Albany comes to an agreement on ethics reform package

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders came to an agreement Friday on an ethics reform package that requires state employees to disclose their outside employment income and name their clients or customers doing business with the state, among other measures.

The Clean Up Albany Act of 2011 also establishes an independent Joint Commission on Public Ethics that has the power to investigate violations of law by members of the executive and legislative branches of government and oversees their financial disclosure requirements and lobbyists.

“I have repeatedly said that in order to get this state back on the right track, we must end the dysfunction and corruption that has plagued Albany for far too long and bring integrity back to the halls of our capitol,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This bill is the tough and aggressive approach we need.”

Queens is no stranger to corruption, with former state Assemblymen Brian McLaughlin and Anthony Seminerio indicted on corruption charges.

After pleading guilty, McLaughlin is incarcerated in a North Carolina prison while Seminerio died in the same prison last year.

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who ascended to the Senate after erstwhile Sen. Hiram Monserrate was found guilty of slashing his girlfriend Karla Giraldo with a broken glass, welcomed the pact between Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre).

“This agreement sends a clear message to taxpayers, voters and all New Yorkers about the commitment of the governor and Legislature to reform and better government,” Peralta said in a statement. “We’re taking a significant step toward beginning to restore at least some level of public confidence in government.”

Ethics reform was one of Cuomo’s top priorities since taking office in January.

Under the agreement, which creates an independent monitor to investigate corruption, lawmakers are required to disclose any outside income.

“After passing an on-time, fiscally responsible budget and reaching an agreement on a property tax cap, this ethics agreement signals that we’ve taken another step in restoring the public’s trust in their government,” Skelos said.

Silver said the agreement “will strengthen our citizens’ faith in their government and hold accountable those who betray the public trust by requiring more extensive financial disclosure and creating additional penalties for those who break the law.”

Good government groups commended the three sides for agreeing to the proposal.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, said the plan “addresses challenging ethics issues such as disclosure of legislators’ outside income and external review of legislative and executive conduct and includes important new provisions such as regulating independent campaign expenditures and providing the public with relevant information about who is paying for certain groups’ lobbying activities.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 10:50 am, October 12, 2011
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