Schneiderman in talks to ‘work out’ Moreland subpoena

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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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ALBANY—The anti-corruption Moreland Commission is negotiating with legislators to settle legal challenges to the commission's subpoenas, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday.

The 25 commission members were convened in July by Governor Andrew Cuomo and granted power as deputy attorneys general by Schneiderman, to blunt concerns over a violation of the separation of powers.

But the Senate Republican Campaign Committee challenged one of the commission's subpoenas, and another subpoena has been extended until this week. A court hearing on the SRCC has been scheduled for Dec. 9.

“Obviously that's still a battle," Schneiderman said. "Essentially, it's a challenge to my power so if any matter goes to litigation … I deputized the Moreland Commission, and it is absolutely clear that my office under referral from the governor, which I have, can investigate any part of the government that I want to. So, they're exercising power as my deputies in seeking information from the Legislature. If it goes to litigation I'm confident we would prevail. I think they're trying to work out something now short of that, but I don't know the details.”

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The commission has had an oddly bifurcated role of being able to investigate and recommend the prosecution of legislators at the same time they negotiate with Cuomo. During a radio interview last week, Schneiderman, a Democrat, said legislative subpoenas were a “tricky game” because elected lawmakers will eventually have to act on whatever the Moreland panel recommends.

Schneiderman also defended his office's handling of a case involving the Monroe County Local Development Corporation, which led to the arrest of Robert Wiesner, the husband of G.O.P. County Executive Maggie Brooks.

Schneiderman suspended a press aide who told reporters in an email blast where they could film Wiesner in handcuffs, and later agreed to drop charges because Wiesner was denied the chance to testify before the grand jury that handed up his indictment.

“We look forward to, and expect to, reconvening the grand jury to accept the testimony of the one defendant who has requested to testify. It's unusual for people who are targeted to come in to a grand jury to testify … but we welcome that testimony,” he said. “The case is going forward.”

“The facts of the case are clear, there is an ongoing, very substantial set of fraud and schemes in Monroe County to fix contracts,” he concluded.