ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — The States new Commission on Ethics & Lobbying in State Government has appointed their Executive Director, Sanford Berland – who was also the previous Executive Director for the commission’s predecessor, known as JCOPE. Critics say the new commission replaced JCOPE after it failed to be the proper watchdog during Cuomo’s administration; with a $5.1 million book deal and sexual harassment allegations being issues some say they failed to address.
“The ethics commissions Executive Director has a tough hand to play, he’s really following up on the heels of a failed agency. And with that he’s bringing the baggage to the fact that he was…the director of the failed agency,” said Blair Horner with watchdog group NYPIRG. Horner said watchdog groups requested that the search for an Executive Director be nationwide, but that did not happen.
“The important thing is what this new agency does and it’s really important to New Yorkers that this state ethics watchdog will be aggressive, that it be a watchdog not a lapdog we think New Yorkers deserve it, they’re spending millions of dollars for an ethics agency, they deserve one that bites not just barks,” said Horner, adding that the agency has to prove itself trustworthy and transparent. “And the first thing that they have to do is hold a public hearing, so that will be the first test of the Executive Director in the new agency is how seriously they take the public hearing process,” he said.
Berland said he does want increased transparency and for New Yorkers to restore their faith in state government. He said this will be possible with a new statute that makes the agency subject to the open meeting and freedom of information law, “And it means that more of our proceedings can be conducted in public session, there are still constraints as they were before to maintain confidentiality and investigative and enforcement matters.” Berland said he wants to expand capabilities within the agency.; whether it’s reviewing financial disclosure statements, lobbying submissions, and conducting investigations of complaints.