Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended state government amid scandals plaguing the state Legislature, saying “government is functioning better than it has in decades.”
Cuomo said the sexual harassment case involving Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn, shouldn’t be an indictment of state government. He said there will always be misdeeds, whether in the public or private sector.
“Those situations are going to happen,” Cuomo told reporters today. “You say, well, ‘Success is when people stop doing bad things.’ We will never achieve success if that is your standard of success: not in government, not in corporate America, not in your household.”
He added, “The question becomes, when people make mistakes or bad things are done, what is the response and what is the systemic response and do you have a mechanism in the system to catch, to find it, to correct it?”
Cuomo defended the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics, saying that the heavily criticized board is providing oversight where previously there had been none. Before JCOPE, any ethics complaints against the Legislature was handled by the state Legislative Ethics Commission, which is controlled by the lawmakers.
“We’re much better off than we were with JCOPE actually being in place. So even that’s an improvement,” Cuomo said.
JCOPE is under fire for apparent leaks to the media about its private investigations. Cuomo said it’s unclear if JCOPE is the source of the leaks, and he added, “I don’t even know that there was a leak. That’s not a determination for me to make.”
As for the stories by Newsday and the New York Times today that Cuomo had agreed to a confidentiality agreement in a case when he was attorney general, he said that confidential agreements are common.
“Confidential provisions are very common, especially in this area of law: racial discrimination complaints, workplace complaints. They are very common,” Cuomo said. “They are most often requested by the plaintiffs.”