On Thursday December 22nd, NY’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to create a prosecutor who would investigate the granting of state contracts. The prosecutor would report only to the governor and thus circumvent independent oversight. “Such a scheme violates the fundamental checks-and-balances principle that underlines our state constitution,” Schneiderman wrote. “It does not establish the independence required of a procurement watchdog and therefore will not achieve the real accountability and reform our state desperately needs. It is also likely unconstitutional.”
Mr. Cuomo’s reform is part of a potential legislative proposed amid haggling to increase the base salary for legislators by about 25 percent, up to $99,500 for part-time employees. There was still no agreement reached and members may be convening again on Tuesday. The suggested reform comes amid a federal investigation involving state contracts across the country.
As reported by Newsday, in NY as well, many of the construction and development firms who were among Cuomo’s top campaign donors enjoyed tax breaks and selection for state contacts. Mr. Cuomo has denied that any contractor was favored based on campaign contributions, and he has not been accused of any wrong doing. One of the governors top aides, Joseph Percoco, along with a longtime associate, lobbyist Todd Howe, were charged with demanding payments from developers prior to being awarded lucrative state contracts.
Currently state spending is overseen by the comptroller and the attorney general. “Rather than work with and provide additional powers to the attorney general and comptroller to root out fraud and corruption, the governor’s proposal would allow executive agencies to simply police themselves,” said Eric Soufer, the AG’s director of communications. “Self-policing does not work. It’s like the fox guarding the hen house.”
By Ilana Siyance