A panel investigating public corruption in New York put state lawmakers on notice Tuesday, suggesting subpoenas for information about their outside business interests may be on their way.
In a delicately worded, five-sentence statement, the co-chairs of the state Moreland Commission said the panel voted to “aggressively move forward” in attempting to wrestle additional information from state legislators about their outside income and who’s on their client lists.
“The Commission voted today to aggressively move forward in compelling production of information into specific matters that the Commission is investigating,” the co-chairs—Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and lawyer Milton Williams—wrote in the statement.
The declaration comes a few weeks after lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly rebuffed a request from the Moreland panel that sought information from those who made more than $20,000 in income outside of their legislative pay.
In a joint letter to the commission in September, outside attorneys hired by Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats challenged whether the Moreland panel had the authority under the state Constitution to compel lawmakers to give up the information. Lawmakers already are required to disclose information on their outside income under state ethics law, the letter noted.
“This Moreland Commission is constrained by the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, and the Legislature’s independence is also safeguarded by the speech or debate clause,” the letter read.
The Moreland panel was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman earlier this year after state lawmakers wouldn’t agree to pass Cuomo’s anti-corruption measures. It’s tasked with investigating all levels of public corruption and issuing recommendations on how to stop it, and is scheduled to issue a preliminary report by December.
Here’s the full statement from the co-chairs:
“Pursuant to the Executive Order, the mandate of the Moreland Commission, among other things, is to examine abuse of office by public officials and misconduct while in office. Our investigation includes examining New York State legislators and their connections to outside business practices.
“On August 27, we requested information to be submitted by certain legislators. Leaders of the legislature for both the Assembly and Senate refused to cooperate.
“The Commission voted today to aggressively move forward in compelling production of information into specific matters that the Commission is investigating.
“The Commission will continue its mandate of investigating corruption, issuing subpoenas, holding public hearings and will issue our first report on December 1.”