NY Republicans Clamor for Word of Cuomo Ethics Probe

(CN) – Midway through a New York corruption trial that ended in conviction, Republican leaders asked the state’s ethics watchdog to begin an investigation of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Met only with silence for nearly six months now, they want a judge to intervene.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, right, and Joseph Percoco, executive deputy secretary, stand at an April 26, 2013, news conference in Albany, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Filed in Albany County Supreme Court, the July 27 petition questions why the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics has dragged its heels on an investigation regarding the misconduct of former top Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco.

A 49-year-old resident of South Salem, Percoco faces sentencing on Aug. 10 after he was convicted in March of raking in more than $300,000 in bribes from political donors who provided his wife with low-show work.

Cuomo himself has not faced any allegation of wrongdoing and has repudiated Percoco, but the criminal proceedings encroaching on his inner circle have complicated re-election plans for the two-term Democrat.

On July 12, the governor saw another of his ex-allies, former State University of New York Polytechnic Institute president Alain Kaloyeros, convicted of fraud.

Edward Cox, the chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, notes in the July 27 petition that he invited the commission back in February to commence an investigation of Percoco, Cuomo and others who had worked for the governor’s executive chamber in 2014.

“Among other unlawful conduct, petitioner Cox alleged in his complaint several instances in which state resources were being used for private and political purposes in violation of provisions of the Public Officers Law,” the petition states.

Represented by Michael Hutter, a professor of law at Albany Law School, Cox is joined in the July 27 petition by Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. The Republican Party tapped Molinaro in May as their candidate to run against Cuomo in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

A month earlier, the petition notes, Molinaro filed his own complaint with the ethics commission regarding Percoco and Cuomo.

Cox says the commission was required to vote on his complaint no later than April 16, and Molinaro says the vote on his complaint should have happened by June 12.

Offering a cynical theory on what has delayed the commission’s investigation, the petition notes that “the commission’s executive director during the time frames of the actions, Seth Agata, was a high-level counsel to the governor during the time frames of the actions raised in the complaints in the governor’s executive chamber.”

Commission spokesman Walter McClure declined to comment on pending litigation.

“By law,” McClure added in an email, “we cannot comment on anything that is or may be an investigative matter unless or until the commission votes to allow us to make that public.”

Representatives for Cuomo’s office have not returned an email seeking comment.

“The failure and/or refusal of the commission to inform the petitioners as to the vote on their complaints and even as to whether such a vote occurred is in violation of the Executive Law, contrary to the stated purpose of the commission, namely, enhancing the public’s trust and confidence in government and its elected officials through the prevention of corruption, favoritism, undue influence and abuse of official position,” the petition states.

“Upon information and belief,” the petition continues, “the commission has taken no or little investigative actions regarding the complaints. “Neither petitioner has been contacted by the commission and upon further information and belief, neither have journalists or reporters covering the subject action been contacted. … In fact, the only investigative actions regarding the complaints appear to have been conducted by journalists and reporters.”

The New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics held its monthly meeting on July 31. The Albany Times Union reported that Commissioner Jim Yates called at the meeting for new legislation that would “allow the commission to legally confirm whether an investigation was indeed being pursued in some instances.”

As noted in the article, Cox also asked the Manhattan district attorney’s office to launch a criminal investigation of Cuomo related to Percoco’s misconduct.

In an email Wednesday, Cox and Molinaro’s attorney declined to comment on the status of their case, noting that he is vacationing out of Albany.

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