Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Joint Commission on Public Ethics Appointments: A Good First Step

We are encouraged that the Governor and legislative leaders yesterday announced a full slate of appointees to the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics (J-COPE). We hope this large group of citizens will set to work immediately and be given all of the resources it needs to begin the hard tasks ahead. This is an impressive group, with many years of experience so we should be optimistic.

We now further urge legislative leaders to also fulfill their obligation to jointly appoint the crucial ninth member of the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC). The troubled LEC has operated since inception in 2007 without this ninth member, an outsider who was supposed to have been appointed by legislative leadership to ensure that a majority of members were not legislators. [1] Going forward, J-COPE will have some powers to oversee the ethics laws that apply to legislators, but the LEC will have authority to enforce most charges, which makes this ninth member vital. [2]

[1] The LEC’s other eight members are either legislators or persons appointed by legislative leadership.

[2] Section 14-a: “The JCOPE shall have jurisdiction to investigate, but shall have no jurisdiction to impose penalties upon members of or candidates for member of the legislature or legislative employees for any violation of the public officers law.” Findings of investigations are reported to the Legislative Ethics Commission.

No comments: