The Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority includes nominees from the governor, the mayor of New York City, unions and those county executives whose counties are within the MTA footprint.
The fact that several of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s picks either still work for him directly, or worked closely with him in the past, has prompted two lawmakers to take action.
State Assemblyman Harvey Epstein (D-Manhattan) and Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) have introduced legislation to curb what Epstein has called the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“There’s a lot of conversations we’ve been having over the years over who’s appointed to what authority and what board,” Epstein told Capital Tonight. “But it really became apparent recently with the MTA Board as well as looking at other boards we’ve seen where time and time again, the folks who are on those boards really don’t have a separation from the executive and the executive chamber.”
The Epstein/Krueger legislation (A8175/S7264) would block anyone employed by the executive chamber, as well as current registered lobbyists, from being nominated by the governor to serve on any boards or agencies that require Senate approval. The bill’s directive would extend to the boards of public authorities, the Empire State Development Corporation and industrial development agencies.
Epstein told Capital Tonight that it is an effort to recalibrate the balance of power between the legislature and the executive branch.
“The governor already has a tremendous amount of power in the context of the budget. We’re trying to reassert our authority through this legislation,” Epstein said.
Currently, two members of the executive chamber serve on the MTA Board. Robert F. Mujica Jr. is the director of the Budget for New York State and Linda A. Lacewell is the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services.
Both Patrick J. Foye, chairman and CEO of the MTA, and Lawrence Schwartz, chief strategy officer at OTG, an airport concessions company, worked for Gov. Cuomo in the past.