Moreland Commission co-chairs: Gov. Cuomo never interfered

Posted at: 11/08/2013 5:39 PM
Updated at: 11/08/2013 6:38 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

NEW YORK CITY – The co-chairs of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption told NewsChannel 13 there is no truth to published reports claiming Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his staff tried to steer the Commission away from political allies.

Citing multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the New York Daily News published a series of articles in recent months alleging the governor’s top aides attempted to stop subpoenas from going to several Cuomo-friendly groups. Many of the subpoenas were eventually sent.

"This is an independent commission full of very strong-minded people, and we have a very specific goal," Co-Chair Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County District Attorney, told NewsChannel 13. "We're going to reach that goal, and the public hopefully will be the beneficiary of that."

On September 30, the newspaper reported Co-Chair Bill Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County District Attorney, had defended the governor by telling fellow members, "We work for him. This is his Commission."

Responding to the report, Fitzpatrick told NewsChannel 13, "It just didn't happen. It's absurd. I mean, when I repeat it, people start laughing. I'm laughing right now. It's absurd."

Gov. Cuomo was not available to comment for this story, a spokesman in his office said.

Commission Member Kate Hogan, the Warren County District Attorney, said the reports of gubernatorial interference do not make sense given the personalities involved.

"When you look at the 25 members of the Moreland Commission, good luck trying to influence those people," Hogan said. "They’re very strong-minded, ethical, educated people who are really committed to changing the culture of New York."

Rice, Fitzpatrick, and Hogan spoke to NewsChannel 13 following a public hearing at the Javits Center on Oct. 28. Members of the public were not permitted to testify at that hearing, angering Elena Sassower, director of the non-profit Center for Judicial Accountability.

"The Commission, which is supposed to be restoring public trust, has refused to entertain public testimony from members of the public about the range of corruption in this state," Sassower said, surrounded by fellow activists.

A spokeswoman for the Moreland Commission said there was public testimony at the first two public hearings, but none at the third because the Commission wanted to focus on campaign finance reform.

For close to three hours that night, members of the Commission questioned representatives from the state Board of Elections about why they have conducted so few investigations into possible election law violations. The representatives largely blamed under-staffing.

The Commission’s first report is due out on Dec. 1.