Moreland Commission’s nine-month tab: $350,000

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Cuomo. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—The Cuomo-created state panel that investigated public corruption spent over $350,000 in its nine months of existence for travel, information technology and data analysis, records show.

The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption folded in April after Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed during budget talks to disband it. The governor on Monday said he didn't want to set up “another expensive prosecutor's office” when the state is already well-served, and that the legal changes agreed to after the commission disbanded justified its shorter-than-expected lifespan.

But the commission has become a political problem for Cuomo after an expose in the New York Times detailed interactions the governor's aides had with commissioners as they considered subpoenas to the governor's allies. Critics have cried foul, Cuomo said it was simply advice but not interference, and legal experts have differed as to whether the contacts were unlawful as opposed to unseemly.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who criticized Cuomo's decision to end the commission's work, is now taking up its cause and looking into the circumstances of its demise.

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The Moreland Commission never had a specific budget allocation—a point made repeatedly by legislators who resisted its inquiries and formally fought subpoenas—but was funded out of other executive branch agencies. Cuomo was pushed to disband the commission in late March, in part because legislative leaders said they would not provide money for its continued operation.

Data provided to Capital by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli show payments for information technology, travel for some of the commissioners—most of whom were sitting district attorneys—as well as large payments for data analysis.

The records show the commission made its biggest payment on May 5, sending $175,000 to K2 Intelligence Services for “research and analysis.” Moreland contracted with K2 to help it analyze campaign finance and lobbying data gleaned from existing state databases.

Although it has been dead for three months, six Moreland Commission staffers—including its $175,000-a-year executive director, Regina Calcaterra—remain on the government payroll, Gannett reported. A source told Capital that Calcaterra will soon be taking a position at the New York State Insurance Fund, but payroll records showed she was still employed by the executive chamber as of last week.

A Cuomo spokesman declined to comment.

Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci, the Republican candidate for state comptroller, has called on DiNapoli to audit the Moreland Commission's spending.

“Taxpayers deserve to know the truth. The Moreland Commission was put in place to do the Cuomo administration's bidding and it ran up a very steep bill punishing the governor's enemies and protecting his friends,” Antonacci said last week. “It's time for Tom DiNapoli to wake up and get to the bottom of this so hardworking taxpayers can make an informed judgment about what really happened.”

A DiNapoli spokesperson said the comptroller would not not take any action while Bharara's investigation was still active.