe systemic public corruption and the appearance of such corruption in state government, political campaigns and elections in New York State.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced he will appoint the members of the Commission as Deputy Attorneys General,*** giving the Commission broad-based authority to investigate all matters that “involve public peace, public safety, and public justice.”

Under the Executive Order, the Commission will also have the power to subpoena and examine witnesses under oath as well as subpoena any necessary records. The Governor’s action follows several recent proven and alleged incidents of corruption and misconduct by public officials that have shown that current laws are inadequate and reforms are necessary to guard against abuses, ensure accountability in government, address the need for reform in our campaign finance laws, and restore the public’s confidence and trust in state government and state elections.

The Commission to Investigate Public Corruption will be tasked with thoroughly reviewing the adequacy of existing state laws, regulations and procedures involving unethical and unlawful misconduct by public officials, and the electoral process and campaign finance laws. The Commission will also examine whether existing laws have been fairly and vigorously enforced, and what changes must be made to such enforcement. During the Commission’s investigation, it will also review recent instances of reported misconduct by officials to determine causes and adequacy of laws and enforcement tools to more effectively prevent and punish this kind of misconduct in the future. The Commission is directed to make recommendations to toughen and improve existing laws and procedures.

Areas where the Commission will focus its investigation include but are not limited to:

*  Criminal statutes for corruption and misconduct by public officials, such as bribery laws

*  Campaign financing including but not limited to contribution limits and other restrictions; disclosure of third-party contributions and expenditures; and the effectiveness of existing campaign finance laws.

* Compliance of outside organizations and persons with existing lobbying laws, including but not limited to organizations engaged in lobbying and other efforts to influence public policies and elections, and the effectiveness of such laws.

* Adequacy and enforcement of the State’s election laws and electoral process including: the structure and composition of the State and County Boards of Elections, the Board of Elections’ enforcement, and the effectiveness of and compliance with existing election laws.

During its investigation, the Commission is mandated to promptly communicate any evidence of violations of existing law to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, including the Attorney General. In such cases, the State Police will make jurisdictional referrals to the Attorney General where appropriate.

The Commission will issue a preliminary report on its initial findings and recommendations by December 1, 2013.

The Commission’s Co-Chairs are Kathleen Rice, William J. Fitzpatrick, and Milton L. Williams, Jr.,

Ms. Rice became the Nassau County District Attorney in 2006. Rice served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Philadelphia. Rice began her career as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, where she prosecuted cases of domestic violence, sexual assault and armed robbery, and later, murder cases. D.A. Rice is a graduate of the Catholic University of America and Touro Law School.

Mr. Fitzpatrick has served as Onondaga County's District Attorney [D.A.] for the past 28 years. Prior to serving as D.A., he was a defense attorney. In 2007 D.A. Fitzpatrick was appointed as the New York State representative to the National District Attorney's Association, and he was elected Secretary in 2011. In 2010, New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman appointed D.A. Fitzpatrick to the New York State Permanent Sentencing Commission. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and Syracuse University Law School.

Mr. Williams, Jr. is a partner in the law firm Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard as a partner in January 2009. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Williams was a Deputy General Counsel and the Chief Compliance Officer at Time Inc. Before working at Time, Mr. Williams was in private practice, and served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York. Prior to becoming a federal prosecutor, Mr. Williams was an Assistant District Attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. He is a graduate of Amherst College and the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor.

The members of the Commission are J. Patrick Barrett, Richard Briffault, Daniel J. Castleman, Derek P. Champagne, Eric Corngold, Kathleen B. Hogan, Nancy Hoppock, Seymour W. James, Jr., David Javdan, Robert Johnson, David R. Jones, Lance Liebman, Joanne M. Mahoney, Gerald F. Mollen, Makau W. Mutua, Benito Romano, Frank A. Sedita III, P. David Soares, Kristy Sprague, Betty Weinberg Ellerin, Peter L. Zimroth,  and Thomas P. Zugibe.

The Commission’s staff includes Regina Calcaterra, Executive Director; Danya Perry, Chief of Investigations; Kelly Donovan, Chief Counsel; and John Amodeo, Legislative Director

Special advisors to the Commission include Joseph A. D'Amico, Superintendent of the New York State Police; Raymond W. Kelly, Police Commissioner of the City of New York; and Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters of New York.

Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney for New York County from 1975 to 2009, will serve as Special Counsel to the Commission.

* §6 of the Executive Law provides that “The governor is authorized at any time, either in person or by one or more persons appointed by him for the purpose, to examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state. The governor and the persons so appointed by him are empowered to subpoena and enforce the attendance of witnesses, to administer oaths and examine witnesses under oath and to require the production of any books or papers deemed relevant or material. Whenever any person so appointed shall not be regularly in the service of the state his compensation for such services shall be fixed by the governor, and said compensation and all necessary expenses of such examinations and investigations shall be paid from the treasury out of any appropriations made for the purpose upon the order of the governor and the audit and warrant of the comptroller.

 “Notwithstanding any inconsistent provision of any general, special or local law, charter, administrative code or other statute, service rendered by a person appointed by the governor pursuant to this section shall not constitute or be deemed state service or re-entry into state service under the civil service law, the retirement and social security law or under any charter, administrative code, or other general, special or local law relating to a state or municipal retirement or pension system so as to suspend, impair or otherwise affect or interfere with the pension or retirement status, rights, privileges and benefits of such person under any such system or to interfere with the right of such person or his beneficiary to receive any pension or annuity benefits or death benefits by reason of the selection of any option under any such system.”

** §63 of the Executive Law sets out the general duties of the “attorney-general.”

*** All members of the Commission are attorneys licensed to practice in New York State as are a number of the members of the Special Advisers to the Commission and a numbers of those serving on the Commission's staff