NYS Seal



New York State Government Ethics.

To examine New York's current enforcement structures in relation to compliance with the ethics law and oversight over the ethics of state officers and employees.

June 9, 2009
12:00 p.m.
Hamilton Hearing Room B
Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor
Albany, NY


In 1987, New York State adopted the Ethics in Government Act. The Act established the New York State Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission's primary duties were to: receive complaints alleging violations of Public Officers Law §§73, 73-a, and 74; investigate complaints on its own initiative; render advisory opinions which interpret and apply the laws as they pertain to present and former State officers and employees; distribute, collect and audit financial disclosure statements; and issue rules and regulations to implement and enforce the law under its jurisdiction.

The New York Temporary State Lobbying Commission was first established in 1981 and extended by the New York State Lobbying Act of 1999. It provided oversight and regulated compliance for report and filing requirements for lobbying activities in New York State.

In 2007, Governor Spitzer introduced the Public Employee Ethics Reform Act of 2007 which was signed into law on March 26, 2007. The new law combined the New York State Ethics Commission and the New York Temporary State Lobbying Commission into one entity: the Commission on Public Integrity. It also created the Legislative Ethics Commission, which replaced the former Legislative Ethics Committee. The Legislative Ethics Commission's jurisdiction includes the administration and enforcement of the provisions of the Public Officers Law as the laws pertain to the Legislature, the issuance of advisory opinions and financial disclosure compliance for members and staff of the Legislature as well as candidates for state legislative office. Judicial ethics issues are reviewed by a separate commission on judicial conduct, and its decisions are subject to review by the Court of Appeals.

On May 13, 2009, the New York State Inspector General issued a report detailing alleged ethics violations by certain members of the Commission on Public Integrity and former Governor Spitzer's staff. The alleged violations arose from the Commission's investigation into the so-called Troopergate scandal. As a result of the Inspector General's findings, Governor Paterson announced on May 18, 2009, that he would submit legislation creating a new Government Ethics Commission. This entity would be independent and have jurisdiction over all of state government, the lobbying industry, and campaign finance laws. It would replace the Commission on Public Integrity and supersede the Legislative Ethics Commission and would be able to impose penalties on violations by state officers of the open meetings laws.

The purpose of this hearing is to examine proposals relating to changes in the statutory framework that establishes ethics standards and oversight for government officials and employees in New York State.

Testimony should be directed to the following areas:

  1. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the current ethics structure in New York State? Is it stronger or weaker than the structure that existed prior to the adoption of the Public Employee Ethics Reform Act of 2007?
  2. What would be the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed Government Ethics Commission?
  3. What can we learn from congressional and other state ethics structures? Are you aware of an ethics structure in another state that has been particularly successful in the following areas:
    1. Investigations;
    2. Compliance;
    3. Issuance of advisory opinions
    4. Campaign finance disclosure requirements and enforcement;
    5. Enforcement of the open meetings laws;
    6. Simultaneous oversight of both the Legislative and Executive branches?
  4. What are the goals of state ethics laws? What is the appropriate role of an ethics commission in seeking to achieve those goals?
  5. The proposed Government Ethics Commission would have oversight over ethics laws and lobbying laws, as well as certain provisions of the civil service law, election law, and open meetings law. What are the potential challenges, risks, costs and benefits of merging these functions into one body? How do you envision the respective roles of commissioners and staff members in such a structure?
  6. Prior to the Commission on Public Integrity, New York State had multiple entities that oversaw ethics compliance and enforcement for different bodies. There was a separate entity for the Legislature, for lobbyists, and for the Executive. Do you feel that one body is a more effective ethics structure than the multi-body structure New York State had prior to the Commission on Public Integrity?
  7. What is the most effective way to distinguish between the educative, advisory, and compliance functions of an ethics body and the investigative and prosecutorial functions of an ethics body? Does combining those functions cause any problems?

Oral Testimony is by invitation only. Persons wishing to present a written statement to the Committee at this hearing should complete and return the enclosed reply form as soon as possible. It is important that the reply form be fully completed and returned so that persons may be notified in the event of emergency postponement or cancellation. Ten copies of any prepared testimony should be submitted at the hearing registration desk. The Committee would appreciate advance receipt of prepared statements. In order to further publicize these hearings, please inform interested parties and organizations of the Committee's interest in hearing testimony from all sources.

In order to meet the needs of those who may have a disability, the Assembly, in accordance with its policy of non-discrimination on the basis of disability, as well as the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has made its facilities and services available to all individuals with disabilities. For individuals with disabilities, accommodations will be provided, upon reasonable request, to afford such individuals access and admission to Assembly facilities and activities.

RoAnn M. Destito, Chair
Committee on Governmental Operations
Joan L. Millman, Chair
Committee on Election Law
William B. Magnarelli, Chair
Committee on Ethics and Guidance


Persons wishing to present testimony at this public hearing are requested to complete this reply form as soon as possible and mail it to:

Destiny DeJesus
Committee Assistant
Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations
AESOB - 22nd Floor
Albany, New York 12248
Email: dejesusd@assembly.state.ny.us
Phone: (518) 455-4355
Fax: (518) 455-7250
I plan to attend the following public hearing on New York's governmental ethics bodies, to be conducted by the Assembly Committees on Governmental Operations, Election Law, and Ethics and Guidance, on June 9, 2009.
I plan to make a public statement at the hearing. My statement will be limited to ten minutes, and I will answer any questions which may arise. I will provide 10 copies of my prepared statement. Oral Testimony is by invitation only.
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