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In another ominous sign for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) has finally filled her years-long vacancy on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which might actually lead to JCOPE doing . . . something.
When last heard from, the state’s premier ethics watchslug was voting down a move to subpoena the names of Cuomo’s anti-COVID “volunteers” exempted from conflict-of-interest rules. That exemption means they could be doing the gov’s political dirty work even as they wield state power.
The gov had stonewalled the Albany Times Union’s Freedom of Information Law request for the names, part of a long Cuomo habit of giving the middle finger to FOIL efforts by the media.
Maybe ASC’s naming of ex-Court of Claims judge Juanita Bing Newton will change things. His appointees blocked the subpoena because JCOPE needs eight votes to do anything, and the majority leader hadn’t bothered to fill a seat, leaving just seven votes for action.
Even now, though, the rules would require two Cuomo-named members to approve any investigation of him. (A similar provision covers investigating members of the Legislature.) In other words, JCOPE is toothless against the very people it’s supposed to police.
But now the panel could at least start issuing subpoenas to end Cuomo’s FOIL games. If it won’t do that, it might as well just disband.