New York's good-government organizations on Thursday called for the state's new ethics commission and lobbying watchdog to begin its work by the end of this month as the commission's appointees begin to take shape.
Seven of the new commission's 11 appointees have been given approval by the state's law school deans, who have been charged with reviewing the qualifications of the selections for the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government.
The existing appointments give the new panel enough for a quorum to begin its work.
The panel is a successor organization for the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The top leaders in the state Senate and Assembly, as well as the governor, attorney general and state compotroller have appointees to the panel. Lawmakers created the new commission after criticism of the defunct ethics agency — known by its acronym JCOPE — that it was too close with state officials and lacked transparency.
"It has been over a month since JCOPE dissolved; New Yorkers are paying for an ethics commission and they deserve one that is hard at work," the good-government groups, led by Reinvent Albany, wrote in a statement. "More so, New York institutions should not go another month without an internal ethics watchdog overseeing, and advising on, the conduct of the state’s elected and appointed officials."
Not having an ethics cop on the beat means no new investigations are being apporved and existing cases remain in limbo, the groups said. At the same time, officials have been urged to make their final appointments to round out the comimssion after several appointees were rejected by the law school deans.
"It is also important that the commission reflect the state’s diverse racial, ethnic, and gender groups, as well as geographical areas," the groups wrote. "Elected leaders should ensure that the remaining nominees add diversity to the existing appointments."