Moreland chair: We got nothing on Cuomo

Governor Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—According to one of its co-chairs, the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption didn't ignore the executive branch when “following the money” trail in Albany, despite reports that the panel focused only on the Legislature.

The commissioners did probe Governor Andrew Cuomo's and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's offices for wrongdoing. They just didn't find any, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told Capital on Wednesday.

“We don't announce everybody that we're looking into, but if we find an impropriety, it would work its way into the report, which is what happened,” Fitzpatrick said, referring to the panel's preliminary policy recommendations, which were released Monday evening. “So you can conclude from that, and you would be correct in concluding from that, that although we have looked into a lot different funding sources—the governor, the attorney general, the Legislature—there is a lot that we did not find to be improper.”

A fellow commissioner and local leader, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said earlier this week that it was unrealistic to expect the commission—empaneled by Cuomo and empowered by Schneiderman—to investigate the executive branch.

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“I think we’re making a mockery of this whole process if we try to pretend that a group of us that’s been appointed by the attorney general and the governor is investigating the attorney general or the governor,” she said during an interview on YNN's “Capital Tonight.”

“So, I never subscribed to that notion to start with, and there has been no conversations inside the Moreland Commission to do anything other than address public corruption and these instances that are outlined in this report, which are all legislative,” she continued.

Fitzpatrick said Mahoney was wrong. “With all due respect,” he said, “she was not privy to those conversations.”

“Myself, Kathleen and Milt, along with the investigations staff, were privy to those conversations,” he said, referring to the commission's other co-chairs: Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and former federal prosecutor Milton Williams.

A spokesman for Mahoney could not be immediately reached.

On a public radio show Wednesday, Cuomo said he understood Mahoney's point—if the commission investigated the governor or attorney general, skeptics would argue the investigation was not independent. And that “would probably ring true,” he said.

But he said the accusations that the commission ignored the executive branch is “much ado about nothing,” because the corruption problem lies in the Legislature.

“That's where the indictments are,” Cuomo said on “The Capitol Pressroom,” hosted by Susan Arbetter. “There has not been rampant evidence of corruption among district attorneys or in the AG's office or in the comptroller's office or in the governor's office. This is in response to a situation in reality. This is not an abstract exercise.”

Schneiderman's office referred to a statement from Tuesday, in which the attorney general stressed that the commission's investigation was not limited to the Legislature.

“In fact, the Moreland Act itself identifies executive branch agencies as a proper subject of inquiry,” he said.

Though the commission didn't find that Cuomo or Schneiderman had any instances of misconduct, the panel does see a need to reform the state's porous campaign finance laws, under which the two leaders operate, Fitzpatrick said.

“We might not think it's the best way to run campaigns or the best way to run a government, but if people were playing within the rules, that's not necessarily something we would point out in the investigation piece of the report,” Fitzpatrick said. “We might say those rules need to be changed, but I don't expect someone to unilaterally change the rules mid-stream, while someone who may be a potential opponent does not.”