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Amid Lopez Probe, Ethics Panel Faces Scrutiny

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Brooklyn Democratic leader Vito Lopez (Azi Paybarah)

The state ethics panel investigating the handling of sexual harassment charges against Assemblyman Vito Lopez has itself come under scrutiny over its handling of the probe.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who created the Joint Commission on Public Ethics to ferret out corruption in Albany, has said he will launch his own investigation if the panel does not do a thorough job. Critics say this undermines the credibility of the panel.

“If JCOPE is not doing a thorough investigation, then there’s Plan B,” Cuomo said Monday on Fred Dicker’s radio program.

On Monday, it appeared the panel voted to launch a full investigation into Lopez and the actions of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who authorized a secret $103,000 payout to alleged victims who accused Lopez of sexual harassment. The funds were doled out two months before Lopez was censured on separate sexual harassment allegations.

The panel is bound by confidentiality and cannot disclose what goes on during its closed session.

Last Friday, the New York Times reported the panel would not investigate Silver. In response, Cuomo’s office issued a statement saying it “would be unconscionable for any legislative appointees to JCOPE to block such investigation.”

They also threatened to initiate their own investigation under the state’s Moreland Act, which allows the governor to appoint a special investigator.

Also on Friday, board member Ravi Batra, a Manhattan attorney and Senate Democrat, resigned from the commission. In a colorfully worded eight-page letter addressed to Cuomo he said that the panel is rife with corruption.

Later, Batra said the statements from the governor’s office were “nothing less than a gun being put on a judge’s head” that says “‘Do it this way or else.’”

Marvin Jacob, a Silver appointee, said on Monday that the statement released last week was “unfortunate because the tune and the tone of that press release was coercive and threatening.”

For Cuomo, this is considered the first major test of the ethics panel.

Ravi Batra Letter

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Comments [3]

Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

It's a shame we can't trust anyone these days. Seems all this church-going rhetoric has by-passed ethics in favor of money and expediency. Disgusting.

Well, let's scrap the ethics panel and start from scratch and let's scratch Vito Lopez and elect someone who has not yet been accused of sexual harrassment of anyone. If we can find someone competent at the same time, that would be helpful...

Sep. 12 2012 10:41 AM
SKV from NYC

If the ethics panel doesn't also examine Sheldon Silver using our tax dollars to bribe Lopez's victims to be silent, it doesn't deserve the name.

Cuomo said he wants the investigation to be thorough. What's coercive about that? It WOULD be unconscionable if the Democrats on the panel blocked investigating Silver.

It's sounding like it's time for a special prosecutor.

Sep. 11 2012 08:16 PM
kevin from upper LS

ethically challenged ethics panel....how completely not surprizing. it's all about money,greed and power.

Sep. 11 2012 06:20 PM

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