By Tom Precious
ALBANY -– An anti-corruption panel that has come under criticism for its investigatory decisions indicated Tuesday that it will be issuing subpoenas to get information about the outside income of state lawmakers.
The Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption said it will “aggressively’’ move forward to obtain the outside income that both houses recently refused to voluntarily turn over when recently asked by the panel.
With Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo indicating in Buffalo Tuesday that the sides are not close to a new ethics package that might dissolve his Moreland Commission, the panel voted to issue the subpoenas to lawmakers who make more than $20,000 a year in private sector income beyond their base legislative salaries of $79,500.
Given that Republican and Democratic lawmakers have already retained outside counsel to fight the Moreland request, the panel’s move is likely to set off a round of court fights in the coming months.
The commission, created earlier this summer by Cuomo when lawmakers refused to go along with a campaign finance package he had sought, said Tuesday that its probe includes looking at the outside income of lawmakers. It has long been the practice in Albany for legislators to have outside jobs, with occupations including lawyers, dentists, pharmacists and farmers.
The commission noted it asked the Legislature on Aug. 27 to have lawmakers voluntarily turn over the information it wanted, but was rebuffed by the leaders of the Senate and Assembly.
“The commission voted today to aggressively move forward in compelling production of information into specific matters that the commission is investigating. The commission will continue its mandate of investigating corruption, issuing subpoenas, holding public hearings and will issue our first report on December 1,’’ the panel said in a written statement Tuesday.
The statement did not specifically say the panel will issue subpoenas to lawmakers, but sources said the commission voted Tuesday to take that legal route to get the information it has been seeking.
Spokesmen for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate co-leader Dean Skelos declined comment. Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins recently said legislators should cooperate with the income information request from the commission.
The panel and Cuomo have had to defend themselves against criticism in media accounts of the governor’s office having a heavy hand in the day-to-day doings of the investigation and for issuing subpoenas to Republican political committees but not to the state’s Democratic Party that is controlled by Cuomo.
taggedAlbany | Andrew Cuomo