Citizens Union's testimony outlines reforms crucial to improved ethics oversight.

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For Immediate Release,
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Dick Dadey, 917-709-2896
Chelsea Schuster, 561-843-0197

Citizens Union Testifies Before Ethics Review Commission

Presents Proposals to Ensure State Ethics Oversight Lives Up To Full Promise of Past Reforms, and Looks Forward To Further Reforms

In testimony before the State Ethics Review Commission, Citizens Union presented a series of proposals aimed at improving state ethics oversight, specifically the activities and performance of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“JCOPE”) and the Legislative Ethics Commission (“LEC”).

Citizens Union has been continually engaged in improving ethics oversight in New York State, and has offered legislative and policy solutions over the years to ensure independent and effective enforcement of our state’s evolving ethics laws.  Specifically regarding JCOPE and the LEC, we have closely followed their work since the enactment of the Public Integrity Reform Act in 2011, as the act represented a promising change to create a more unified oversight system between the legislative and executive branches.

Citizens Union's recommendations covered the following administrative areas:
  • Operations and Management of Ethics Oversight
    • Provide JCOPE with independent budgeting;
    • Invest in information technology, most notably its website and databases, to ensure data collection allows for meaningful analysis and oversight of lobbyists;
    • Bolster staffing and personnel by allowing public job listings and hiring without micromanagement of commissioners.
  • Accountability and Transparency
    • Encourage JCOPE and the LEC to adhere to the Freedom of Information Law and Open Meetings Law;
    • Publish JCOPE commissioners’ vote tallies;
    • Establish protections to ensure that JCOPE members operate with independence.
  • Oversight of Lobbying Activity
    • Standardize reporting requirements and web forms;
    • Improve guidance to lobbyists regarding spending by clarifying what is public education, advertising, or advocacy – including grassroots lobbying.
  • Oversight of State Officials, Officers, and Employees  
    • Clarify requirements set forth in ethics legislation and regulations requirements, which may be interpreted differently by JCOPE and LEC;
    • Alter the method and utility of financial disclosure statements for elected officials, to:
      • Require public officials file all financial disclosure statements electronically
      • Reevaluate the financial disclosure statement form to make sure it is an effective tool.
  • JCOPE Complaint Response
    • Urge proactive and timely investigation and findings regarding complaints by reducing response times and acting early when initial concerns are raised.
Citizens Union also made a series of legislative proposals to maximize commissions’ political independence and effectiveness, and ensure that they are operatively effectively together and balanced.

New York State needs comprehensive ethics reform to address not only our oversight procedures, but also the structures and laws that allow corruption to proliferate. We believe these changes are crucial to effective ethics oversight.

The full testimony can be found here.
Copyright © 2015 Citizens Union, All rights reserved.

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