New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
By JOSEPH SPECTOR
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the laws of the state's new ethics agency may need to be improved after an apparent leak of information about an investigation of Sen. Thomas Libous.
Cuomo said Monday that the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics should not be used as a political tool.
"We want the highest ethics enforcement. We want the best disclosure. We do not want a vehicle that is going to be used for politics," Cuomo said on the public radio show, "The Capitol Pressroom." "We don't want a vehicle that is leaking information. We don't want a commission that is doing a running commentary of the situation."
Cuomo's comments come after JCOPE has faced criticism for an apparent leak of information to the media last week that it sent a letter to Libous, a Binghamton Republican, about a potential investigation.
Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan, a Democrat, filed a complaint against Libous last month, questioning whether Libous broke ethics laws and used his political clout to get Libous' son a job at a Westchester County law firm.
Libous has denied any wrongdoing, but he acknowledged last week the JCOPE sent his office an initial letter of inquiry.
Cuomo said it appears the letter to Libous was required after Ryan filed the complaint.
"I think it's early to say that there were leaks of out JCOPE," Cuomo said. "I don't know that that is true. Part of the process, as I understand it, is anyone who sends a sworn complaint to JCOPE, it automatically becomes an investigation."
The new state ethics law established a misdemeanor charge for revealing confidential information from within JCOPE. The misdemeanor applies to any JCOPE employee or commissioner who "intentionally and without authorization releases confidential information received by the commission."
The law calls for "any breaches of confidentiality" to be investigated by the state inspector general.
Cuomo didn't say if he thought an investigation should be undertaken, but he said the laws of JCOPE made need to be changed to ensure those accused of an ethics violation aren't improperly investigated.
"If that's a problem in the law, that's something that needs to be fixed because in my opinion, you can't have these government agencies being used for political campaigns," Cuomo said.