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Checks and Balances

November 15, 2010

Let’s stay with the matter of how to address public corruption cases. After all, it’s probably one of the top three issues facing the state — the other two being getting the state spending under control and developing a real economic development policy.

In our previous post, we tried to flag a problem with the approach suggested by the current inspector general, who said that the new governor should be given the authority to appoint a watchdog with sweeping powers to investigate everyone in state government.  (Upon further reflection, it sure looks like Joe Fisch was just sucking up to Andrew Cuomo with this suggestion.)

Another approach that was previously suggested by Cuomo, himself, is for the Attorney General to be given such powers.  Remember this? Cuomo said that AG’s office was indeed the proper entity to investigate public corruption, but that it needed to be fully empowered to do so.

But now that he’s the Governor-Elect, Cuomo seems to have gone squishy on this concept. In a strange (some said strained) news conference with AG-Elect Eric Schneiderman on Friday, Cuomo punted on the notion of giving the Attorney General special powers to pursue corruption cases. (See E.I. Dovere’s interesting article in City Hall.)

Why? Cuomo said it was because he wanted to wait and see whether it was possible to pass sweeping ethics reform legislation. The real reason, of course, is that Cuomo doesn’t want Schneiderman — or anybody else he doesn’t control — having the ability to investigate his office.

While this is understandable from Cuomo’s standpoint, it’s one-sided and not in the public interest.

What makes sense to us is a suggestion by an intrepid reader of our blog. This reader suggests that the Legislature appoint an executive branch watchdog, and the Governor appoint a Legislative branch watchdog.

How simple. It’s called checks and balances. And it’s one of the pillars of our form of government. It would appear to be the only fair and workable solution.

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