Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Ethics Panel Issues First Finding Against a Sitting Legislator

Yesterday, the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) issued a Notice of Reasonable Cause against Assemblymember William F. Boyland, Jr. The notice against Boyland – who was recently indicted on corruption charges alongside Sen. Krueger—finds reasonable cause that Boyland violated state ethics laws due having a financial relationship with Brookdale Hospital and MediSys facilities while simultaneously using his position as a legislator to win them state money through government contracts. This marks the first action taken by the LEC against a sitting legislator since its creation in 2007.

The commission voted to investigate Boyland nearly a year ago, after reviewing financial disclosure statements, a request for an advisory opinion regarding his outside employment at the hospital (which he later withdrew) as well as statements by the Assemblymember to LEC staff. According to the timeline in the notice, in July 2010, the Assemblymember’s attorney requested that the investigation be “held in abeyance” due to a “current investigation by a law enforcement entity involving the same line of inquiry of the Commission’s investigation.” The LEC made repeated requests for information to confirm the existence of the law enforcement investigation but received no response. The LEC waited until January 28, 2011 to issue a Notice of Further Investigation. Thus, it appears that the alleged ethics violator was able to stall his investigation for nearly seven months.

The Brennan Center of course has been critical of the legislature’s ability to effectively police itself through the LEC, which consists of members of the legislature and persons appointed by legislative leaders. While we do commend this action, it does beg the question, is this too little too late?

The timing of the release of this finding is also worth noting. As details on the promised ethics bill have been leaked, - which may come as early as tomorrow - it has been reported that the Commission on Public Integrity’s will be reconstituted with powers that will be expanded to include the ability to investigate legislators and refer those findings to the LEC.

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