Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Man In Control

Liz Benjamin Capitol Confidential

Liz it's called the "buck stops here" at Spitzer's Desk......make no mistake about it...Eliot is in charge..that is what the voters expected when they elected him....he is not disappointing them at all.........here is the latest and greatest from Liz on the new ethics commission..I am going to display her entire story..because as always..Liz is on the ball..and out first with breaking news..she will always be my Blogger of the Year........andy

Asked at the Blue Room press conference why he felt that the executive should have control over the new State Commission on Public Integrity (now known as the Ethics and Lobbying commissions), Gov. Eliot Spitzer responded:
“I want them.”
He then elaborated:
“Because I believe that the governor, and I was elected for this purpose, is implicitly accountable for the government and the state agencies…I expect to be held accountable and I want to be held accoutable.”
Spitzer will be appointing 7 of the 13 commissioners who will preside over the new entity (they’ve yet to be named), and those people will be responsible for appointing a new executive director, which means both David Grandeau (Lobbying Commission executive director) and Karl Sleight (Ethics Commission executive director) better polish up their resumes - assuming they’re interested in the job.
Asked whether this was simply a way to get rid of Grandeau, Spitzer said: “Absolutely not; this is a way to move forward and ensure ethics in government.”

As for the Legislative Ethics Committee, which will be reconstituted to have five outside members (selected by legislative leaders with the requirement that their picks not have held public office for five years), Spitzer refused to say whether Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, and Senate Majority Leader, R-Brunswick, had, as has been widely speculated, balked at rolling that in to the new commission.
Spitzer said there are a “range of reasons that relate to separating different branches of government” for keeping the Legislative Committee separate.
Spitzer and the legislative leaders also announced a host of new reforms, which range from increasing the maximum civil penalty for public officers who commit ethics violations from $10,000 to $40,000 to requiring legislative employees to wait two years before lobbying their former employers (this doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 31, 2008, so there’s still time to hit that revolving door!)
“In one bold action, lawmakers have set New York on a path toward true integrity in government,” Spitzer said.
Both Bruno and Silver spoke in favor of the new commission and reforms, but also went out of their way to say that 1) they have been advocates for reform for years and 2) tarring all legislators with the same negative brush is inappropriate and unfair.
“Public officials are demeaned, totally demeaned - some of them for good reason because the criminal justice system finds them guilty - and others because they are in a position of power, and that makes them suspect,” Bruno said.
Bruno, whose outside business interests are being investigated by the FBI, noted the Senate passed a bill in 1999 that would have instituted a gift ban and bumped up the civil penalty. He also pointed out that people who want to commit crimes are not likely to be deterred by mere legislation.
Silver, meanwhile, said he is deeply pained when hard-working legislators who follow the rules are tarred because their colleagues do wrong, adding: “These reforms codify their principles.”
Both Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens, and Assembly Minority Leader James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, were on hand for this press conference.
Tedisco got in a few jabs about how the minority had not been included in negotiating this legislation - or the budget reform bill, which Spitzer signed into law at the end of the press conference.
The minority leader said he was “very excited…just to be in the room,” and also that he could keep him Joe Bruno bobblehead doll because it falls into the category of gifts of “nominal value,” which are still allowed.
Had he been asked for input, Tedisco said, he would have proposed that public officials who are convicted of defrauding the public lose their pension benefits - a measure that has at least been discussed in the Assembly majority, but one that some argue would require a constitutional amendment

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