5:34 pm Sep. 7, 20124
Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday afternoon that an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the recently deposed boss of the Brooklyn Democrats, could give New Yorkers a reason to trust their state government.
"I think if they're handled appropriately, you can actually build confidence in the long run," he said, during an interview on former governor David Paterson's radio show.
Whether the allegations against Lopez, and the process by which Lopez's alleged improprieties were initially handled and then revealed to the public, are indeed being dealt with appropriately remains a subject of some doubt amongst good-government groups.
The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which was created by the governor and legislature, has reportedly decided to limit the scope of its investigation to Lopez, rather than expand the investigation to encompass, among others, the very powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has admitted to mishandling some of the sexual harassment complaints.
The governor, who appointed six of JCOPE's 14 members (the Assembly and Senate appointed the rest), said he was confident in its investigation, and in the separate investigation being conducted by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan.
"There's no reason not to believe the system will work," he said.
Cuomo also said, "[Assembly Speaker] Sheldon Silver said right away that he thinks the matter should be thoroughly investigated," which is not exactly true.
One of JCOPE's members, Ravi Batra, has criticized the commission for its secrecy and called for an outside federal investigation, and this afternoon announced his intention to resign.
Today, Paterson said Batra's behavior, "is the kind of thing that just destabilizes the trust in government."
For that, Cuomo, who does not have a particularly warm relationship with the Senate Democrats, pinned the blame on their leader, Brooklyn's John Sampson, who appointed Batra to JCOPE.
"To the extent the behavior of an appointee is not something you're proud of, it's a reflection on the appointing authority," he said.
This afternoon, following complaints from good-government groups, JCOPE announced it would hold a public meeting on Monday. Around the same time, Cuomo's spokesman sent out a statement threatening the establishment of a Moreland Commission if legislative leaders blocked a broader investigation.