Thursday, May 06, 2010

Making it Harder for the Next Joe Bruno

We’ve just learned that former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was sentenced to two years in prison for violations of the state’s honest services law.

As we’ve written before, one of the most disturbing things about the Bruno case is that much of the unethical behavior of which Bruno is accused is completely permissible under New York State’s notoriously weak ethics laws.

While the legislature’s major ethics overhaul was killed by the governor’s veto pen earlier this year, smaller reform measures have made strides toward closing some of the most egregious loopholes in the state’s laws that govern public officials’ behavior. A bill signed in February made it illegal for public officials to use state resources for private pursuits for which they get money, and a new bill, called the Public Corruption Prevention and Enforcement Act, would create a stricter definition of public services fraud and increase the penalties for corruption.

At yesterday’s Albany on the Record event, Governor Paterson said he was continuing to work with the legislature to achieve the major overhaul that the state’s ethics laws so badly need. Of the bill he vetoed spring, the Governor said that an ethics bill shouldn’t just be responsive to a particular event (like the Bruno trial), but rather should be a holistic and forward-thinking solution.

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