Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo has joined some state lawmakers in advocating an overhaul of the New York Joint Commission on Public Ethics (J-COPE), calling it “meaningless” while addressing reporters Wednesday.
“The fundamental flaw is a constitutional barrier,” Cuomo said
“Because the fundamental flaw is it can’t enforce anything; it’s nonbinding. It’s essentially advisory. If the legislature takes the position that its findings are not binding because there is no outside agency that has any authority for any sanction,” Cuomo continued.
The governor established the ethics commission, which the legislature approved, in 2011, after vowing to lead the “most transparent administration in history.” The intended mission for the agency was to discover and stamp out ethical violations in the executive and legislative branches of the New York state government.
J-COPE has penalized numerous state legislators for misconduct in the past, but critics claim it fails to hold members of the governor’s administration accountable for malfeasance because the governor appoints the majority of its members. One incident that indicated the committee could be compromised was when it approved a $5.1 million book deal for Cuomo without publicly revealing that value.
Cuomo’s comments coincide with the state assembly judiciary committee’s ongoing impeachment investigation into the multiple scandals facing the governor.
The committee hired a law firm to conduct the probe into the allegations against Cuomo, including multiple complaints of sexual harassment, an attempted manipulation and coverup of the state’s nursing-home COVID deaths, and the governor’s purported misuse of state resources to release his memoir on his administration’s management of the pandemic. Cuomo’s staffers were accused of omitting and obscuring the true number of elderly COVID deaths in New York’s senior-living facilities to shield the governor from political criticism.
After reviewing the evidence, the judiciary committee will decide whether there is merit to the allegations against the governor and whether they warrant impeachment.