Ethics Law Just First Step, Reformers Say

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

By Karen DeWitt

Governor Cuomo signed into law new ethics oversight legislation, but some say the measure is flawed, and that there is still work to be done to fight corruption in government.

Cuomo signed the ethics law without fanfare or a public ceremony. In a statement, he touted the new stricter requirements for disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income, a 14 member ethics panel empowered to probe charges of corruption, and the elimination of pensions for elected officials in the future who are convicted of a felony. Cuomo called it a “major step forward in restoring the people’s trust in government and changing the way Albany does business”.

Some legislators who have been long time supporters of reform say the new law falls short, though, in a couple of key ways. Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, says on the positive side, the new law serves as an “instruction manual” for lawmakers seeking guidance on ethical behavior.

“I give the governor kudos for getting us this far,” said Krueger.

But, Senator Krueger says she’s irked that the pension forfeiture only applies to new lawmakers. Current or former elected officials get to keep their pensions, even if they are found guilty of felonies. She says that means, for example, if former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada, who faces federal charges that he stole millions of dollars from his Bronx based health care clinics, were convicted, he would still keep his pension.

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